What do you use eucalyptus essential oil for? We're deep into coughs and cold season, but the doctors' antibiotics deal with bacterial infections, not viruses. The medical professionals have nothing to help stuffy noses and most chesty coughs. So that puts us in a strange position. Because we're not allowed to make any medicinal claims as to what Eucalyptus essential oil can do, most doctors suggest it eases the symptoms of these bugs.
First and foremost, people value it for its powerful decongestant nature, but aromatherapists also traditionally use it for its constituents' antiviral properties and pain.
Getting To Know Eucalyptus
One of the world's most potent and valuable tree species, the Eucalyptus, boasts about 900 species in its genus. More than 300 of these species contain volatile oils in their leaves. The evergreens grow all over Australian landscapes as trees, shrubs, or mallees (shrubs that grow multiple stems from an underground tuber).
The Philippines, New Guinea, and Indonesia also have sixteen indigenous species. The Eucalyptus oil market was valued at US$45.7 Million in 2021 and is predicted to increase to US$77.6 Million by 2027. The most popular species used for essential oil is eucalyptus globulus which is beloved because of its high content of one of the most valuable constituents, 1,8 cineole.
This species has also been through rigorous genetic screening to optimize its chemical capabilities and thus can now also be grown in many other countries, aiding its availability for export and essential oil production.
The volatile compounds in eucalyptus oils are recognized for their broad spectrum of action, such as antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, anti-immunomodulatory, antioxidant, and wound healing properties. They are commonly used for the treatment of respiratory tract diseases such as the common cold, nasal congestion, sinusitis, pulmonary tuberculosis, bronchitis, asthma, influenza, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). (Chandorkar, 2021)
Eucalyptus essential oil exerts anti-inflammatory, mucolytic, and spasmolytic effects in attenuating inflammatory responses caused by viruses, particularly respiratory diseases. (Mieres-Castro, 2021)
Also Read: Is Eucalyptus Essential Oil Safe For Dogs?
What Do You Use Eucalyptus Essential Oil For?
Fundamentally, it's For Respiratory Medicine
Although Australia now exports so much essential oil, the oil is different from the traditional way of using the plant, though Eucalyptus has always been used for respiratory medicine. In the indigenous medicine of Australia, cut leaves and branches were thrown onto fires to release the volatiles, and people would then breathe the smoke to relieve sinusitis, bronchitis, and pharyngitis.
Today, we have become fixated on putting oils onto our skin, but when you think about it, it does make way more sense to inhale the volatiles for a stuffy nose. There are so many ways you could do this. I'm lazy. I like to inhale the oil directly from the bottle, or if I have a cough or catarrh, to put the bottle slightly in my mouth, without closing my lips around it, to gasp the fumes down into my throat and lungs, but you could use any inhaler or even just a drop or two on a tissue.
Lately, When People Ask Me What You Use, Eucalyptus Essential Oil For Now… I'm Talking About The Germ That Will Not Be Named.
Perhaps most exciting is that recent studies have revealed an action between 1,8 cineole and another compound from the plant and the docking mechanism SARS COV- 2 uses to take hold in a host and spread. (da Silva, 2020) (Panika, 2020)
These two constituents interfere with the transcription and replication of the germs' genes to replicate and grow the embryo within the host. This has led to interest by researchers as a possible antiviral agent for the disease.
This is also an excellent time to do a reminder on the difference between antiviral and virucidal. The term "Antiviral" pertains to the pathogen spread through the system that allows the infection to take hold. This is different from a virucidal agent that would stop you from catching the disease. We should also stress these are early trials and by no means count as medical proof for creating a eucalyptus drug for COVID-19.
That said, I think this would be evidence enough to change the directive of most aromatherapists - myself included - who have said, "As soon as you start to feel a bit rough, reach for the tea tree…", to "Reach for the tea tree and eucalyptus oils."
There are now standardized versions of 1,8 cineole and myrtol constituents sold as licensed capsules (blended with other constituents like limonene) under the names GeloMyrtol® and GeloMyrtol forte®. These have already gained considerable popularity with medical professionals for treating respiratory complaints.
