Eucalyptus essential oil is one of my three most essential basic health care oils, along with Lavender essential oil and Tea Tree essential oil. We will touch on the essential oil as well in this post but I would mainly like to get us in touch with the raw plant material, and ways we can interact with it. (Essential oils are very strong and must be used with caution and according to prescribed procedures.)
Eucalyptus globulus (eucalyptus) is a tall, fast-growing, evergreen tree, native to Tasmania and south-eastern Australia. It grows in a wide range of climatic conditions and species of Eucalyptus can be found today in the Americas, Europe, Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East, China, and the Indian subcontinent. The leaves are scalpel shaped and have a strong sweet woody smell. The essential oil is distilled from the leaves of the tree, the active ingredient is Eucalyptol.
(Here are the leaves from a tree in my neighborhood)
This tree has been in traditional medicinal use for thousands of years, even before it left the Australian continent:
The native Australian aboriginal people used it traditionally to dress wounds, to utilize its antimicrobial properties, and to treat breathing ailments, such as coughs.
In Yemen, the leaves were used in a steam inhalation to help cure coughs as the leaves have an expectorant quality.
The infused water was then used as a hair wash to stimulate growth.
A bath infused with eucalyptus leaves, along with mint and geranium leaves is said to aid with sore muscles.
Another interesting characteristic of eucalyptus is immune stimulation:
“ Surprisingly for an antimicrobial substance, there are also immune-stimulatory, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, analgesic, and spasmolytic effects. Of the white blood cells, monocytes and macrophages are most affected, especially with increased phagocytic activity.” (Pubmed)
Now that we've established the benefits of the plant (antimicrobial, immune-boosting, respiratory support, soothing sore muscles etc.) what can we do with a big pile of leaves we just collected from the park? How can we process this plant material to more usable forms?
Steam Inhalation: The most immediate way we can use the leaves is steam inhalation. Just steep a handful of leaves in boiling water and lean over the bowl with a towel draped over your head.
Dried Leaves: Drying the leaves is very simple, I simply placed them in a vase without water for a few days and they dried completely. The dried leaves can be stored to use for steam inhalations, teas or herbal baths. ‘Eucalyptus flower’ can be made by grinding the dried leaves in a coffee grinder.
Eucalyptus infused oil: We can make an infused oil using the dry leaves (and dry leaves only), either using the hot and fast method, or the cold and slow method (In this post you will find instructions for both methods). I infused almond oil. The infused oil can be used for a salve or for rubbing directly on the chest and back.
Hydrosol: a great way to utilize the abundance of fresh plant material is distilling the plant water to hydrosol. The hydrosol can be used in body sprays or for misting linen on a winter morning when airing it out is not an option. (In this post you will find a photographed step by step tutorial on making hydrosol)
Here is one recipe that combines all of the eucalyptus goodies we discussed above.
Eucalyptus Bath Bombs: Helpful in cases of congestion and cough.
· 1.5 cups Baking Soda
· 2 cups Citric Acid
· 1/4 cup Dried Ground Eucalyptus and Peppermint Leaves
· 2 tbsp Cornstarch
· 4 tbsp Eucalyptus infused almond oil