FWD 2 Expanded Commission E: Eucalyptus oil

Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E

Eucalyptus oil

Latin Name: Eucalyptus
Pharmacopeial Name: Eucalypti aetheroleum
Other Names: n/a


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.

Side Effects

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.


Bown, D. 1995. Encyclopedia of Herbs and Their Uses. New York: DK Publishing, Inc. 280.

British Herbal Pharmacopoeia (BHP). 1996. Exeter, U.K.: British Herbal Medicine Association. 77-78.

Bruneton, J. 1995. Pharmacognosy, Phytochemistry, Medicinal Plants. Paris: Lavoisier Publishing.

Budavari, S. (ed.). 1996. The Merck Index: An Encyclopedia of Chemicals, Drugs, and Biologicals, 12th ed. Whitehouse Station, N.J.: Merck & Co, Inc.

Deutsches Arzneibuch (DAB 1997). 1997. Stuttgart: Deutscher Apotheker Verlag.

Duke, J.A. 1997. The Green Pharmacy. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press. 94.

Europäisches Arzneibuch, 3rd ed. 1st suppl. (Ph.Eur.3). 1998. Stuttgart: Deutscher Apotheker Verlag. 400-401.

Grieve, M. 1979. A Modern Herbal. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.

Indian Pharmacopoeia, Vol. 1. (IP 1996). 1996. Delhi: Government of India Ministry of Health and Family WelfareController of Publications. 310.

Karnick, C.R. 1994. Pharmacopoeial Standards of Herbal Plants. Delhi: Sri Satguru Publications. 51.

Leung, A.Y. and S. Foster. 1996. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics, 2nd ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

List, P.H. and L. Hörhammer (eds.). 19731979. Hagers Handbuch der Pharmazeutischen Praxis, Vols. 17. New York: Springer Verlag.

Lust, J.B. 1974. The Herb Book. New York: Bantam Books. 184-185.

Nadkarni, K.M. 1976. Indian Materia Medica. Bombay: Popular Prakashan. 512-516.

Newall, C.A., L.A. Anderson, J.D. Phillipson. 1996. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-Care Professionals. London: The Pharmaceutical Press.

Ph. Eur.3. See Europäisches Arzneibuch.

Pharmacope Franaise Xe Édition (Ph.Fr.X.). 1983-1990. Moulins-les-Metz: Maisonneuve S.A.

Reynolds, J.E.F. (ed.). 1989. Martindale: The Extra Pharmacopoeia, 29th ed. London: The Pharmaceutical Press.

Shaparenko, B.A., A.B. Slivko, O.V. Bazarova, E.N. Vishnevetskaia, G.T. Selezneva. 1979. [Use of medicinal plants for the treatment of chronic suppurative otitis] [In Russian]. Zh Ushn Nos Gorl Bolezn (3):48-51.

Tu, G. (ed.). 1992. Pharmacopoeia of the People's Republic of China (English Edition 1992). Beijing: Guangdong Science and Technology Press. 129.

Wichtl, M. and N.G. Bisset (eds.). 1994. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. Stuttgart: Medpharm Scientific Publishers.

Additional Resources

Belzner, S. 1997. Eukalyptusol-Kompresse bei Harnverhalten [Eucalyptus oil dressings in urinary retention]. Pflege Aktuell 51(6):386-387.

Brieskorn, C.H. and W. Schlicht. 1976. Quantitative bestimmung von cineol in eucalyptusol als cineol-eisenrhodanid-komplex [Quantitative determination of cineol in eucalyptus oil as cineol-iron-thiocyanate-complex]. Pharm Acta Helv 51(5):133-137.

British Pharmaceutical Codex (BPC). 1973. London: The Pharmaceutical Press.

Burrow, A, R. Eccles, A.S. Jones. 1983. The effects of camphor, eucalyptus and menthol vapour on nasal resistance to airflow and nasal sensation. Acta Otolaryngol (Stockh) 96(12):157-161.

Cai, Z, X. Li, X. Xu. 1990. [Determination of eucalyptole in eucalyptus oil by gas chromatography.] Chung Kuo Chung Yao Tsa Chih 15(5):298-299, 319.

Council of Europe. 1981. Flavouring Substances and Natural Sources of Flavourings, 3rd ed. Strasbourg: Maisonneuve.

De Smet, P.A. et al. (eds.). 1992. Adverse Effects of Herbal Drugs, Vol. 1. New York: Springer Verlag.

Duke, J.A. 1992. Handbook of Phytochemical Constituents of GRAS Herbs and Other Economic Plants. Boca Raton: CRC Press. 249.

Food Chemicals Codex, 3rd ed.(FCC III).1981. Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Sciences.

Formack, V. and K.H. Kubeczka. 1982. Essential oils analysis by capillary chromatography and carbon-13 NMR spectroscopy. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Gobel, H., G. Schmidt, D. Soyka. 1994. Effect of peppermint and eucalyptus oil preparations on neurophysiological and experimental algesimetric headache parameters. Cephalalgia 14(3):182; 228-234.

Hänsel, R., K. Keller, H. Rimpler, G. Schneider (eds.). 1992-1994. Hagers Handbuch der Pharmazeutischen Praxis, 5th ed. Vol. 46. Berlin-Heidelberg: Springer Verlag.

Ioffe, T.P. 1960. [The treatment of hypertension with infusion of eucalyptus in polyclinical conditions.] Sovet Med 24:106-107.

Iwu, M.M. 1990. Handbook of African Medicinal Plants. Boca Raton: CRC Press. 180-181.

Jori, A., E. Di Salle, R. Pescador. 1972. On the inducing activity of eucalyptol. J Pharm Pharmacol 24(6):646-649.

Kumar, A. et al. 1988. Antibacterial properties of some Eucalyptus oils. Fitoterapia 59:141-144.

McGuffin, M., C. Hobbs, R. Upton, A. Goldberg. 1997. American Herbal Product Association's Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

National Formulary (NF), 16th ed. 1985. Washington, D.C.: American Pharmaceutical Association.

Osawa, K. et al. 1996. Macrocarpals H, I, and J from the Leaves of Eucalyptus globulus. J Nat Prod 59(9):823-827.

Whitman, B.W. and H. Ghazizadeh. 1994. Eucalyptus oil: therapeutic and toxic aspects of pharmacology in humans and animals [letter; comment]. J Paediatr Child Health 30(2):190-191.

Wichtl, M. (ed.). 1997. Teedrogen, 4th ed. Stuttgart: Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft.

Zaianchkovskii, I.F. 1966. Primenenie nastoiki evkalipta v akushersko-ginekologicheskoi praktike [The use of eucalyptus tincture in obstetric-gynecologic practice]. Veterinariia 43(7):82-83.

This material was adapted from The Complete German Commission E MonographsTherapeutic 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.