The leading chemical group that creates the magic in eucalyptus oils is terpenes. Inhaling steam with Eucalyptus essential oil has previously demonstrated positive effects on viral infections, such as colds, bronchiolitis, rhinosinusitis, and asthma. (Panika, 2020) (Kim, 2021)
Also Read: Is Eucalyptus Essential Oil Safe for Cats?
The terpenes in Eucalyptus have also been found to be extremely useful in the war against HSV. The herpes simplex virus can manifest itself in many ways, from genital warts to cold sores, depending on the strain involved. HSV is a particular health concern since it is a highly intelligent germ that evolves quickly. As such, it is antibiotic resistant. Since plants also grow with nature, they make exciting opponents in this war.
In 1999, Bourn et al. tested 1,8 cineole in mice trials against HSV2, which causes genital lesions. The preparation was used vaginally in healthy mice and was shown to protect them against transmission by infected partners. (Bourne, 1999)
Gentler HSV Use
Please take care when doing this at home. At the very least, undiluted essential oils up your vjj tend to make your eyes water, and mice tend to bite you if you try to shove anything up their glory holes, and who would blame them for that?
More seriously, use diluted Eucalyptus topically, or if you want to be clever, you could make a pessary with Shea Butter or solid coconut oil as a means of application. (Wrap greaseproof paper around the handle of a wooden spoon to make a tube, and scotch tape it to keep it in place. Pour your melted carrier with essential oils into the tube, and leave it to go solid).
Eucalyptus was demonstrated to be more effective against HSV- 1 which causes gingivostomatitis, cold sores, and herpetic keratitis, than the doctors preferred medicine, acyclovir and when was used at a 1% dilution in a petri dish, no HSV-1 activity was detected after 24 hours. (Minami 2003)
Eucalyptus exhibited a 50% inhibition rate against both strains of HSV. (Schnitzler, 2001)
By preventing the germ from adsorption into the host cells, acting like a gatekeeper for them; what's interesting, though, is Eucalyptus essential oil itself is not as effective in attacking the germ as the various isolates do alone, in particular alpha-pinene.
Eucalyptus, though, would make a great addition to lip salves and creams for cold sores, not least because we are used to the taste of it, of course. On that note, keep your dilutions low if you are making a pessary. There is no need to take risks of injury.
So, the flu is a strange one, use we don't act how many people it kills each year. Sadly, there are so many different strains, and many people die at home, so those deaths go unreported in official statistics. We can, however, make very conservative estimates of tens of thousands annually, but when we thought of the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918, tragically, the virus killed a massive 40-50 million people.
It's not a nice germ.
In the UK, the flu vaccine is made up of the four most prolific strains seen in Australasia in the preceding six months, but clearly, there are many more than that four. So while vaccination is helpful, it is only part of the story. There will always e other germs lurking that even the vaccines have not prepared for.
A 2017 study looked at this issue and proved that an oil-in-water emulsion of Eucalyptus (not essential oil) could block flu virus replication and stop it from spreading through the host. (Sadatrasul, 2017) (the host being a person if that's not obvious).
Various eucalyptus species' effects on influenza are widely studied, but experiments are often done using other subspecies, so not all data applies.
However, Eucalyptus's success in killing the influenza virus might be down to how it inhibits hemagglutinin. This protein lives on the virus's surface, which is integral to its infectibility (Vimalanathan, 2014). Curtail hemagglutinin, and you reduce infectibility.
One of my favorite studies was done on some (poor old) mice in 2016. They infected them with, then either treated with a nasal wash with 1,8 cineole or the antiviral medication acyclovir for five days, then were watched for mortality for fifteen more days.
Short version, the 1,8 cineole mice lived longer.
More extended version: the 1,8 cineole prevented the pathological changes from influenza to pneumonia.
This was prevented because the 1,8 cineole had reduced a cascade of proinflammatory cytokines in the nasal fluids and their lung tissues.
What's interesting to me, as a complementary therapist - as opposed to an alternative medicine advocate ( I love the doctor's medicine as much as the next hypochondriac) is the mice that lived longest we those that had been treated with the flu vaccine, but then had also had a eucalyptus nasal wash.
