Take a Deep Breath, Ahhh! Eucalyptus

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Many people associate Eucalyptus with the taste of the commercial Halls Menthol-lyptus cough drops. If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that Eucalyptus can be very opening to the sinuses! However, we don’t need a cough drop full of questionable ingredients to get that job done. Eucalyptus leaves contain this ability with their rich essential oils of cineol, pinene and citronellal.

Native to Australia, Eucalyptus is in the Myrtle family, formally known as Myrtaceae. Clove, Guava, Allspice and many others are also in this family. Eucalyptus is both the common and genus name and comes from the Greek words ‘eu’ and ‘kalypto’ which mean ‘well’ and ‘covered’ which refers to the flower’s cup-like membrane that covers the bud before the bud sheds it as it expands to flower.  Traditionally, Eucalyptus globulus is the medicinal species though other species also have medicinal value.

Eucalyptus prefers to grow in warmer climates but I have had great success growing it in pots and bringing it in during the winter. The scent of those fresh leaves is heavenly!

Ask your parents if they have any Eucalyptus essential oil or dried leaves and carefully take a whiff of it. If you are sniffing the essential oil, don’t hold it too close to your nose! If you have a bit of a stuffy nose, you may find you are breathing a lot better.

Photo courtesy of Mountain Rose Herbs

Photo courtesy of Mountain Rose Herbs

Take a piece of dried leaf if you have it and put it in your mouth. Chew on it a bit and see what you taste. Bitter? Pungent? How does your mouth feel? Is it dry or moist? Does it seem to warm your mouth or cool it? Most people describe Eucalyptus as bitter, pungent, moistening and cooling. We’ll see how these tastes and energetics are important when using Eucalyptus as medicine.

Nutritionally, Eucalyptus contains vitamin C. Medicinally, Eucalyptus is mildly anesthetic, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antiviral, aromatic, astringent, bronchial dilator, circulatory stimulant, decongestant, diaphoretic, expectorant, febrifuge, immune stimulant, respiratory stimulant and vulnerary. So what can we use Eucalyptus for?

As you can see from the list of his actions, Eucalyptus can be used for quite a lot! Let’s start with a few of them that can be grouped together: mildly anesthetic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, astringent and vulnerary (we’ll revisit a few of them separately as well later). Can you think of something that would fit the bill for these actions? How about a fall on the sidewalk that leaves a painful scrape? Or any other kind of wound? The anesthetic actions help ease the pain, the antibacterial and antiseptic actions kill off any germs that might have gotten in from the fall, the anti-inflammatory will help with the redness, swelling and irritation, and the astringent action will help to pull the tissues back together, helping the wound to close and heal more quickly. Try a poultice or salve made of Eucalyptus leaves for wounds, infections, bumps, bruises, scratches and cuts. The Aborigines of Australia use the leaves to cover serious wounds.

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Eucalyptus also is very useful for a variety of illnesses including bronchitis, chicken pox, cholera, colds, croup, diphtheria, dysentery, pneumonia, typhoid, tuberculosis, and whooping cough/pertussis due to his anti-bacterial and antiviral actions.

As an expectorant, bronchial dilator, decongestant and respiratory stimulant, Eucalyptus works wonders for all things related to lungs. Those suffering from asthma, bronchitis, catarrh, croup, pneumonia, tuberculosis, and whooping cough may all find Eucalyptus helpful as part of their treatment plan. One of our favorite things to do when we have any respiratory infection is to do a steam with Eucalyptus. It helps to open up the sinuses and bronchial tubes, making mucus more easily expelled and breathing easier. The Eucalyptus steam will also help to stimulate the mucus secretions which is especially beneficial if you feel like it is heavy and stuck in your lungs and sinuses. It’s nice to follow up the steam with a homemade Eucalyptus chest rub to continue the stimulating action on the lungs.

Eucalyptus is also an immune stimulant, helping the body to fight off the illness at hand. A few cups of Eucalyptus tea at the first sign of illness can help fight it off and lessen the duration.

I mentioned that Eucalyptus is cooling. If you think about certain foods you eat, you can understand how this works. Watermelon and cucumbers are favorite foods of summer and not just because they are at their peak of ripeness. When you eat them, they help to cool off your body. Lemons also are cooling which is why lemonade is so popular! Now think about cinnamon and ginger. Have you ever eaten a spicy candy made with either? Usually, they are ‘hot’ in taste. Do you like to eat jalapeño peppers? Do they make you tear up? Again, they are hot in taste, aren’t they? Comparing this to Eucalyptus, he definitely leans more on the side of those cooling cucumbers! So a cup of Eucalyptus tea can be helpful as a febrifuge, to lower fevers. He acts specifically as a diaphoretic, helping you to sweat out a fever with a hot cup of tea.

For achy and spasmodic muscles as well as achy joints, a long soak in a hot bath with Eucalyptus can be very relaxing and soothing. Many people find relief from arthritic and stiff joints by massaging the areas with a salve made from Eucalyptus because of his anti-inflammatory and mildly anesthetic actions.

His essential oil contains pinene, cineol and citronellal. Both citronellal and pinene are highly repellant to insects, including mosquitoes. Pinene is found in plants such as conifers, Sideritis, Salvia and Cannabis. Citronellal is found in Kaffir lime leaves, lemon-scented tea tree and lemon grass. Cineol is also known as eucalyptol and is found in a large amount of plants such as sweet basil, bay, tea tree, mugwort, cannabis, wormwood, rosemary, sage and ginger. It is also used as an insect repellant as well as a flavoring in baked goods, meats, confectionary and beverages in low doses and is often found in fragrances as well. It is also used in mouthwash and cough suppressant medicines. So, Eucalyptus is a powerhouse when it comes to repelling insects! Be sure to have some on hand for summertime activities, especially in mosquito infested areas.

Pregnant women should not use Eucalyptus internally. Large doses can have adverse reactions for all and should be avoided.

Most people think that only Eucalyptus essential oil is used in healing. However, the leaves are full of this oil and offer effective medicine that is not strong like the oil is, allowing you to use Eucalyptus internally. An extract (tincture) is easily made using the dried or fresh leaves and grain alcohol. This extract can be used for treating respiratory and other illnesses. It can also be diluted and used as a healing mouthwash.

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One of my favorite ways to use Eucalyptus is through an infused honey. It’s easy to make and only requires 2 ingredients: Eucalyptus leaves and local honey.

To make it you’ll need a jar. For fresh Eucalyptus, fill the jar halfway full; for dried, fill the jar  1/3 full.

Top off with honey and stir to completely mix Eucalyptus and honey.

Allow to sit for 2-3 weeks before using. Label your jar so you don’t forget when you started it!

Strain the leaves out of the honey by gently heating the honey just until it is runny then pour it through a metal strainer. Compost the leaves.

To use for a sore throat, take 1 teaspoon as needed.

Eucalyptus doesn’t grow in your climate? Mountain Rose Herbs offers organic Eucalyptus leaves at a great price.

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3 Responses to “Take a Deep Breath, Ahhh! Eucalyptus”

  1. 1
    Peggy

    I am fortunate to have the trees growing in my back yard. I am excited to try this recipe.

  2. 2
    Christopher Sigle

    I hear that if you tie and hang a bundle of Eucalyptus in the shower that that can help with breathing. And looks fantastic too.

  3. 3
    Irene

    Recently discovered eukalyptus growing on my regular visits to Tucson. Might hAve to try this recipe.


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