How To Grow and Use the Eucalyptus Plant
Eucalyptus has a distinct, menthol-like fragrance and it is a popular herb for home remedies. In the garden, it is most often used as an ornamental and it makes a stunning indoor plant. Many craters enjoy incorporating the dried leaves in their creations as well. You may be most familiar with eucalyptus as the favorite plant of Australia’s koala, which is where the tree is most plentiful. Eucalyptus essential oils are also very common and useful throughout your home for everything from cold remedies to aromatherapy.
Eucalyptus is a fascinating plant with an exotic flair and many uses. It is definitely one to consider adding to your container garden or planting as an annual.
The Eucalyptus Plant
According to “Rod ale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs,” there are more than 500 species of eucalyptus. The type that is usually referred to for the home gardener, is E. globules or Globe Eucalyptus. This is what you will find in most nurseries. Eucalyptus is native to Australia and most species grow as a tree, though some are more like a shrub. This plant is considered an evergreen, though it can lose its leaves. The leaves begin as light green ovals which take on a darker shade of green as the tree ages.
In USDA Hardiness Zones 8-10, eucalyptus grows into trees of towering heights. These trees are the very same ones that feed the koala bears in Australia. For the home gardener, however, eucalyptus is grown as a potted shrub or plant. It is trimmed back often and the resulting branches are most commonly used for crafts. For the gardener in cooler climates, grow eucalyptus in pots and bring them indoors for the winter. Eucalyptus can also be grown as an annual as well. You will not get the huge branches that are available in craft stores, yet you can easily gather enough leaves to dry for your family’s needs throughout the winter.
Eucalyptus is also used as a very pretty indoor plant. When growing it indoors, note that eucalyptus is considered a heavy feeder and requires full sun. Highly adaptable to most soils, the main concern is to pay close attention to basic feeding, lighting, and watering needs. It is interesting to note that many varieties of eucalyptus also produce such fragrant blossoms in the wild, that they are considered highly desirable for attracting bees. For most of us, this may not apply as the plant will probably not blossom under less than optimal conditions.
Cut the branches to your desired height as the plants grow. All parts of the plant are used medicinally: leaves, bark, and roots as all contain the potent oil.
How to Dry and Preserve Eucalyptus
Eucalyptus branches can be dried on the stem by hanging the branches upside down in a small bunch. You can also remove the leaves and place them on a paper towel or drying screen. With either method, allow the eucalyptus to air dry until the leaves are slightly leathery for older leaves and crispy for the smaller leaves. Once dry, store eucalyptus leaves in glass jars with a tight sealing lid.
If you would like to use the branches for crafts, one of the best ways is to preserve them with glycerin:
- Choose a container that is large enough to hold your entire eucalyptus branch.
- Mix one part glycerin with two parts boiling water.
- Pour some of the liquid into your container, then insert the eucalyptus until they are standing in about three inches of liquid.
- Keep the jar in a cool, dark place and inspect the plants weekly. Add more liquid as needed to keep it at the optimum level.
- It may take anywhere between one to eight weeks for all the leaves to change color. When they have, the process is complete.
- Remove the eucalyptus branches, pat them dry with a paper towel, and hang them upside down for two to three days before using.
Medicinal Uses for Eucalyptus
Medicinally, the eucalyptus oil is taken from the leaves, roots, and bark of the plant. This spicy, cooling oil is used for its antiseptic and astringent effect. Eucalyptus oil is often used for respiratory ailments as the flavoring in cough drops and in decongestant type rubs.
- Make an Herbal Chest Rub – Make an herbal salve and use eucalyptus as the herb while adding a little less beeswax than normal.
- Make An Herbal Infusion – It is very similar to a cup of tea without the tea leaves and you do need to wait until the infusion has cooled completely. Simply add a few eucalyptus leaves and drink. Add a little sweetener or other herbs to improve the taste if you like. An infusion of eucalyptus leaves can also be used as a soothing skin antiseptic.
- Make Your Own Herbal Cough Drops – The process is similar to making lollipops (without the stick), but you will use your herbal infusion as the flavoring. Pour the liquid candy into a baking sheet and cut it into squares before it hardens completely.
- Make a Steam Inhalation – Simply inhaling steam infused with eucalyptus can bring relief from nasal congestion and other cold symptoms. You can also add eucalyptus essential oil to your aromatherapy diffuse and run it while you sleep.
