If you’ve been looking for natural remedies for a host of common ills, you’re going to love eucalyptus. We wouldn’t say that it’s a panacea, but the unique chemical makeup of this tree provides a surprising number of beneficial eucalyptus uses.
So, whether you’re setting up a homestead or a bug-out bag, you may find that the common eucalyptus uses are a natural go-to remedy.
What is Eucalyptus
Originally native to Australia, the oil of the eucalyptus tree offers a host of medicinal and household uses. Most of these are due to the active chemical in its oil: 1,8-cineole (eucalyptol).
Eucalyptus found its way to the United States in 1853 as an ornamental plant suitable for the West. Common eucalyptus (E. globulous) is hardy in USDA zones 9 to 11, and it favors warm coastal areas. Its close relative, Silver Dollar Tree, (E. cinerea) is a bit hardier and may grow in zone 8, as well. It boasts the highest level of eucalyptol, over 80 percent.
Medical Eucalyptus Uses
You may have fond memories of your mom rubbing Vicks VapoRub on your chest. That astringent odor comes from eucalyptol, but its benefits aren’t limited to childhood colds. This handy natural oil also has antiseptic, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory effects, too.
General antibacterial and antifungal
Eucalyptus demonstrates powerful anti-bacterial properties, proving effective against several common infections, including E. Coli. Because of its high content of eucalyptol and its ease of availability, it makes an excellent home-made anti-bacterial salve for wounds. And with impressive anti-fungal action as well, eucalyptus is a powerful treatment for candida and superficial fungal infections.
Studies show that eucalyptus globulus is effective against a wide range of bacterial strains, include both staph, strep, pneumonia, and influenza. Its cousin, E. cinerea, has also tested effective against several infections, including influenza and pneumonia.
Upper respiratory disorders
Eucalyptus is also effective for a wide range of breathing disorders. It has anti-inflammatory effects that work along with its anti-bacterial action. Inhaling the steam from eucalyptus diffusions has been shown to relieve asthma and even COPD.
To use eucalyptus for respiratory distress or infection, put 1 teaspoon of essential oil into a pot of boiling water for steam inhalation. Alternatively, you can make a salve for your own homemade “vapor rub.”
Emergency situations can often mean the loss of life’s niceties. So, if you’ve been missing your dental cleanings, eucalyptus oil can prevent and treat gingivitis and periodontal disease.
Eucalyptus oil works to soothe sore muscles as well as arthritis pain when used as a topical treatment.
You may be familiar with the strong smell of muscle ointments or massage oils for sore muscles. This odor is caused by “Eucalyptamint,” a powerful combination of eucalyptus and peppermint oils.
This combination works to increase blood flow to sore muscles and stiff joints, proven in a placebo-controlled study.
Field Eucalyptus Uses
Whether you’re out in the woods or out in the garden, eucalyptus offers powerful deterrents against insects
Common Eucalyptus (E. globulus) is an excellent fumigation agent against common houseflies and their larvae. And although it isn’t as long-lasting as some essential oils, it will provide short term relief from mosquitoes.
It’s also effective against head lice. And in cases of infestation, it’s also quite effective against scabies.
Household Eucalyptus Uses
As an antibacterial, eucalyptus makes a great disinfectant for household surfaces, including bathing areas and food prep surfaces, when diluted in water as a cleaning agent.
Homestead Eucalyptus Uses
The antibacterial and anti-fungal effects of eucalyptus have been tested in several ways that may benefit homesteaders.
A 2014 study showed it can help preserve fruit juice by retarding the growth of yeast.
And several studies found that adding essential oils of eucalyptus (and peppermint) improved both the health and production of egg-laying hens. The polyphenols in eucalyptus leaves also improved meat quality.
You can also use this potent plant as an herbicide. Water extracts of E. globulus show promise as a pre-emergent herbicide to help keep garden beds clear of weeds.
Eucalyptus trees are quite flammable, and its volatility makes it an excellent biofuel for heating and cooking. Note that it has an allopathic effect on other crops, so plan accordingly.
How to Source Eucalyptus
Most specimens you’ll find will be part of someone’s landscaping. You may find it on public lands such as national parks. However, foraging is generally prohibited on public lands.
If you live in zones 8 to 11, however, you may want to grow your own. In colder climates, you can grow your own eucalyptus in a container and bring it inside during the winter.
Eucalyptus prefers warmth and full sun, and they make an attractive and useful plant on any property. You can use both leaves and bark to extract the essential oil.
Extracting eucalyptus oil
Generally, people use steam extraction, but one simple way to extract the essential oil from eucalyptus is with a slow-cooker.
Harvest branches with leaves and wash them. Then, let them air dry. Once dried, use a quarter-cup of leaves to one cup of “carrier oil.” While any vegetable oil works, grapeseed oil provides a cleaner product.
Remove the leaves from the branches and crush them. Add the crushed leaves and your carrier oil of choice to a slow-cooker. Set the cooker to low and let steep for a minimum of six hours. The longer they simmer, the stronger the oil.
Once finished, allow the oil to cool and then strain into a dark glass jar. Make sure your jar has been sanitized and is free from any dirt or moisture.
Although generally regarded as safe, some people have violent allergic reactions to it. These include trouble breathing, rapid heart rate, and more.
Don’t ever consume eucalyptus oil or plant materials, which can be quite toxic to humans. And to apply eucalyptus oil to the skin, start with just a few drops in a carrier oil.
Using Herbal Remedies
Although modern medicine has a lot to offer, there are many home remedies you can make. Making your own medicine means self-reliance under all circumstances. And in a survival situation, there may be no drug store for cold medicine or muscle rub. Knowing that a simple bottle of eucalyptus oil replaces a wide variety of over-the-counter products comes as a huge relief.
Growing and compounding your own herbal medicines is one way to take charge of your and your family’s health, no matter life brings.
For Further Reading
This is a guest post – Ben is a contributor for Ideahacks.com. Ideahacks is dedicated to connecting readers with natural solutions for everyday problems.