When you hear the word eucalyptus, you probably think of the primary food source of koala bears. But, the oil extracted from Eucalyptus, which is a native Australian plant has been used medicinally for a long time and may help treat a range of conditions; research is somewhat limited on its benefits so it is not definitively recommended as a treatment for any one health issue, but it certainly cannot hurt to experiment. If you are interested in using eucalyptus as part of your natural health regimen, here are some important things to know.
Of its many potential uses, the primary benefits of eucalyptus may be in the area of respiratory health. When used topically in ointments, it may help relieve congestion when applied on the nose and chest. It is a popular ingredient in many medicines used to treat symptoms of cough and cold, such as lozenges and cough syrups. One of the chemicals found in eucalyptus oil has been shown to break up mucus and inhaling vapor that contains the oil is a popular treatment for conditions that cause phlegm such as bronchitis.
According to Medline Plus, a site run by the National Institutes of Health, research suggests that taking eucalyptol, the primary substance in eucalyptus oil, may help asthma sufferers; one study, for example, found taking this treatment allowed people to lower their dosage of steroid medications, a common asthma treatment used to control inflammation of the lungs and airways.
Eucalyptus oil has strong antimicrobial properties and you will find it in many products aimed at promoting oral health; it has been shown to kill the bacteria that contributes to halitosis (bad breath) and may help prevent plaque build- up and the serious gum disease gingivitis. Its ability to ward off bacteria, fungi and viruses has also made it a popular topical treatment for conditions such as herpes, acne and wounds. Eucalyptus may also have pain-relieving properties when applied to the skin. On a non-health-related note, it may also be effective in repelling insects. Limited research suggests it may lower blood sugar, making it potentially useful in managing diabetes.
Generally, eucalyptus oil is safe when used properly. When applying it to the skin, it is important to dilute it with a carrier oil, such as olive, almond or sesame—a typical recommendation is 15 to 20 drops in half a cup of oil. If you want to ingest the oil, it is vital that it is properly diluted as pure eucalyptus oil is toxic and can be fatal; you should consult with a knowledgeable health care provide about proper oral use. If you want to use it as an inhalant, add about five to 10 drops of oil into two cups of boiling water; place a tower over your heat as you are inhaling to trap the steam.
The University of Maryland Medical Center cautions against applying eucalyptus products to children under the age of two; it also advises pregnant and breastfeeding women to refrain from using eucalyptus as there is a lack of information on whether it is safe or not during these times. Because it may lower blood sugar, diabetics may need to adjust dosages in their medications to compensate for these effects and prevent glucose levels from dropping too low. Its impact on blood sugar could potentially create complications during surgical procedures; stop taking it at least two weeks before your planned procedure.
Kelli Cooper, writing for RabbitAir.com, is a freelance writer who specializes in health and wellness content; she is particularly passionate about natural health remedies.