The flu-fighting essential oil
Noreen A. Kassem, MD
Originally used by the indigenous people of Australia, today eucalyptus oil is readily available and its health benefits, including steam therapy, are vast.
For some, the eucalyptus tree may conjure up images of koala bears frolicking in the Australian outback. Yet for the country’s first settlers, the aromatic plant went far beyond providing a playground for furry marsupials; it was quickly dubbed “the fever tree” for its many disease-fighting abilities.
Originally used by the indigenous people of Australia, who applied its oil to heal skin lesions and ease joint pain, the evergreen eucalyptus eventually became popular with early European botanists. Today the evergreen plant’s essential oil is readily accessible and may just be the best remedy available for this year’s cold and flu season.
Eucalyptus and You
Eucalyptol, the medicinal ingredient in eucalyptus oil, offers both antiseptic and anti-inflammatory action against infection-causing viruses, fungi, and bacteria. The powerful antibacterial and antiviral properties of this pungent plant may even provide a measure of protection against airborne illnesses.
Well-known aromatherapy researcher and medical doctor Jean Valnet reported that a spray containing only 2 percent essential oil of eucalyptus would kill 70 percent of staphylococci bacteria in the air. This sniffle season, try a steam or vapour rub inhalation of eucalyptus to clear nasal and mucous congestion and also to inhibit the proliferation and spread of the flu virus.
For a steam inhalation, just add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to a warm bath and breathe in the aromatic scent as you soak. This can also be done in the sink with a towel over your head to ensure the steam stays where you need it.
A few drops of eucalyptus oil added to bathwater will stimulate blood flow to relieve aching muscles and joints, while the energizing aroma soothes and heals inflammation of the mucous membranes in the mouth, nose, and throat.
By stimulating mucous secretions, eucalyptus encourages the membranes to moisten and inhibits microorganisms from growing. Commercially available lozenges and teas containing eucalyptol can increase saliva production, quell coughs, and help decrease the risk of secondary respiratory infections.
Eucalyptus oil-infused steam can also help treat an earache by opening up the Eustachian tube, the passageway between the ear and throat, allowing fluids to drain and reducing painful pressure. Be sure to only inhale the eucalyptus-infused steam. Do not put eucalyptus directly in the ears.
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 percent eucalyptol, which is also called cineole.