Please note this document has not been medically reviewed. Consult your doctor or herbalist prior to using and with any questions you may have.
More Uses for Eucalyptus
Beyond its obvious medicinal uses, the herb can be used for a number of other things around the home. Make a simple syrup using eucalyptus and enjoy it during cocktail hour or to sweeten your evening cup of tea. It pairs nicely with mint, honey, lemon, and lime.
7 Impressive Benefits of Eucalyptus Leaves
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Eucalyptus is an evergreen tree that’s widely used for its medicinal properties.
Although native to Australia, this popular tree now grows in many areas of the world.
It has a gum-infused bark, long stems, and circular leaves that are hard to digest if eaten whole. However, eucalyptus leaves can be made into a tea that’s safe for consumption.
Additionally, the leaves can be made into essential oil for topical use or inhalation.
1. High in antioxidants
Although you cannot eat fresh, whole eucalyptus leaves, dried leaves can be made into tea.
Be careful not to mistake this tea for eucalyptus oil, which can be toxic if consumed. Choose a tea that’s labeled “eucalyptus leaves tea,” and don’t add eucalyptus essential oil to your tea.
Eucalyptus leaves are a great source of antioxidants, particularly flavonoids, which protect your body from oxidative stress and free radical damage.
The main flavonoids in eucalyptus include catechins, archaeomagnetism, luteolin, kaempferol, phenacetin, and questioner. Diets rich in these compounds may protect against certain cancers, heart disease, and dementia (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source).
For example, a large study including 38,180 men and 60,289 women found that a diet high in flavonoids was associated with an 18% lower risk of fatal heart disease (3Trusted Source).
Eucalyptus tea is a good source of these antioxidants and generally recognized as safe for adults. However, children are at high risk of eucalyptus toxicity and should get approval from a healthcare professional before drinking this tea (4).
2. May relieve cold symptoms
Eucalyptus is widely used as a natural cold remedy and is a common ingredient in cold and cough products.
Research has shown that it can decrease mucus and expand the bronchi and bronchi oles of your lungs. It’s also a natural anti-inflammatory agent (5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).
The main ingredient responsible for these properties is eucalyptus, also known as cine ole, which is a compound found in eucalyptus oil (5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source, 7).
Some research has shown that eucalyptus relieves cold symptoms like cough frequency, nasal congestion, and headache by decreasing inflammation and mucus buildup (5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).
Furthermore, eucalyptus may help improve asthma symptoms.
One 12-week study gave 32 people with bronchial asthma either 600 mg of eucalyptus or a placebo per day. Those in the eucalyptus group required 36% less medication to control their asthma symptoms, compared with those in the control group, who needed 7% less (8Trusted Source).
Eucalyptus oil can be inhaled through your nose and may provide some cold symptom relief. It’s also found in many topical decongestants. However, because even small doses of the oil can be toxic, you should avoid consuming it (9Trusted Source).
Be sure to consult your healthcare provider before using eucalyptus or changing your medications.
3. May treat dry skin
Using eucalyptus may improve dry skin by increasing its ceramide content.
Ceramides are a type of fatty acid in your skin that’s responsible for maintaining its barrier and retaining its moisture. Those who experience dry skin, dandruff, or skin disorders like dermatitis and psoriasis usually have lower ceramide levels (10Trusted Source).
Topical eucalyptus leaf extract has been found to boost skin ceramide production, water-holding capacity, and skin barrier protection. It contains a compound called macro carpal A, which appears to stimulate ceramide production (10Trusted Source).
In a study in 34 people, using a scalp lotion containing eucalyptus leaf extract and synthetic ceramic significantly decreased scalp redness, itchiness, dryness, and scaliness (11Trusted Source).
Hence, many hair and skin products contain eucalyptus leaf extract.
4. May reduce pain
Eucalyptus contains many anti-inflammatory compounds, such as cine ole and limonene, which may act as pain relievers (12Trusted Source).
A 3-day study in 52 people who had undergone knee replacement surgery found that inhaling eucalyptus oil dissolved in almond oil for 30 minutes daily significantly decreased perceived pain and blood pressure levels, compared with inhaling pure almond oil (12Trusted Source).
However, another study in 123 people with cancer found no improvements in perceived pain after inhaling eucalyptus oil for 3 minutes prior to a medical procedure, suggesting that more research is needed (13Trusted Source).
