The eucalyptus tree easily conjures up images of cuddly koala bears in the Australian outback; however this aromatic plant has had far-reaching affects the world over for centuries – and it might be just the remedy for your family this cold and flu season.
First used by the Aboriginal people of Australia and the Malay Archipelago who applied its oil to heal skin lesions and ease joint pain, the evergreen eucalyptus now thrives in the warmer climates of southern Europe, North Africa, Tahiti, India and California.
Settlers in the Australian continent quickly dubbed the eucalyptus “the fever tree” for its mysterious disease fighting abilities. Its penetrating aroma was thought to cleanse the “bad” night air, believed to be responsible for the spread of deadly malaria.
In Algiers a marshy disease ridden area was converted to a drier, healthy area after the planting of Eucalyptus groves. Theeucalyptus tree is able to absorb vast amounts of water and retain it in its roots, removing stagnant waters that harbor mosquitoes, the transmitters of malaria.
Eucalyptol, the medicinal ingredient in eucalyptus oil, has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory action against infection-causing viruses, fungi and bacteria. Its use in the treatment of wounds and scrapes and even sterilization of surgical equipment was very important before the discovery of antibiotics.
This sniffle season, try a steam or vapor rub inhalation of eucalyptus to clear nasal and mucus congestion and also inhibit the proliferation and spread of the flu virus. The powerful antibacterial and antiviral properties of this pungent plant even provide a measure of protection against airborne illnesses. Well-known aromatherapy researcher, Jean Valnet, wrote that a spray containing only 2% essential oil of Eucalyptus will kill 70% of staphylococci bacteria in the air.
A few drops of eucalyptus oil added to bathwater stimulates blood flow to relieve aching muscles and joints while the energizing aroma soothes and heals inflammation of the mucous membrane of the mouth, nose and throat. Lozenges and teas containing eucalyptol increase saliva production in the mouth, quell coughs and decrease the risk of secondary respiratory infections.
Eucalyptus oil infused steam helps treat an earache by opening up the Eustachian tubes, the passageway between the ear and throat, allowing fluids to drain and reducing painful pressure.
When used as recommended, eucalyptus oil is safe and beneficial. However, the potent oil must always be diluted before applying, smelling or inhaling. Look for products containing at least 70% eucalyptol, which is also called cineole.