Eucalyptus is a tall evergreen tree native to Australia and Tasmania, successfully introduced worldwide, now extensively cultivated in Mediterranean and subtropic regions, including Australia, China, India, Portugal, Spain, Egypt, Algeria, the southern United States, and South America (Bruneton, 1995; Budavari, 1996; Grieve, 1979; Leung and Foster, 1996; Nadkarni, 1976). The material of commerce comes mainly from Australia, Morocco, Spain, and the former U.S.S.R. (BHP, 1996; Wichtl and Bisset, 1994). It is known as Malee in Australia and is used in traditional Australian Aboriginal medicines (Bown, 1995; Budavari, 1996). The genus name Eucalyptus comes from Greek eucalyptos, meaning 'well-covered,' and refers to its flowers that, in bud, are covered with a cup-like membrane (Grieve, 1979). Though native to Australia, its therapeutic uses have been introduced and integrated into traditional medicine systems, including Chinese, Indian Ayurvedic, and Greco-European.
Its volatile oil is obtained by steam distillation and rectification from the fresh leaves or the fresh terminal branches (IP, 1996; Ph.Eur.3, 1998). The major oil producing countries include Australia, Brazil, Portugal, and Spain (Leung and Foster, 1996). Commercial production of eucalyptus oil first began in 1860 in Victoria, Australia (Bown, 1995). Oil production is of economic importance in New South Wales and Victoria, where about 25 different species of Eucalyptus are used (Grieve, 1979). Eucalyptus oil is official in the Indian Pharmacopoeia as a counter-irritant and mild expectorant (IP, 1996), and official in the Chinese pharmacopeia as a skin irritant used in nerval pain (Tu, 1992). The present Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia indicates its topical application for headache due to colds (Karnick, 1994).
One study reported the successful treatment of chronic suppurative otitis with a compound alcoholic tincture that contained eucalyptus leaf. Its efficacy was attributed to the antibacterial and anti-inflammatory actions of the combined herbs (Newall et al., 1996; Shaparenko et al., 1979). Other studies have investigated use of the volatile oil for catarrh as an inhalant, and topically as a rubefacient (Newall et al., 1996).
In Germany, eucalyptus leaf is licensed as a standard medicinal tea, used for bronchitis and inflammation of the throat. It is sometimes also used as a component of herbal cough mixtures (Leung and Foster, 1996;Wichtl and Bisset, 1994). In the United States, it is used mainly as a component of decongestant compounds, available in galenical dosage forms including aqueous infusion, alcoholic fluidextract or tincture, inhalants, essential oil, and native extract in solid dosage forms. In both the United States and Germany, eucalyptus oil is used extensively as an expectorant component of cough and cold compounds in various oral dosage forms, including lozenges and syrups, and as an inhalant in vapor baths. It is also used externally for percutaneous absorption in dosage forms, including the essential oil, liniment, and ointment (Duke, 1997; Leung and Foster, 1996; Lust, 1974; Wichtl and Bisset, 1994).
The modern therapeutic applications for eucalyptus leaf and oil are supportable based on its history of use in well-established systems of traditional medicine, phytochemical investigations, and in vitro and in vivo studies in animals.
Pharmacopeial grade dried eucalyptus leaf must contain at least 2.0% (v/m) volatile oil, composed mainly of 1,8-cineole (Bruneton, 1995; DAB, 1997; Ph.Fr.X, 1983-1990; Wichtl and Bisset, 1994). Pharmacopeial grade eucalyptus oil must contain at least 70.0% w/w of 1,8-cineole (eucalyptol) and it must be freely soluble in 5 parts by volume ethanol 70% v/v (Bruneton, 1995; DAB, 1997; Karnick, 1994; Ph.Eur.3, 1998; Ph.Fr.X, 1983-1990; Tu, 1992; Wichtl and Bisset, 1994). [Note: The Indian Pharmacopoeia requires not less than 60% w/w of cineole (IP, 1996).]
Eucalyptus oil is the volatile oil from cineol-rich species of Eucalyptus, such as Eucalyptus globulus Labillardiere, E. fructicetorum F. Von Mueller (syn. E. polybractea R.T. Baker), and E. smithii R.T. Baker [Fam. Myrtaceae] and their preparations in effective dosage. The oil is obtained by steam distillation, followed by rectification of the fresh leaves and branch tops, and contains at least 70% (w/w) 1,8-cineol.