5. May promote relaxation
In one study, 62 healthy people experienced significant reductions in per-surgery anxiety after inhaling eucalyptus oil. Eucalyptus contains eucalyptus, which has been found to possess anti-anxiety properties (14Trusted Source).
Furthermore, inhaling eucalyptus oil for 30 minutes has been associated with lower blood pressure in patients after knee surgery, which suggests that it has a calming effect (12Trusted Source).
Researchers believe that it decreases the activity of your sympathetic nervous system — your stress response system — and increases the activity of your parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes relaxation (12Trusted Source).
6. Can help keep your teeth healthy
Eucalyptus leaf extract, known as eucalyptus, may improve dental health.
Eucalyptus leaves contain high amounts of ethanol and macro carpal C — a type of poly phenol. These compounds are associated with lower levels of bacteria that can cause cavities and gum disease (15Trusted Source).
A study in 97 people found those who chewed gum with eucalyptus leaf extract 5 times per day for at least 5 minutes had a significant decrease in plaque buildup, gum bleeding, and gum inflammation, while the control group experienced no improvements (15Trusted Source).
For this reason, eucalyptus is commonly added to mouthwash.
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7. Can act as a natural insect repellent
Eucalyptus oil is a natural insect repellent, mainly due to its eucalyptol content.
Research has shown that it’s effective at warding off mosquitoes and other biting insects for up to eight hours after topical application. The higher the eucalyptus content of eucalyptus oil, the longer and more effectively it works as a repellent
In fact, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention lists lemon eucalyptus oil — derived from the lemon eucalyptus tree — as an approved and powerful insect repellant
Additionally, eucalyptus oil may treat head lice. In one randomized study, this oil was twice as effective as a popular head lice treatment at curing head lice. However, a recent review suggests that more research is needed (18Trusted Source, 19Trusted Source).
The health benefits of eucalyptus
Eucalyptus is a fast-growing evergreen tree native to Australia. As an ingredient in many products, it is used to reduce symptoms of coughs, colds, and congestion. It also features in creams and ointments aimed at relieving muscle and joint pain.
The oil that comes from the eucalyptus tree is used as an antiseptic, a perfume, as an ingredient in cosmetics, as a flavoring, in dental preparations, and in industrial solvents.
Chinese, Indian Ayurvedic, Greek, and other European styles of medicine have incorporated it into the treatment of a range of conditions for thousands of years.
There are over 400 different species of eucalyptus. Eucalyptus globules, also known as Blue Gum, is the main source of eucalyptus oil used globally.
Leaves are steam distilled to extract the oil, which is a colorless liquid with a strong, sweet, woody scent. It contains 1,8-cineole, also known as eucalyptol.
The leaves also contain flavonoids and tannins; flavonoids are plant-based antioxidants, and tannins may help to reduce inflammation. Medical News Today Newsletter Stay in the know. Get our free daily newsletter
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Health benefits and uses of eucalyptus
Eucalyptus is believed to have a number of medicinal properties, although not all of them have been confirmed by research. Below we outline some of its potential health benefits.
Eucalyptus leaves and essential oil are commonly used in complementary medicine.
Interestingly, toward the end of the 19th century, eucalyptus oil was used in most hospitals in England to clean urinary catheters. Modern research is now starting to back this practice up.
In February 2016, researchers from Serbia found evidence supporting the antimicrobial action of eucalyptus.
They concluded that a positive interaction between E. camaldulensis essential oil (a tree in the Eucalyptus family) and existing antibiotics could lead to the development of new treatment strategies for certain infections.
They hope that this property could eventually reduce the need for antibiotics.
A study published in Clinical Microbiology & Infection suggests that eucalyptus oil may have antibacterial effects on pathogenic bacteria in the upper respiratory tract, including Hemophiliacs influenza, a bacteria responsible for a range of infections, and some strains of streptococcus.
Colds and respiratory problems
Eucalyptus features in a range of preparations to relieve symptoms of the common cold, for example, cough lozenges and inhalants.
Herbal remedies recommend using fresh leaves in a gargle to relieve a sore throat, sinusitis, and bronchitis. Also, eucalyptus oil vapor appears to act as a decongestant when inhaled. It is a popular home remedy for colds and bronchitis.
It may act as an expectorant for loosening phlegm and easing congestion. A number of cough medications include eucalyptus oil, including Vicks VapoRub.
Researchers have called for further studies to clarify the possible therapeutic role of eucalyptus leaf extract in the treatment of respiratory tract infection.