Australia’s blue forests are named for the haze produced by the tree’s essential oil. When you walk through the groves, the blue mist that mutes the surrounding scenery can be almost intoxicating. One can’t help but take deep breaths of its refreshing scent, which is perhaps why aromatherapists use it to clear the air, helping to resolve disagreements in interpersonal conflicts.
Eucalyptus or gum trees originated in Australia and Tasmania, but they are now found in subtropical regions all over the globe. They are one of the tallest and fastest growing trees. The eucalyptus tree was introduced at the Paris Exposition in 1867 after the director of the botanical gardens in Melbourne, Australia, suggested that the essential oil might be an antiseptic replacement for cajeput oil. He was right.
The French government then planted the fast-growing trees in Algeria to ward off the noxious gases thought to be responsible for malaria. It worked, but ironically this was not due to the essential oil, but because the water-hungry trees transformed the marsh into dry land, eliminating the mosquito's’s habitat.
Eucalyptus’s thick, long, bluish-green leaves are distilled to provide essential oil. Blue gum eucalyptus, the most widely cultivated variety, provides most of the commercially available oil, although with more than 600 species, there are a variety of scents. Aromatherapists sometimes favor the more relaxing qualities and pleasant scent of the lemony E. citriodora.
A very inexpensive oil, eucalyptus is used liberally to scent aftershaves and colognes and as an antiseptic in mouthwashes and household cleansers.
Principal constituents of eucalyptus: Cineol or eucalyptol, pinene, limonene, and at least 250 other compounds. Varieties can include citronellal, cineole, cryptone, piperitone.
Scent of eucalyptus: The odor is pungent, sharp, and somewhat camphoraceous.
Therapeutic properties of eucalyptus: Antibacterial, antiviral, deodorant; clears mucous from the lungs; as a liniment, relieves rheumatic, arthritic, and other types of pain
Uses for eucalyptus: Highly antiseptic, eucalyptus has long been a household remedy in Australia for treating everything from flu, fever, and sore throat to skin and muscle pain. Most liniments and vapor rubs contain it or eucalyptol, one of its principal constituents. It is the most popular essential oil steam for relieving sinus and lung congestion such as asthma. Inhale the steam as described on page 73, add one or two drops of oil to a compress, or put three or four drops in your bath. Especially appropriate for skin eruptions and oily complexions, it is also used for acne, herpes, and chicken pox.
For a homemade preparation, mix eucalyptus essential oil with an equal amount of apple cider vinegar and dab on problem areas. This mix can also be used as an antiseptic on wounds, boils, and insect bites.
The scent increases brain wave activity and counters physical and mental fatigue. Carry eucalyptus with you on long car trips, or smell it to help you study. International Flavors and Fragrances, Inc., a research and development corporation in New Jersey, found that sniffing eucalyptus increases your energy.
Warnings for eucalyptus: Do not use during an asthma attack.