Bronchitis and COPD
1,8 cineole demonstrated clinical efficacy in patients diagnosed with severe bronchial asthma generating anti-inflammatory, mucolytic, and spasmolytic effects (Worth, 2012) (Jeurgens, 2020). It is also shown to reduce shortness of breath in patients with COPD. (Worth 2019)
Also Read: Is Eucalyptus Oil Safe For Babies?
What is Eucalyptus Essential Oil Use For? Had You thought about it for pain?
Look at the GCMS for VINEVIDA eucalyptus (current at the time of writing). You can see that the particular oil we sell comprises roughly 60% eucalyptol (otherwise known as 1,8 cineole) and 20% limonene. Hence, these constituents are likely to drive the main properties of the oil.
As discussed, one of its often overlooked properties is for pain, in particular neuropathic pain. This is interesting to me because a condition that causes horrific neuropathic pain in shingles, also a derivative of herpes simplex, although this time herpes zoster.
Cineole and the Opioid Receptors
Eucalyptus's analgesic properties are due, in large part, to the way that 1,8 cineole interacts with a particular set of opioid receptors. In the early part of the twentieth century, Hebrew doctor David Macht wrote:
"If the entire materia medica at our disposal were limited to the choice and use of only one drug, I am sure that a great many, if not the majority, of us, would choose opium; and I am convinced that if we were to select, say half a dozen of the most important drugs in the Pharmacopeia, we should all place opium in the first rank."
Opium, the endogenous ligand of the opiate receptors, is a close cousin of morphine, heroin, and laudanum. The poppy is so rich with symbolism, but it's also a medicine that even people with zero plant knowledge would understand.
Moreover, it embodies one of the most prominent examples of the mind-body connection.
The blissful release from pain and the loosening of grip on reality. Use opium for too long, and soon the plant becomes the master, driving the most pious person on criminal binges for more and more.
But the poppy cannot work alone. It requires a receptor to interact with - the mu receptor. Morphine and codeine exert their pain-killing skills through the mu receptor. Heroin, too, is a derivative that acts upon the same receptor but has different acetyl bonds. This acetylation means it passes through the blood-brain barrier much quicker and has far more potent and unpredictable effects, particularly depression of respiration.
Imagine the "Couldn't give a f**ck" we are familiar with opium derivatives…well, 1,8 cineole does that too.
The Mu Receptor and Pain
Pain is usually split into three possibilities, neuropathic, somatic, or visceral, but in truth, one condition rarely exists without the other. So while not all pain is registered as being neuropathic (which usually presents as a stabbing pain, incidentally), it may still be in the background.
Somatic pain refers to pain that may have an emotional context to it. Not strictly "all in the head" -that's a different thing - but the pain may not have a physical explanation and could be exacerbated by stress or other negative emotions.
Consider, then, how the mu receptor challenges that dynamic.
Now, as a pain specialist, this is where I feel the primary importance of essential oils lie…
We can increase the properties by blending, can't we?
So, we might say well, I need some lavender to help the analgesia (incidentally, chemically, the doctors also choose to interact with the opiate receptors synergistically by perhaps adding some aspirin into the mix).
We can ask the body to use multiple healing streams by blending oils. This is vital because one of the reasons the doctor will only prescribe opiates for acute short-term pain - opiates are contraindicated for chronic pain - is because long-term activation of the mu receptor is one of the key drivers of addiction.
Also Read: How to Use Eucalyptus Oil for Cough?
Remembering that the mind and body communicate through these, the body tells the reason to trick the user, and together they ramp up how much pain the person feels. Great plan because the patient knows the opiate will work well, so they take their pill, and the pain disappears.
But soon, the body wants more, so it brings the pain experience back quicker than before this time, so maybe three hours passes before the patient finds the pain unbearable and pops a pill again.
Addiction to prescription meds is a massive problem, leading to aggravated pain, depression, criminal activity, loss of relationships, jobs, homes, and death in some of the most upsetting cases. Overdose from prescription meds is common both through suicide and accidental overdose.
It's. All. Bad.
A Different Approach
Consider that we have a constituent that can speak to the mu receptor at a similar volume as morphine. The nociceptive properties of 1,8 cineole are comparable to the effects of morphine. (Liapi, 2007)
Now, if someone overdoses on an opiate, paramedics administer naloxone. The importance of the discovery of naloxone in the 1960s cannot be understated. Naloxone also interacts with the mu receptors but switches them off quickly, providing an antidote to respiratory depression caused by opiate overdose.
