Australian fever tree; Blue gum; Eucalyptus globulus; Red gum

Today, oil from the eucalyptus tree (Eucalyptus globulus) appears in many over-the-counter cough and cold products to relieve congestion. Eucalyptus oil is also used in creams and ointments to relieve muscle and joint pain, and in some mouthwashes.

In its native Australia, the eucalyptus tree is the main food for koalas. It has been used in the past as an antiseptic to kill germs. The oil was used in traditional Aboriginal medicines to heal wounds and fungal infections. Teas made of eucalyptus leaves were also used to reduce fevers. Eucalyptus was soon used in other traditional medicine systems, including Chinese, Indian (Ayurvedic), and Greek and European.

In 19th century England, eucalyptus oil was used in hospitals to clean urinary catheters. Laboratory studies later showed that eucalyptus oil contains substances that kill bacteria. It also may kill some viruses and fungi. Studies in animals and test tubes show that eucalyptus oil acts as an expectorant, meaning it helps coughs by loosening phlegm.

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