Most people know what eucalyptus smells like, but very few know much else (except that koalas eat it). Eucalyptus is actually an incredibly powerful plant, one that boasts a huge list of health benefits first discovered centuries ago by Australia’s indigenous population. Today, 900 different species of eucalyptus have been identified, classified together because of their defining aroma and unique exfoliating bark.
Eucalyptus is most commonly sold as an essential oil, although you can find branches of it occasionally at different local stores and online. You can also grow your own eucalyptus inside your home or in your garden, which can be an effective natural way to fend off insects and other plant-eating pests. But before you reach out and grab a leaf, remember that only koalas can actually safely digest eucalyptus leaves. For all other mammals, too many leaves from the trees can be poisonous.
So, how do you use eucalyptus and what are its health benefits?
Here are the five health benefits of eucalyptus we’re most excited about (and you should be, too!)
- Get rid of bacteria. For quite some time people have been aware of eucalyptus’ anti-bacterial properties. Used since the 19th century in hospital settings, today eucalyptus essential oil has been proven effective at fighting serious strains of bacteria, including E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus.
- Improve your oral health. Certain studies have demonstrated that eucalyptus products, such as chewing gum and natural toothpaste, can improve the health of your gums while also reducing the amount of plaque build-up on your teeth.
- Relieve respiratory issues. Runny noses and congestion are no match for eucalyptus oil. Studies have shown that the strong aroma can actually loosen phlegm in the chest, which is why it is so often found in rubs and vapor baths. Sinus problems, bronchitis and rheumatism are also aided by eucalyptus.
- Reduce pain. One study has demonstrated the effectiveness of ointments with eucalyptus oil for relieving muscle pain, especially for athletes after workouts and games.
- Warm up muscles. Another reason to keep eucalyptus products in your gym bag? Not only do they ease pain, they can effectively warm up your muscles before a game or workout, helping to decrease the risk of injury, as well.
And these five are just the beginning. When you start to look at the whole eucalyptus plant, you unlock a long list of benefits, which is just another reason why the plant is so popular among those in the know. (Now, that’s you, too!)