Chemistry and Pharmacology
Eucalyptus oil contains 70-85% 1,8-cineole (=eucalyptol); plus triterpenes (ursolic acid derivatives); monoterpenes (a- and b-pinene, D-limonene, p-cymene); sesquiterpenes (aromadendrene, alloaromadendrene, globulol); aldehydes (myrtenal); and ketones (carvone) (Bruneton, 1995; Budavari, 1996; Leung and Foster, 1996; List and Hörhammer, 1973-1979; Newall et al., 1996; Wichtl and Bisset, 1994).
The Commission E reported secretomotory, expectorant, mildly antispasmodic, and mild local hyperemic activity.
Eucalyptus oil, at a daily dosage of 0.05-0.2 ml, has demonstrated expectorant and mucolytic actions, as well as stimulation of the bronchial epithelium (Bruneton, 1995). Antiseptic, expectorant (secretolytic and secretomotor), deodorant, and cooling actions have been reported (Wichtl and Bisset, 1994). Both eucalyptus oil and eucalyptol have demonstrated strong antibacterial action against several strains of Streptococcus, as well as expectorant activity (Leung and Foster, 1996). Oral ingestion of eucalyptus oil can be toxic unless diluted appropriately (Leung and Foster, 1996; Newall et al., 1996; Reynolds, 1989).
The Commission E approved the internal use of eucalyptus oil for catarrhs of the respiratory tract and its external use for rheumatic complaints.
Eucalyptus oil is used in inhalants and also in products intended for percutaneous (through the skin) absorption (Wichtl and Bisset, 1994). Eucalyptus oil is ingested orally to treat catarrh, used as an inhalant, and applied topically as a rubefacient (Newall et al., 1996; Reynolds, 1989).
Internal: Inflammatory diseases of the gastrointestinal tract and bile ducts, severe liver diseases.
External: Eucalyptus preparations should not be applied to the face, especially the nose, of infants and young children.
In rare cases, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea may occur after ingestion of eucalyptus preparations.
Use During Pregnancy and Lactation
No restrictions known.
Interactions with Other Drugs
The Commission E notes that eucalyptus oil induces the enzyme system of the liver involved in the detoxification process. Therefore, the effects of other drugs can be weakened and/or shortened.
Dosage and Administration
Internal: Unless otherwise prescribed: 0.3-0.6 g per day essential oil or other equivalent galenical preparations.
Essential oil: Several drops rubbed into the skin. (This may be diluted at 30 ml essential oil to 500 ml of a suitable carrier such as vegetable oil.)
Ointment: Semi-solid preparation containing 5-20% essential oil (in a base of paraffin, petroleum jelly, or vegetable oil) for local application.
Tincture: Aqueous-alcoholic preparation containing 5-10% essential oil for local application.
Inhalant: Add a few drops of essential oil to hot water or to a vaporizer; deeply inhale the steam vapor.
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This material was adapted from The Complete German Commission E Monographs—Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. M. Blumenthal, W.R. Busse, A. Goldberg, J. Gruenwald, T. Hall, C.W. Riggins, R.S. Rister (eds.) S. Klein and R.S. Rister (trans.). 1998. Austin: American Botanical Council; Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications.
1) The Overview section is new information.
2) Description, Chemistry and Pharmacology, Uses, Contraindications, Side Effects, Interactions with Other Drugs, and Dosage sections have been drawn from the original work. Additional information has been added in some or all of these sections, as noted with references.
3) The dosage for equivalent preparations (tea infusion, fluidextract, and tincture) have been provided based on the following example:
Unless otherwise prescribed: 2 g per day of [powdered, crushed, cut or whole] [plant part]
Infusion: 2 g in 150 ml of water
Fluidextract 1:1 (g/ml): 2 ml
Tincture 1:5 (g/ml): 10 ml
4) The References and Additional Resources sections are new sections. Additional Resources are not cited in the monograph but are included for research purposes.
This monograph, published by the Commission E in 1994, was modified based on new scientific research. It contains more extensive pharmacological and therapeutic information taken directly from the Commission E.
Excerpt from Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs Copyright 2000 American Botanical Council Published by Integrative Medicine Communications Available from the American Botanical Council.