For a moment it was tempting to start this series with something citrus-y or floral, an oil that we perhaps associate with perfume and luxury. For a moment. And when that passed I knew I wanted to start with Eucalyptus, the oil of wellness.
Forever associated with Australia, eucalypts - or gum trees - are what I remember from my time in Queensland. There's just nothing like them or the landscape they create. As a healing partner, their use goes way back among Aboriginal Australians. Europeans began the recorded history of eucalypts in 1788, writing about specimens collected in Tasmania during Captain Cook's third Pacific expedition. By 2004, after a couple of centuries of study by Australia's great botanists, knowledge had grown and more than 900 species and subspecies had been planted at the specialist Currency Creek arboretum in South Australia.
"The gum tree is Australian as Aussie as can be
And there's no more Australian than the eucalyptus tree
They have been in Australia perhaps since life began
Thousands and thousands of years before coming of man."
- Francis Duggan
I find eucalypts to be extraordinary. They'll grow in swampy areas and pull up enough water to transform the land. They've evolved to grow 40 metres tall in inland forests (the tallest recorded specimen was almost 100 metres tall!), but also to stay small and multi-trunked on exposed cliffs. Growth recovers after wild fires, and in fact many species have woody capsules that protect seeds during a fire and then open only after fire. It's perhaps this regenerative ability that led Valerie Worwood, in The Fragrant Heavens, to describe them this way:
It's Eucalyptus Radiata that provides the essential oil I use. With natural habitat near water in the coastal mountains of New South Wales where it's also known as White River Gum, Radiata - which has more oil in its leaves than other eucalypts - was the first to be used commercially, by Joseph Bosisto of Melbourne, in 1854 and has so many uses that I'm not sure quite where to start!
Let's start with that Oil of Wellness label. As the new year starts, many of us are looking to improve our health and wellbeing, but we might have some difficulty in believing we can do it. Eucalyptus knows what healing is. We can see its healing effect on the land where it survives and thrives, and these properties can support our bodies and emotions too. Cooling in heat and protecting in cold, I think most of us will also associate its distinctive aroma with relief from congestion or painful sinuses. In fact, Eucalyptus is believed to support those who always seem to be ill, especially with recurring respiratory problems. Sadly, ongoing illness can result in a person beginning to believe that they don't deserve to be well, that perhaps they are 'just that sort of person', or that being ill is the only time they get a break. Eucalyptus can lift us out of that mindset and help us cut that tie to ill health.
In Emotions and Essential Oils, this lovely oil is described as encouraging people to:
Its fresh aroma lifts us out of negative emotions and exhaustion. You know those days when your brain hurts from just too much thinking? Eucalyptus. This wonderful tree's oil can return you to your centre, balance, and clear thinking, getting rid of stale energy. When I remember Australia, I see huge, wide, clear blue skies and that's the feeling Eucalyptus brings me back to. That's why it had to come first.
Steam distillation of the leaves.
Main chemical components:
eucalyptol and alpha-terpineol - soothing, cooling vapour.
Analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anti-infectious, anti-rheumatic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antitussive, antiviral, expectorant.
Respiratory Tract Infections, bronchitis, catarrh, sinusitis, rhinitis, colds, flu, fever, asthma, rheumatism, muscle aches, neuralgia, cramps, headaches, mental exhaustion, stings and bites.
How to use Eucalyptus
Breathe in from the bottle or add a few drops to a diffuser.
Dilute 2-4 drops,1:1 in carrier oil (it's safe but you may prefer more carrier for children or on sensitive skin), and gently massage in over the chest and throat. Avoid contact with eyes, inner ears or other sensitive areas. If it stings, clean away with carrier oil, not water.
Avoid during pregnancy and breast-feeding.
Suggested diffuser blends
- 3 drops Bergamot
- 3 drops Orange
- 2 drops Eucalyptus
- 4 drops Eucalyptus
- 4 drops Lemon
- 3 drops Lavender
- 3 drops Peppermint
- 3 drops Eucalyptus
- 2 drops Tea Tree
- 1 drop Lemon