Herb of the Month: Eucalyptus Leaf
Spring allergies got you down? March is notorious for its beautiful blossoms and greens sprouting up through the sidewalk cracks, and the unfortunate side effects of all of that pollen. If you are looking for a natural remedy to help curb some of these uncomfortable spring allergy symptoms, we have just the herb for you!
Eucalyptus globulus, or Eucalyptus, is a classic go-to for assisting with allergies, colds, and the flu. We will cover the medicinal benefits of this tree soon, but first, we must acknowledge the insanely cool history of the Eucalyptus tree and how it came to grow in our part of the world. In fact, we have a Eucalyptus tree right around the corner from The Herb Shoppe!
The word eucalyptus derives from the Greek words “eu” and “kalypto” which translates to “well” and “covered” in reference to the budding flowers of the tree. Eucalyptus is a genus that has over 700 species and belongs to the Myrtaceae family. This ancient species has ancestors (eucalypts, a close relative) dating back as far as 35 to 50 million years ago! This tree species thrives in conditions where fires are frequent and soils are dry, so when Earth experienced periods of frequent fires and soil depletion 20 million years ago, the eucalyptus family expanded rapidly in its native lands of Tasmania and southeastern Australia.
This tree is fast-growing and reproduces quickly. The Eucalyptus tree is a large evergreen that grows between 90 to 200 ft tall, and in the late summer months, it bears single flowers and woody fruits. When the bark of the Eucalyptus tree is injured it bleeds a sticky gum-like sap, earning its common nickname of “gum tree.” The first written record of Eucalyptus dates to 1642 and was found in the journal of explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman, where he described the gummy sap found on trees in Tasmania. The first medicinal account of using Eucalyptus as medicine dates back to 1778 on the “First Fleet” ship where European surgeons used Eucalyptus as an antiseptic. As always though, the discovery and use of Eucalyptus likely dates much earlier than this written account and to the credit of Tasmania and Australia’s First Peoples.
Eucalyptus found its way to other parts of the world during the 1800s thanks to German botanist Baron Ferdinand von Miller, who transported seeds to different countries, especially those with marshy environments struggling with malaria outbreaks. It was found that the drying nature of Eucalyptus was able to neutralize these environments and reduce the population of mosquitos ridden with the disease. (Seriously, how amazing!) It was during this same time that many Australians relocated to California during the gold rush, and voila! Eucalyptus found a new home in the United States.
Today, Eucalyptus makes up about 70% of Australia’s forest type! Eucalyptus plays an essential role in the ecosystem for this reason and it provides food for koalas and shelter for kookaburras and other animals. Not to mention, Eucalyptus trees are used for wood, to make paper, and most importantly in our case…medicine! Similar to the saying “no mud, no lotus” or seeing grass crack open the concrete sidewalk, I find it remarkable when plants grow and thrive against all odds. This month, determined Eucalyptus inspires me to push through the uncomfortable allergies and the final few weeks of rainy, cold weather.
Eucalyptus is spicy, warm, aromatic, antiseptic, antibiotic, antibacterial, antispasmodic, and is also an expectorant and stimulant. It has various uses for the respiratory, lymphatic, nervous, urinary, and immune systems. The essential oil of Eucalyptus leaves and bark is an extremely potent anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial remedy used to heal an array of skin conditions such as wounds, infections, insect bites, eczema, and psoriasis. The oil and leaves are deliciously aromatic and are said to have a calming effect on the nervous system, which may aid in treating symptoms of depression and insomnia.
Due to the antibacterial properties of Eucalyptus, it can be used to improve dental health and is an ingredient in many natural toothpastes to help fight tooth decay. It is an incredible decongestant and expectorant when you are feeling stuffed up with seasonal allergies, stubborn colds or bronchitis, helping to fight fevers and loosen up mucus and phlegm buildup within the nasal cavity and lungs.
Eucalyptus globulus has also been used on painful joints and trauma sites due to its ability to stimulate circulation and congested blood. One of the most successful ways to experience the medicine of Eucalyptus globulus is to inhale the vapors of the boiled leaves, or through the diluted essential oil. However, Eucalyptus is a popular ingredient in over-the-counter ointments, lozenges, and cough syrups, so there are many options when exploring the benefits of Eucalyptus!
You can find Eucalyptus in several of our blends;
- Clear Head Steam
- Immune Boosting Essential Oil
- Tension Relief Salve
- Bug Off Bug Spray
- Moovin’ and Groovin’ Circulatory Bath Soak
- Cold Season Support Tincture
- Warm Body Rub Oil
- & more!
American Botanical Council. “Eucalyptus.” Eucalyptus - American Botanical Council, https://www.herbalgram.org/resources/healthy-ingredients/eucalyptus/.
Dunham, Aaron. “The Ancient History of Eucalyptus.” Clear Revive, Clear Revive, 22 Apr. 2019, https://clearrevive.com/blogs/blog/the-ancient-history-of-eucalyptus.
Health Benefits Times. “Eucalyptus Facts and Health Benefits.” Health Benefits | Health Benefits of Foods and Drinks, 15 Sept. 2017, https://www.healthbenefitstimes.com/eucalyptus/.
Ladiges, Pauline. “The Story of Our Eucalypts.” Australian Academy of Science, 23 Mar. 2018, https://www.science.org.au/curious/earth-environment/story-our-eucalypts.Rogers, Maureen. “Eucalyptus - Herbworld.” Herbalpedia, 2014, https://www.herbworld.com/learningherbs/EUCALYPTUS.pdf.
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