Eucalyptus Oil Facts (Definitive Safety Guide)

We've all heard of eucalyptus: the primary food source for cute and cuddly koala bears, it's got a warm and earthy smell that seems to relieve stress with just one sniff.

But can it work to repel pests in your home as well as anxiety? Is it safe to use around kids, and what about your pets? 

We'll delve into all your questions in our fully-packed safety guide, so keep reading to learn more!

eucalyptus oil facts safety guide

What is Eucalyptus Oil?

Eucalyptus oil is a liquid that is distilled from the eucalyptus plant which is commonly found in Australia, some parts of Southeast Asia, and tropical temperate climates in the Americas.

How Does Eucalyptus Oil Work?

Eucalyptus oil contains a high concentration of the chemical compound called eucalyptol, which gives the oil its menthol-like scent. 

Eucalyptol's work as the active ingredient in eucalyptus oil is done by making this oil effective as an antiseptic, as well as providing a multitude of other healing properties because of the menthol aftertaste.

What Are the Benefits and Uses of Eucalyptus Oil?

Mosquito Repellent

Due to the distinctly earthy aroma of eucalyptus oil, it's often used as a repellent for mosquitoes and other blood-sucking pests

In fact, The US Centers for Disease Control published a bulletin that recommended oil of lemon eucalyptus as one of the solutions for long-lasting protection against mosquitoes and the diseases they spread.

For a further explanation of how eucalyptus oil acts as an insect repellent (as well as its myriad of other uses), take a look at the video below, which details how beneficial this essential oil can be.

Beard Oil

Eucalyptus oil is ideal for use as a beard oil for a couple of reasons. Not only does it have inflammatory properties, but it's an emollient. These two benefits mean that the skin around your beard follicles will be nourished and stimulated to produce healthy hairs, giving your beard an instant boost.

Help with Coughs

As we mentioned before, the active ingredient in eucalyptus oil is a chemical component called eucalyptol, and it's what gives the oil its menthol smell. 

When ingested, it leaves a strong aftertaste of menthol, exactly like a cough drop or dose of cough syrup would do. In turn, eucalyptus oil has been shown to ease the discomfort of coughs, sinus infections, and even illnesses as severe as bronchitis!

In the video below, you can see a demonstration of how the crisp scent of the eucalyptus oil relieves congestion almost instantly.

Natural Disinfectant

Because of the astringent properties at the chemical level, eucalyptus oil is a strong cleansing agent that's tough on built-up scum around the home. 

You can use this as a natural, chemical free option when you're giving your house a deep clean, pairing it with other "green" cleansing agents to gently wipe away grime that's built up over the weeks. 

Which Products Use Eucalyptus Oil?

So, where will you normally come across this essential oil? 

100% Pure Eucalyptus Oil

Generally speaking, this is where you'll see eucalyptus oil the most: in its most pure form. Eucalyptus essential oil is sold as a distilled liquid meant for use in air purifiers and diffusers, which work to squirt extremely small droplets of the oil into the air.

Candles

Many candles have wax infused with eucalyptus oil and achieve the same goal as a diffuser: to saturate the air with the fragrant properties of the oil itself. Candles and diffusers can normally only alleviate a person's stress and anxiety, though sometimes are able to open up nasal passageways and clear congestion.

Capsules and Tablets

In order to take advantage of the full menthol power of eucalyptus oil, one can take eucalyptus capsules, which are specially-formulated pills designed to provide relief for bronchial and respiratory discomfort.

When Should You Consider Using A Eucalyptus Oil-Based Product?

What makes eucalyptus oil better than some of the other essential oils? Or, better than a high-powered chemical pesticide, for that matter?

For Mosquitoes

In small-scale studies, eucalyptus oil has been proven to work more effectively at killing mosquito larvae than big-name pesticides. 

In addition to these findings, we'd like to reiterate that the Centers for Disease Control has recommended lemon eucalyptus oil alongside pest control's heavy hitters like DEET and picaridin for long-lasting protection against mosquitoes.

For Lice

In a 2004 study on head lice, scientists tested 54 essential oils against these parasites to see which (if any) would kill the pests. Among the top contenders was eucalyptus oil, along with pennyroyal, marjoram, and rosemary oils. 

The American College of Health Sciences recommends that those who want to treat head lice with essential oils use a mixture of eucalyptus oil and rosemary oil with water. 

Is Eucalyptus Oil Dangerous To Humans/Babies?

What about the health risks to humans? If eucalyptus oil is so beneficial, there's got to be a catch somewhere, right?

General Side Effects

If an adult is exposed to too much eucalyptus oil (or perhaps doesn't properly dilute the oil formula), they put themselves at risk for oil poisoning. Because the chemical properties of eucalyptus oil are so strong, they present especially severe side effects.

