The sharp aroma of its trees or perhaps the common household item VapoRub are probably images that first come to mind when someone mentions eucalyptus. The common belief that eucalyptus oil is an effective decongestant is true, but it can also be dangerous. Read on to learn the benefits, dangers, and how to use it for the best results. What is Eucalyptus Oil?
Derived from Eucalyptus Globulus , eucalyptus essential oil is a liquid rich in 1,8-cineol (eucalyptol) and other beneficial components [ 1 , 2 ].
At diluted concentrations, the oil is effective against infections. It can kill harmful bacteria, viruses, and fungi. It also has antioxidant and muscle-relaxing effects [ 3 , 4 , 5 ].
People use eucalyptus oil to reduce symptoms of colds, the flu, and other respiratory problems like asthma, bronchitis, and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) [ 3 ].
Different species of eucalyptus differ widely regarding chemical composition, but all contain a high concentration of 1,8-cineol [ 6 ].
Eucalyptus oil can be inhaled, ingested, and put on the skin topically in highly diluted forms. Do not use a pure/undiluted solution on your skin or ingest it [ 3 ].
Proponents: Long history of traditional use
Relieves nasal and chest congestion
May reduce pain
Has a relaxing effect
Skeptics: Toxic in pure form and higher doses
Clinical research is limited
Can irritate the skin
Eucalyptus oil’s primary constituents are 1,8-cineole and α-pinene.
1,8-cineol is responsible for the thinning of mucus in the respiratory tract and has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects [ 7 ].
Αlpha-pinene is what gives eucalyptus oil its antimicrobial properties against bacteria and viruses [ 8 ].
They both inhibit the growth of both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria [ 9 ]. 1) Nasal and Chest Congestion
Inhaling eucalyptus oil vapors can help relieve uncontrollable coughing, as the vapors provide a calming and soothing effect [ 10 ].
According to pre-clinical trials, eucalyptus oil loosens mucus buildup, which reduces the possibility of extreme allergy attacks. This is accomplished by reducing cytokine levels in the bloodstream and consequently producing less mucus buildup in the sinuses [ 3 , 11 ].
Traditionally, eucalyptus oil inhalation has been used to relieve nasal congestion caused by asthma, respiratory infections, colds, and other conditions [ 3 ].
In 242 patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), oral intake of eucalyptus oil helped prevent the sudden worsening of symptoms involving shortness of breath and mucus production [ 12 ].
In two trials of over 500 subjects, a combination of diluted pine, lime, and eucalyptus oil extracts by oral intake helped to reduce frequent bronchitis flare-ups [ 13 , 14 ].
Eucalyptol (cineol), a constituent of eucalyptus oil, significantly reduced the use of oral steroids in 32 patients with severe asthma [ 15 ]. 2) Pain
Eucalyptus oil is an efficient rubefacient, which means it mildly irritates the skin to reduce joint or muscle pain [ 16 ].
Rubbing a few drops of diluted eucalyptus oil at the temples region or forehead region can provide pain relief. The same effects can also be felt by inhaling the oil’s vapors, known as aromatherapy [ 17 ].
Along with other essential oils, it helped reduce nerve pain by combining aromatherapy and massage in 46 diabetic patients [ 18 ].In a study of 52 knee replacement patients, inhaling eucalyptus oil after total knee replacement surgery significantly reduced pain and blood pressure, allowing for faster recovery [ 19 ]. No valid clinical evidence supports the use of eucalyptus oil for any of the conditions in this section. Below is a summary of up-to-date animal studies, cell-based research, or low-quality clinical trials which should spark further investigation. However, you shouldn’t interpret them as supportive of any health benefit. 3) Relaxation Inhaling eucalyptus oil can help increase concentration and also provide a calming, soothing effect.In a study of 32 participants, a combination of diluted ethanol, eucalyptus oil, and peppermint oil rubbed near the temples and forehead area can help induce a muscle and mentally relaxing effect. The participants also had an increase in brain function [ 20 ]. No clinical evidence supports the use of eucalyptus oil for any of the conditions listed in this section. Below is a summary of the existing animal and cell-based studies; they should guide further investigational efforts but should not be interpreted as supportive of any health benefit. In animal and cell-based experiments, eucalyptus oil increased monocyte-derived macrophages in the blood, thus increasing immunity and faster recovery from infections. Macrophages are white blood cells that work by engulfing harmful organisms [ 21 ]. Microbial Infections Eucalyptus oil combined with thermal treatment effectively prevented food spoilage caused by yeast and bacteria. This is because of the oil’s bactericidal (killing the bacteria) and bacteriostatic (prevention of bacterial reproduction) properties [ 22 ].Eucalyptus oil can help inhibit germination and spore production of fungi, and thus has antifungal properties [ 23 ]. Side Effects & Precautions This list does not cover all possible side effects. Contact your doctor or pharmacist if you notice any other side effects. In the US, you may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088 or at www.fda.gov/medwatch . In Canada, you may report side effects to Health Canada at 1-866-234-2345. Eucalyptus oil is likely safe in the amounts present in foods and possibly safe when used in appropriate doses, orally or topically. However, severe adverse effects may occur if one overdoses or has an allergic reaction to the substance .Possible side effects include [ 24 ]: Burning sensation in the mouth Burning throat Stomach pain Vomiting Dizziness and/or disorientation Itchy hives Swelling of face, hands, mouth, or throat Tingling mouth or throat Chest tightening Breathing trouble Warnings For children under 2 years, eucalyptus ointments/salves or oil are not advised.Do not give cough drops containing eucalyptus oil to children under 6 years of age.Eucalyptus oil can slow down how fast the liver breaks down medications, so be cautious and consult physicians regarding specific drug interactions [ 25 , 26 ]. Overdose Consuming more than […]