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Eucalyptus


What is it?

Eucalyptus is a tree. The dried leaves and oil are used to make medicine. Though eucalyptus is used medicinally for many purposes, there isn’t enough scientific evidence so far to rate it as effective for any of them.

Eucalyptus leaf is used for infections, fever, upset stomach, and to help loosen coughs. The leaf is also used for treating respiratory tract infections, whooping cough, asthma, pulmonary tuberculosis, osteoarthritis, joint pain (rheumatism), acne, wounds, poorly healing ulcers, burns, bacterial dysentery, ringworms, liver and gallbladder problems, loss of appetite, and cancer.

Eucalyptus oil should not be taken by mouth or applied to the skin full-strength. It must be diluted for safety. The diluted oil is taken by mouth for pain and swelling (inflammation) of respiratory tract mucous membranes, coughs, bronchitis, sinus pain and inflammation, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and respiratory infections. It is also used as an expectorant to loosen coughs, antiseptic, fever reducer, and in vaporizer fluids. Other uses include treatment of wounds, burns, ulcers, and cancer.

Diluted eucalyptus oil is applied directly to the skin for pain and swelling of respiratory tract mucous membranes, joint pain, genital herpes, and nasal stuffiness. It is also used as an insect repellent.

In dentistry, eucalyptus oil is included in products used as sealers and solvents for root canal fillings.

In foods, dried eucalyptus leaf is used as a flavoring agent.

In manufacturing, eucalyptus oil is used as a fragrance in perfumes and cosmetics. It is also used as a mouthwash, antiseptic, liniment and ointment, and in toothpaste, cough drops, and lozenges.

How effective is it?

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.

The effectiveness ratings for EUCALYPTUS are as follows:

Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for...

  • Asthma. Developing research suggests that eucalyptol, a chemical found in eucalyptus oil, might be able to break up mucous. Some people with severe asthma have been able to lower their dosage of steroid medications if they take eucalyptol. But don’t try this without your healthcare provider’s advice and monitoring.
  • Reducing swelling (inflammation) of the upper airway tract.
  • Stuffy nose.
  • Wounds.
  • Burns.
  • Ulcers.
  • Acne.
  • Bleeding gums.
  • Bladder diseases.
  • Diabetes.
  • Fever.
  • Flu.
  • Liver and gallbladder problems.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Arthritis pain.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of eucalyptus for these uses.

How does it work?

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Eucalyptus leaf contains chemicals that might help control blood sugar. It also contains chemicals that might have activity against bacteria and fungi. Eucalyptus oil contains chemicals that might help pain and inflammation. It might also block chemicals that cause asthma.

Are there safety concerns?

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Eucalyptus leaf is safe when consumed in the small amounts found in foods. There isn't enough information to know if supplements that contain larger amounts of eucalyptus leaf are safe.

Eucalyptus oil is UNSAFE when it is either taken by mouth or applied directly to the skin without first being diluted. Taking 3.5 mL of undiluted oil can be fatal. Signs of eucalyptus poisoning might include stomach pain and burning, dizziness, muscle weakness, small eye pupils, feelings of suffocation, and some others. Eucalyptus oil can also cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Eucalyptol, a chemical that is removed from eucalyptus oil and used as medicine, appears to be safe when taken by mouth for up to 12 weeks.

Special precautions & warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Eucalyptus seems to be safe for pregnant and breast-feeding women when used in food amounts. But don’t use eucalyptus oil. Not enough is known about safety during pregnancy or breast-feeding.

Children: Eucalyptus oil is UNSAFE for children. It should not be taken by mouth or applied to the skin. Not much is known about the safety of using eucalyptus leaves in children. It’s best to avoid use in amounts larger than food amounts.

Diabetes: Developing research suggests eucalyptus leaf might lower blood sugar. There is concern that using eucalyptus while taking medications for diabetes might lower blood sugar too much. Blood sugar levels should be monitored closely.

Surgery: Since eucalyptus might affect blood sugar levels, there is concern that it might make blood sugar control difficult during and after surgery. Stop using eucalyptus at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.

Are there interactions with medications?

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Moderate

Be cautious with this combination.