It is proven that cineole achieves its pain-killing action through the mu receptor, but…somewhere, somehow, something else is going on, too…because the magic doesn't switch off when naloxone is administered. (Liapi, 2007)
It is now understood that 1,8 cineole exerts a second pain-killing effect via receptors known as PX2X.
Generally, there are three pathways neurons can use to take pain messages to the brain. One of these is via the dorsal horn, which is one of the gray matter sections of the spinal cord. Interestingly, this area is also one of the most densely populated areas for mu receptors (along with the periaqueductal gray).
Seven PX2 receptors in the body aim to translate sensory message impulses along nerves.
This is a very complex science, so I'll keep it as simple as possible to prevent us from drowning.
The more PX2X cells send messages, the louder the pain signal.
1,8 cineole inhibits the expression of PX2X receptors (Zheng, 2019), meaning there are fewer places for the megaphones to be plugged into.
Fewer PX2X, then, means less pain.
Also Read: Lemon Eucalyptus Essential Oil Enables You to Enjoy a Healthy and Clean Life!
What Do You Use Eucalyptus Essential Oil - How about as an Anti-inflammatory Agent?
So now we have come full circle because we opened with all the respiratory illnesses that ended with itis, didn't we? Sinusitis, pharyngitis, bronchitis….
The suffix-itis means inflammation.
1,8 cineole exerts anti-inflammatory in the respiratory tract, calming inflammation and helping maintain healthy breathing.
Its anti-inflammatory abilities are also displayed in other tissues via its effects on cytokines and prostaglandins.
Prostaglandins are manufactured at the site of injury to inflame it to protect it in healing. In cases of severe inflammation, this can be because signaling has gone astray. 1,8 cineole switches this signaling down.
Cytokines are proteins despatched from the injury to create an immune response. In vitro tests demonstrate that 1,8 cineole reduces the manufacture of prostaglandins and cytokines. (Santos, 2000)
What Do You Use Eucalyptus for in The Mind-Body?
Hmmm, there is a question, indeed…
As many of you will know, my "real" job is writing The Secret Healer series of aromatherapy manuals, which take the latest clinical research about an essential oil from scientific laboratories and tie it into the earliest mentions of a plant in history. My key areas of expertise, apart from how essential oils affect neuroscience, are the histories of ancient Greece and Egypt. So when people repeatedly ask me to write about Eucalyptus, I frown. I know nothing about Australian indigenous medicine, nor have I experienced their Dreamtime or any cultural references to it. I need some help!
But then something rather remarkable happened to me in the boredom of lockdown. I started some shamanistic practices in partnership with a lady called Deby Atterby, one of Australia's foremost authorities on using indigenous medicines. She and I have become great friends. When she takes her book Australian Essential Oil Profiles on a world tour later this year, we are doing a joint workshop on lavender and Eucalyptus, so eventually, I have had to knuckle down and learn it!
Indigenous Australians, What Do You Use Eucalyptus Essential Oil For?
One of the key problems we have with Eucalyptus is that the wisdom of the First Nations People of Australia is held in the oral record. Anything written down about Eucalyptus was recorded by European settlers trying to understand their plants and culture. But, as we now accept, it would only be possible for us to comprehend the world view of the ways Eucalyptus can work with understanding the plant's place in the Dreamtime. Moreover, there are about 600 tribes, each of whom has their language and stories.
One story that does come up repeatedly is how the gum tree is a gateway plant to the upper, lower, and middle worlds (ours is the middle world). So, even though we as Westerners only exploit the physical medicine of the plant, there very clearly is spiritual knowledge to be gained somewhere.
This creates an interesting question because I am not interested in misappropriating anyone's culture. As a [bee] shaman, shamanistic wisdom is precious to me. I respect that closed door.
However, that does pose me with a dilemma because here's the thing…
Essential oils don't have side effects, only many main effects. In the case of this one, it affects the mu receptor, which most certainly affects the emotions and the physical body.
Where Is The Research Around That?
