When Australians suffer from respiratory ailments they often turn to the natural oil that they know will help clear the symptoms.
Australian eucalyptus oil distilled from the leaves of the tall, gray-white “gum” trees native to that country has been used as a remedy for these complaints since the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788.
The production of Australian eucalyptus oil soon became one of the country’s largest export industries but has been taken over by China and Russia.
Having said that though, recent years have seen a revival of the industry in Australia, as people rediscover the many benefits of the oil.
A brief history of Australian eucalyptus oil
John White, the Surgeon-General of the First Fleet, wrote in his diary about the olfactory oil in the eucalyptus tree soon after arriving in Australia. He used the oil from the trees named “Eucalyptuses” by the French botanist, L’Heritier, to treat colds and flu. White also applied the red, resinous juice from the trees to his dysentery patients and this apparently worked every time!
The English found eucalyptus oil more effective than peppermint in treating “colicky” complaints. It wasn’t until the late 1800’s, however, that the German doctors, Cloez, Faust and Homeyer published the first works on the antibacterial and antiseptic properties of eucalyptus oil.
In the first years of the industry production of the oil was very difficult. It became a large business when the gold boom declined, so aboriginals and miners were the main employees in the distillation process. According to the website of the Felton, Grimwade and Bickford Company, which includes the oil amongst its products:
“It was hard work. The virgin scrub was cut by hand with slashers and special sickles. It was collected and carted by wagon to the distillery where the freshly cut leaves were dumped into vertical iron stills set into the ground below wagon level for easy filling. After steam had carried over the volatile oil the spent leaves were hoisted out by derrick and dumped on the fire whose rising column of smoke was a constant landmark.”
Uses for eucalyptus oil
There are many uses for eucalyptus oil around the house and as health remedies. Here are some of them:
Sinus congestion: A few drops of eucalyptus oil in a vaporizer helps to clear the symptoms of this irritating condition.
Colds and respiratory complaints: There are rubs of eucalyptus oil available for the chest. Alternatively, a few drops can be mixed with Vicks Vaporub and massaged onto the chest.
Muscle pain: Drops of eucalyptus oil can be mixed with other oils, such as baby oil, and rubbed onto the aching joints.
Ear blockages on airplanes: Many people suffer from ear pain on airplanes. I use tissues scented with eucalyptus oil to help clear my ears and help ease ear pain as the airplane descends.
Cuts and bruises: Eucalyptus oil is a good disinfectant and helps to heal cuts and bruises.
Cleaning: Adding a few drops to the toilet bowl keeps it smelling fresh and disinfects. It can also be mixed with many bathroom cleaners. Eucalyptus oil mixed with water can also be used to clean floors.
It’s important to remember that eucalyptus oil should never be swallowed. It’s also flammable so it shouldn’t be used near fires, or if there’s any risk of fire.