Remedies for the common cold generally include rest and fluids. Over-the-counter medications may help you get through the sneezing, coughing, sore throat, headache and congestion that occur when you have a cold. However, natural remedies have been used to successfully treat some symptoms of a common cold. Eucalyptus oil is one such herbal remedy. Always consult your doctor before trying any herbal remedy.
Eucalyptus is a type of tree. Eucalyptus oil is made through the distillation of its leaves. Although it has both perfumery and industrial uses, the medicinal type is the most important in terms of production and trade, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. In addition to oil, it is also sold in the form of sprays, lozenges, inhalers, creams and rubs.
Eucalyptus oil can be applied to the skin and inhaled. By applying it to your chest, neck, temples and back when you have a cold, the strong aroma of the oil acts as a vapor that, when inhaled, relieves congestion. Since inhaling eucalyptus helps loosen the phlegm, health-care providers often recommend it to treat the common cold as well as more severe illnesses such as bronchitis or flu.
Steam inhalation is a common home remedy to alleviate congestion associated with the common cold. It generally involves bending over a large bowl filled with boiling hot water and placing a towel over your head. As you breathe the hot mist, the mucus in your nasal passages moistens and becomes thinner. This allows for the mucus to pass through your nose and be eliminated from your body. Adding a few drops of eucalyptus oil to the boiling water provides additional relief because it is a decongestant.
Eucalyptus oil can be beneficial when you have a cold because it is anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory. In addition, its decongestant qualities help you break up the phlegm and mucus that causes painful congestion. Reduced congestion lets you breathe easier, and lessens the aches and pains you may feel. Eucalyptus is also used to relieve other common cold symptoms such as cough and sore throat.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center eucalyptus oil can be applied to your skin for absorption because it is nontoxic when used externally. However, due to its potency, eucalyptus oil is toxic when ingested, so it must be diluted first. According to Medline Plus, ingesting 3.5 ml of undiluted eucalyptus oil may be fatal. Stomach pain, muscle weakness and dizziness are suggestive of eucalyptus poisoning. Even when taken in diluted form, eucalyptus oil may cause nausea, diarrhea and vomiting when ingested.