As therapists, we understand that part of a plant's magical healing is how it shifts emotions and heals the mind and spirit. We work so hard at understanding the physical safety and possible contraindications of essential oil; don't we, as therapists, have a duty of care to recognize how the tool will work on those levels too?
The more I think about it, the more uncomfortable I feel about this disconnect.
And discomfort never sits well with me.
So the last six months have been spent wading through many myths and legends, asking what you use eucalyptus essential oil for spiritually, Australian natives….I do have a few things I can share.
The first pertains to coughs.
The Mind, Body Spirit of Coughs
Coughs are very much related to speech and expression. It's incredible how many people cough when they are about to say something that makes them feel uncomfortable, yet more people nervously clear their throats after they have lied.
When you look at body-mind medicine, coughs often manifest themselves when you can't fully express yourself or when you are in a situation that prevents you from speaking your truth. It's hard to prove across the board, but when you work, therapist to patient, you can often see clues that help reverse engineer these things.
I once had a client who'd had a terrible cough for about three years. She had been to see specialists across the country, but no one could determine what was wrong with her. She'd sought me out because she wondered if it might be connected with her feelings about her sister in an abusive relationship and, if it was, how she could use essential oils to solve it.
We used sweet basil, which is very good at just making you speak your truth regardless of who it annoys - and, incidentally, is also brilliant for coughs.
Two weeks in, she started to speak; she got so angry, there were rows all over the place…but the sister wasn't mentioned once.
It was her house. She hated it. She felt she'd been talked into compromising on it and hadn't wanted to buy it in the first place, but she was terrified to tell her husband because she didn't want to upset him. The house had never dawned on her, but when she started to talk, her lovely man realized it might be time to move. They sold the house, found a lovely one and the cough was gone.
I Can't Win
Now, Eucalyptus has a particular signature. It grows out of rocky outcrops, which is amazingly clever because its roots go down, down, down through the rocks until it can eventually find the water to sustain it.
Herein lies one of the most important things that Eucalyptus helps. When you are stuck between a rock and a hard place… Eucalyptus helps to assuage the guilt you feel about the situation. It moisturizes your throat, allowing the words to come out of your mouth more easily.
Can The Opioid System Give Us a Clue?
We still don't understand what the actions of the opioid system are on the emotions outside of anecdotal evidence of the effects of drugs. However, this is now quite a large area of research.
What's more, when the effects of the mu receptor were examined (using morphine), a fascinating picture formed. The test studied how morphine affects facial mimicry, which is how we unconsciously mirror others people's emotional facial expressions. While morphine did not affect how the person perceived other people's expressions of happiness, they no longer showed empathy for fear (Massaccasi, 2022) or seemed to have any appreciation of people's anger. (Løseth, 2018)
I can see how that could make you feel a bit easier about expressing your disdain.
Also Read: What Is Eucalyptus Oil Good For?
Safety Notes Around Eucalyptus Essential Oil
These notes about the Mu receptor will help you to understand the safety guidelines around using Eucalyptus on children.
1,8 cineole slows respiration, so it is suggested that Eucalyptus is not used on children under 6. However, acute bronchitis is the fourth biggest infant killer (in the UK) so outlawing it all together works on paper only.
Use minimal amounts - dilutions of just 0.25% on children and apply to their backs, away from their faces.
That said, for less severe coughs and colds, frankincense is a better choice for wee ones.
Indeed, do not put drops of eucalyptus essential oil on their pillows at night.
In adults, Eucalyptus is safe after 16 weeks of pregnancy.
One last point, remember that Eucalyptus is one of the oils that can be problematic for cats when used in a diffuser.
A Final One About How To Use Eucalyptus Essential Oil
Eucalyptus relies upon animal pollination, but it has a relatively excellent pollinator. Although bees and many different types of insects adore their pollen-rich flowers, their primary pollinators are moths and bats. Therefore, the plant must be at its most effective at night. The same applies to essential oil; although it's comforting during the day, it does most of its magic at night. Interestingly, some Dreamtime stories also relate to how the Southern Cross's constellation is formed from a gum tree.
What is Eucalyptus Essential Oil Used for Recap: Analgesic, Respiratory and Antiviral.