Common Scents: Eucalyptus
Welcome to our series, Common Scents. Common Scents is a collection of articles exploring the history of commonly used essential oils and how they became so popular in modern day soap and cosmetic crafting.
In this edition of Common Scents, we will take a deeper look at a fan favorite: eucalyptus oil. Much like many of the oils we will discuss, eucalyptus has an extensive history of medicinal and healing use. (It is important to note, while reading the following article, that the FDA has not approved eucalyptus oil to be used for medicinal purposes; therefore this article is not promoting its use for that purpose.)
Eucalyptus is a fast-growing evergreen tree with over 700 species that originates in Australia. Eucalyptus Globulus, or the "blue gum" tree is the most common and main source of eucalyptus oil production. The "Blue Mountains" in Australia are named such because on warm days, the eucalyptus trees release volatile organic compounds that create a smog-like haze over the forests. The eucalyptus tree is also found other areas of the world such as India, Europe and South Africa.
The first known records of eucalyptus oil date back to 1788 when Surgeon General John White and the First Fleet arrived in Australia. Surgeon General White first documented in his journal the "olfactory" or aromatic oil present in the eucalyptus tree. At that time, a sample of the oil was sent to Sir Joseph Banks of England for testing. Meanwhile, the local aboriginal tribes were well aware of the many beneficial qualities of the eucalyptus oil and had already been using it for gastrointestinal issues, treatment of diarrhea and even as an antiseptic effective for treating wounds! As time passed, the uses of eucalyptus oil multiplied and the belief in its healing abilities grew. Many people believed Eucalyptus could be used in the following capacities:
- An antiseptic
- Fever reducer
- Pain reliever
Eucalyptus creates a cooling and refreshing effect on the body and mind.
At the request of Baron Ferdinand von Mueller, Victorian pharmacist Joseph Bosisto began investigating the essential oils of the Eucalyptus. By 1852, the essential oil industry in Australia began. Bosisto built several distilleries; his product was known as Bosisto's Oil of Eucalyptus and was soon selling all over the world.
Fast forward to modern day. Have you ever checked out the ingredients listed on your toothpaste, mouthwash, or other oral hygiene products? Chances are, eucalyptus is one of the main ingredients. Or perhaps you have a fresh, crisp, almost mentholated smelling soap, lotion or scrub? Eucalyptus has become one of the most commonly found oils on the shelves of manufacturers and handcrafters alike, because of its versatility.
Aromatherapists use eucalyptus in situations where someone may be prone to illness due to emotional stress or anxiety because the aroma is known to dispel melancholy and raise the spirits; as well, it is also used to cleanse the air of negative energy that has been collected.
The use of eucalyptus oils is growing in popularity. One of the main reasons is because it blends well with many other essential oils including Lavender, Lemongrass, Pine Tea Tree, Juniper, Spearmint, Thyme, Rosemary, and Cedarwood, to name a few.
Differing from other oils, eucalyptus oil may not be as rich in history, but its value in the handcrafted and homeopathic fields outweighs many of them. Keep in mind, some of these claims may or may not be true; it is imperative that you follow the FDA's guidelines for labeling; this includes making claims that are not approved by the FDA. Check out this great podcast about labeling by expert Marie Gale.