Not only koala bears appreciate the eucalyptus, which is their only food source. Its active ingredients make the symptoms of a cold bearable and dislodge unpleasant insects. The eucalyptus belongs to the large family of myrtle plants, so it is related to clove and guava. The eucalyptus species, which were originally native to Australia and Tasmania, are today planted worldwide in subtropical and Mediterranean climates. There are now more than 500 species known, predominantly the "common eucalyptus" (Eucalyptus globulus) being used medicinally.
History of Eucalyptus
The name derives from the Greek eu = good and kalyptos = closed and refers to the flower bud, which opens with a leaping lid.
Earlier generations, however, had fewer medical reasons for cultivating the tall, fast-growing tree: since about the 17th century, in the Mediterranean, it has been used to drain swamps for the purpose of removing mosquitoes that transmit diseases such as malaria. This is probably due to the name "Fieberbaum", because the ingredients themselves have no antipyretic effect.
In addition, the tree was discovered as a timber supplier. Eucalyptus wood is particularly resistant and is processed, for example, for the construction of ship keels.
The eucalyptus oil was already used in ancient times because of its antiseptic properties, especially as a means of disinfecting medical devices and in wound treatment. Today, according to the European Pharmacopoeia, the dried leaves of older eucalyptus trees and the essential oil obtained from the fresh leaves and branch tips are used as herbal medicines. When used, however, the leaves do not play a major role as such.
Effect of the essential oil
Most of the oil obtained by steam distillation is used. This main active ingredient - a fast-evaporating, typically aromatic-smelling essential oil - is also released when rubbing eucalyptus leaves between your fingers. The 1, 8-cineol (eucalyptol) contained in it promotes ejection-promoting and expectorant in the bronchial and nasal area and leads to a cooling effect on the skin. This phenomenon is also used in preparations in sports albums or local antirheumatic rubbings. During inhalation with eucalyptus oil, the cooling effect gives the feeling of improved nasal breathing.
The essential oil is excreted after absorption into the body partly through the lungs again. On the way, it can fight bacteria and viruses on the spot, as well as relieve tough, tight mucus and facilitate coughing. A classic drug form containing eucalyptus oil are cold ointments or balms for rubbing on the chest and back, where the essential oil is inhaled on the one hand by the evaporation, on the other hand comes through the skin to effect.
Use of eucalyptus oil
Eucalyptus oil is often used in cough drops, cold baths and because of its deodorizing effect in toothpastes and mouthwashes. Because of the strong smell, it is still used as an insect repellent. Another group of active ingredients, the tannins, comes into play when drinking eucalyptus tea: due to its astringent, ie astringent, effect on the pharyngeal mucosa, eucalyptus tea is also suitable for use in cases of inflammation in this area.
Compatibility of eucalyptus
According to recent research, another group of substances contained in the leaves promises positive effects: phloroglucin compounds seem to relieve inflammation and also inhibit bacteria and viruses. To what extent these compounds are important for the effectiveness, remains to be clarified.
Eucalyptus preparations are usually well tolerated, only in very rare cases can they lead to nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. However, eucalyptus should not be used in severe inflammatory conditions in the gastrointestinal tract, bile or severe liver disease.
Caution is also required in infants and toddlers: Eucalyptus preparations should never be applied to the area of the face, especially the nose. Because the essential oils can trigger with them the so-called Kratschmer reflex. This can cause respiratory disorders or suffocation due to cramping in the larynx.
In scientific studies, eucalyptus influenced certain enzymes that degrade, among other drugs. Therefore, caution should be exercised when taking medicines and eucalyptus preparations at the same time as the effectiveness of the medicines may be reduced.