Eucalyptus is a beautiful, giant tree with aromatic leaves, one that many people are familiar with because of its popular essential oil. Eucalyptus globulus is a tree native to Australia, and it has many other aromatic (and medicinal) relatives. In fact, around 20 different eucalyptus species are aromatic enough to be medicinal, and can be used similarly to E. globulus, with some differences depending on species and chemical profiles. This species, however, is the most commonly used in Western herbalism, and the species we will primarily be discussing.
Most of us have experienced it. A nasty cold with a stuffy nose, postnasal drip, a cough that is hard to stop. In walks mom or grandma or another caregiver with Vicks® Vapor Rub™. This combination of camphor, eucalyptus, and other scents eases your stuffy nose and congested lungs, and brings relief to that nasty cold. Eucalyptus has been used for a long time as a decongestant, antimicrobial, and to ease muscle pains.
Although it is currently native to Australia (more about this in the monograph), Polynesians brought eucalyptus to the coastlines of Asia and India, where it then traveled into the middle east, southern Europe, and ended up in the west coastal regions of North America via colonialization by the Spanish. You can now find towering eucalyptus trees in Southern California and parts of costal Mexico, easily harvestable.
This is an herb many households have heard of, and many people use the essential oil of, but there are some safety concerns as well. Be sure to read this issue and learn more about this common plant ally that is great to have on hand in case of respiratory virus.