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.
Here are 7 impressive benefits of eucalyptus leaves.
1. Eucalyptus leaves are 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, isorhamnetin, luteolin, kaempferol, phloretin, and quercetin. Diets rich in these compounds may protect against certain cancers, heart disease, and dementia.
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.
Eucalyptus tea is a good source of these antioxidants and is 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.
Summary: Eucalyptus tea is high in flavonoids, which are antioxidants that may lower your risk of certain cancers, heart disease, and dementia.
2. Eucalyptus leaves 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 bronchioles of your lungs. It’s also a natural anti-inflammatory agent.
The main ingredient responsible for these properties is eucalyptol, also known as cineole, which is a compound found in eucalyptus oil.
Some research has shown that eucalyptol relieves cold symptoms like cough frequency, nasal congestion, and headache by decreasing inflammation and mucus buildup.
Furthermore, eucalyptol may help improve asthma symptoms.
One 12-week study gave 32 people with bronchial asthma either 600 mg of eucalyptol or a placebo per day. Those in the eucalyptol group required 36% less medication to control their asthma symptoms, compared with those in the control group, who needed 7% less.
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.
Be sure to consult your healthcare provider before using eucalyptol or changing your medications.
Summary: Eucalyptus contains a compound called eucalyptol, which has been found to decrease nasal congestion, cough frequency, and cold-related headaches. It may also improve asthma symptoms, although more research is needed.
3. Eucalyptus leaves 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.
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Topical eucalyptus leaf extract has been found to boost skin ceramide production, water-holding capacity, and skin barrier protection. It contains a compound called macrocarpal A, which appears to stimulate ceramide production.
In a study of 34 people, using a scalp lotion containing eucalyptus leaf extract and synthetic ceramide significantly decreased scalp redness, itchiness, dryness, and scaliness.
Hence, many hair and skin products contain eucalyptus leaf extract.
Summary: Eucalyptus leaf extract has been shown to increase ceramide production in the skin, which may improve dry skin and dandruff. More research is needed to confirm this.
4. Eucalyptus leaves may reduce pain
Inhaling eucalyptus essential oil may decrease pain.
Eucalyptus contains many anti-inflammatory compounds, such as cineole and limonene, which may act as pain relievers.
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.
However, another study in 123 people with cancer found no improvements in perceived pain after inhaling eucalyptus oil for 3 minutes before a medical procedure, suggesting that more research is needed.
Summary: Inhaling eucalyptus oil may help reduce pain levels. However, more research is needed.
5. Eucalyptus leaves may promote relaxation
Eucalyptus is widely believed to decrease symptoms of stress.
In one study, 62 healthy people experienced significant reductions in pre-surgery anxiety after inhaling eucalyptus oil. Eucalyptus contains eucalyptol, which has been found to possess anti-anxiety properties.
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.
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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.
Summary: Eucalyptus oil is associated with decreased blood pressure and anxiety. It’s believed to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes relaxation.
6. Eucalyptus leaves can help keep your teeth healthy
Eucalyptus leaf extract, known as eucalyptol, may improve dental health.
Eucalyptus leaves contain high amounts of ethanol and macrocarpal C — a type of polyphenol. These compounds are associated with lower levels of bacteria that can cause cavities and gum disease.
A study of 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.
For this reason, eucalyptol is commonly added to mouthwash.
Summary: Chewing gum with eucalyptus leaf extract has been found to significantly decrease plaque buildup on teeth and signs of gum disease. It’s added to many types of mouthwash and other oral health products.
7. Eucalyptus leaves 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 eucalyptol content of eucalyptus oil, the longer and more effectively it works as a repellent.
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.
Summary: Eucalyptus oil contains a compound called eucalyptol, which has been shown to repel mosquitoes and other biting insects. It may also be an effective treatment for head lice, but more research is needed.
How to use eucalyptus
Eucalyptus leaves can be found online and used in a variety of ways, including:
- Tea. Use tea bags made from ground eucalyptus leaves.
- Aromatherapy. Add a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil to a diffuser or steam bowl.
- Whole leaves. Hang the leaves in your shower or add them to your bath for a relaxing spa-like experience.
- Bug repellent. Purchase or make a bug repellent with lemon eucalyptus essential oil.
- Topical. Add a few drops of eucalyptus oil into a carrier oil, such as fractionated coconut oil, and apply it to your chest to ease congestion.
Many over-the-counter products also contain eucalyptus, such as mouthwash, vapor rub, and chewing gum.
Summary: Eucalyptus leaves can be used whole, ground, or as an oil. You can drink eucalyptus leaf tea and use the oil for aromatherapy or as an ointment or natural bug spray. Just be sure to not consume the essential oil.
While eucalyptus leaves are generally recognized as safe, there are some serious health risks associated with consuming eucalyptus oil, as it can lead to toxicity.
It’s also important to note that children are at higher risk of toxicity. Seizures, difficulty breathing, a lowered level of consciousness, and even death have been reported.
Additionally, there’s not enough evidence to determine if eucalyptus oil is safe for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Thus, it should be avoided by these populations.
Some people experience contact dermatitis upon applying eucalyptus oil to their skin. Use a carrier oil, such as fractionated coconut oil or jojoba oil, to reduce your risk of skin irritation. Before using the oil, do a patch test to ensure you don’t react.
Finally, eucalyptus oil may interact with certain medications, such as those for diabetes, high cholesterol, acid reflux, and psychiatric disorders. Be sure to consult your healthcare provider before using it.
Summary: Consuming eucalyptus oil can be toxic and should be avoided. Children are at higher risk of toxicity. In some cases, people may experience contact dermatitis from the oil, so do a patch test before using it as a treatment.
Eucalyptus leaves have many impressive benefits. They may help decrease pain, promote relaxation, and relieve cold symptoms.
Many over-the-counter products also use eucalyptus extract to freshen your breath, soothe irritated skin, and repel insects.
Eucalyptus tea is considered safe to drink, but ingesting eucalyptus oil can be toxic in relatively low doses. Always consult your healthcare provider before using eucalyptus oil if you are taking any medications.