Medications changed by the liver (Cytochrome P450 1A2 (CYP1A2) substrates)
Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver. Eucalyptus oil might decrease how quickly the liver breaks down some medications. Taking eucalyptus oil along with some medications that are broken down by the liver can increase the effects and side effects of some medications. Before taking eucalyptus oil, talk to your healthcare provider if you take any medications that are changed by the liver.

Some medications that are changed by the liver include amitriptyline (Elavil), haloperidol (Haldol), ondansetron (Zofran), propranolol (Inderal), theophylline (Theo-Dur, others), verapamil (Calan, Isoptin, others), and others.

Medications changed by the liver (Cytochrome P450 2C19 (CYP2C19) substrates)
Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver. Eucalyptus oil might decrease how quickly the liver breaks down some medications. Taking eucalyptus oil along with some medications that are broken down by the liver can increase the effects and side effects of some medications. Before taking eucalyptus oil, talk to your healthcare provider if you take any medications that are changed by the liver.

Some medications that are changed by the liver include omeprazole (Prilosec), lansoprazole (Prevacid), and pantoprazole (Protonix); diazepam (Valium); carisoprodol (Soma); nelfinavir (Viracept); and others.

Medications changed by the liver (Cytochrome P450 2C9 (CYP2C9) substrates)
Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver. Eucalyptus oil might decrease how quickly the liver breaks down some medications. Taking eucalyptus oil along with some medications that are broken down by the liver can increase the effects and side effects of some medications. Before taking eucalyptus oil, talk to your healthcare provider if you take any medications that are changed by the liver.

Some medications that are changed by the liver include diclofenac (Cataflam, Voltaren), ibuprofen (Motrin), meloxicam (Mobic), and piroxicam (Feldene); celecoxib (Celebrex); amitriptyline (Elavil); warfarin (Coumadin); glipizide (Glucotrol); losartan (Cozaar); and others.

Medications changed by the liver (Cytochrome P450 3A4 (CYP3A4) substrates)
Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver. Eucalyptus oil might decrease how quickly the liver breaks down some medications. Taking eucalyptus oil along with some medications that are broken down by the liver can increase the effects and side effects of some medications. Before taking eucalyptus oil, talk to your healthcare provider if you are taking any medications that are changed by the liver.

Some medications changed by the liver include lovastatin (Mevacor), ketoconazole (Nizoral), itraconazole (Sporanox), fexofenadine (Allegra), triazolam (Halcion), and many others.

Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs)
Eucalyptus leaf extract might decrease blood sugar. Diabetes medications are also used to lower blood sugar. Taking eucalyptus leaf extract along with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to go too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed.

Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), tolbutamide (Orinase), and others.

Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?

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Herbs that contain hepatotoxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs)
Eucalyptus can increase the toxicity of herbs that contain hepatotoxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs). PAs can damage the liver. Herbs containing hepatotoxic PAs include alkanna, boneset, borage, butterbur, coltsfoot, comfrey, forget-me-not, gravel root, hemp agrimony, and hound's tongue; and the Senecio species plants dusty miller, groundsel, golden ragwort, and tansy ragwort.

Are there interactions with foods?

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There are no known interactions with foods.

What dose is used?

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The appropriate dose of eucalyptus depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for eucalyptus. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

Other names

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Blue Gum, Blue Mallee, Blue Mallee Oil, Eucalipto, Eucalypti Folium, Eucalyptol, Eucalyptol Oil, Eucalyptus blatter, Eucalyptus bicostata, Eucalyptus Essential Oil, Eucalyptus Oil, Eucalyptus fructicetorum, Eucalyptus globulus, Eucalyptus Leaf, Eucalyptus odorata, Eucalyptus Oil, Eucalyptus polybractea, Eucalyptus smithii, Fever Tree, Fieberbaumblatter, Gully Gum, Gully Gum Oil, Gum Tree, Huile Essentielle d’Eucalyptus, Huile d’Eucalyptol, Huile d’Eucalyptus, Red Gum, Stringy Bark Tree, Sugandhapatra, Tailapatra, Tasmanian Blue Gum.

Methodology

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To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.methodology (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/methodology.html).

References

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To see all references for the Eucalyptus page, please go to http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/700.html.

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Page last updated: 27 October 2014