  • general depression
  • compromised nervous system
  • abdominal pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • respiratory distress

For Babies and Toddlers

Due to the strong side effects that can befall adults, it's not recommended that babies and toddlers are exposed to eucalyptus oil.

In fact, the American College of Health Sciences strongly encourages parents to be wary of all essential oils around young kids, especially babies. 

eucalyptus oil baby facts

Is Eucalyptus Oil Dangerous To Cats?

In short, yes.

Essential oils in general can be dangerous to cats because cats lack enzymes in their livers which are necessary to break down the chemical compounds given off by the oils themselves.

Eucalyptus oil is an especially harmful toxin to cats, according to the ASPCA because of its eucalyptol content.

Side Effects

If your cat becomes exposed to eucalyptus oil, seek veterinary attention immediately. Some of the side effects can include:

  • vomiting
  • drooling
  • changes in heart rate
  • tremors
  • difficulty walking
  • cold body temperature
  • trouble breathing

Is Eucalyptus Oil Dangerous To Dogs?

Just as with cats, the ASPCA lists eucalyptus as a toxic agent that could seriously hurt your dog in the event of an exposure. 

While dogs don't have the same liver enzymes (or lack thereof) as cats, their sense of smell is highly developed, and the overwhelming aroma of eucalyptus can very easily make them sick. 

Side Effects

According to the ASPCA, be on the lookout for these signs and symptoms in your dog:

  • drooling
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • weakness
  • depression

What Does The Government Think About Eucalyptus Oil?

Generally speaking, essential oils don't fall under federal jurisdiction.  This is because they are used to practice aromatherapy, which—despite its medicinal benefits—has yet to fall under governmental backing.

However, that doesn't mean that the government turns a blind eye to eucalyptus oil. Check out what two major branches think of this essential oil in the sections below.

Environmental Protection Agency 

In the year 2000, the EPA received its first registration request for a natural pest repellent by the name of Granola 97, which was later amended to its current name: p-Menthane-3,8-diol.  

This repellent is derived from the leaves and twigs of the eucalyptus plant, and is the closest the EPA has come to recognizing the oil of eucalyptus as a pest control contender.

Center for Disease Control

The CDC has long been an advocate for lemon eucalyptus oil as a combatant against mosquitoes. In addition to the several bulletins they have published endorsing this essential oil alongside chemical options, the organization regularly lauds eucalyptus oil in telebriefs and intra-organizational communications as well.

Eucalyptus Oil Vs Other Stuff

In regard to eucalyptus oil among other types of essential oils and chemicals, how does this substance compare?

Eucalyptus Oil vs Tea Tree Oil

Despite having many of the same benefits, there's a stark difference between these two essential oils.

eucalyptus oil vs tea tree oil

They're distilled from two separate plants! Eucalyptus oil comes (obviously) from the leaves of eucalyptus trees. Tea tree oil is derived from the paperbark (or Melaleuca alternifolia, if you want to get scientific) tree.

Eucalyptus Oil vs DEET

Eucalyptus oil, despite relying on manmade machinery to press the leaves of the eucalyptus trees, is still considered a naturally-sourced substance. It's sold in its pure and unrefined form, no one is tinkering with it or adding extras to fluff it up.

DEET, on the other hand, is purely synthetic. Developed by the US Army in 1946 for military use and made available to the general public in 1957, this chemical is purely manmade and is feared by many to be unsafe.

Eucalyptus Oil vs Peppermint Oil

Though these two essential oils do have a strong, minty aroma, the type of mint scent they give off is a tad different.

Eucalyptus is full of eucalyptol, the menthol-like component at its chemical level. Peppermint, on the other hand, is full of actual menthol, which means that its consistency is much more genuinely minty, and less earthy.

Eucalyptus Oil vs Oil of Citronella

When matched up against oil of citronella, it's difficult not to see how these two are all that different. They boast a lot of the same benefits and they're both essential oils.

Well, think of oil of citronella as a much milder form of eucalyptus oil. Not only do these two sit on opposite ends of the aroma spectrum (oil of citronella is gentle and citrusy, while eucalyptus is dramatic and earthy), but eucalyptus oil can be very dangerous to humans and pets, whereas oil of citronella is normally very mild.

Final Thoughts on Eucalyptus Oil

Overall, eucalyptus oil gets the job done. Whether you need something to banish mosquitoes, kill off your head lice, clean a wound, or wipe away soap scum, eucalyptus oil is your best bet.

However, an oil so powerful comes with side effects. Oil poisoning is a major concern, and one to watch out for in your pets, and even your own body. If you choose to use eucalyptus oil in your home or as a natural bug spray this summer, stay vigilant and look out for the signs of overexposure.

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Curious about other cat related products? Check out our other detailed guides to help you deal with your pest problems.

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