The eucalyptus is a genus that includes more than 700 species, most of which are native to Australia, John J.W. Coppen writes in his book "Eucalyptus: The Genus Eucalyptus." The eucalyptus has been used for its medicinal properties by herbalists from the Aboriginal, Chinese and Ayurvedic traditions. Modern herbalists and aromatherapists use eucalyptus to treat certain respiratory ailments, such as bronchitis and the common cold. You may already be familiar with the aroma of eucalyptus because it is a common component of many herbal over-the-counter cough and flu remedies.
Eucalyptus leaves contain substances that have expectorant, antibacterial and antiseptic properties, reports the University of Maryland Medical Center. One of these substances is a powerful chemical called eucalyptol, also known as cineole. This compound has the ability to loosen phlegm, ease coughs and fight many common upper respiratory problems. You can use fresh eucalyptus leaves to prepare an herbal tea that will help ease your sore throat and break up congestion. Use 1/4-to-1/2 teaspoon in a cup of hot water and allow to steep for 10 minutes. Strain the leaves from the tea before drinking. Drink this tea three times daily to ease your symptoms.
Eucalyptus leaves have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for the treatment of skin disorders such as dermatitis, scabies, erysipelas and burns, Coppen reports. Because of its antibacterial properties, the leaves are also used to treat and disinfect wounds. Eucalyptus essential oil, extracted from the leaves of the eucalyptus plant, is a common ingredient in many topical applications for use on the skin. Traditional Aboriginal medicines use the oil to heal fungal infections of the skin, the University of Maryland Medical Center says. You can find eucalyptus essential oil in most drug and health food stores. Dilute 30 drops of eucalyptus oil in a 1/2 cup of carrier oil, such as grapeseed or almond oil, before applying to your skin.
The essential oil produced from eucalyptus leaves acts as a natural insect repellent. The oil produced from the lemon eucalyptus variety has particularly effective insect repellent properties, Coppen says. You can mix a few drops of lemon eucalyptus oil with your favorite moisturizer or sunscreen to repel insects such as mosquitoes and ticks. You can also buy many commercially prepared insect repellents containing eucalyptus oil in most drug and grocery stores.