Eucalyptus oil is the generic name for distilled oil from the leaf of Eucalyptus, a genus of the plant family Myrtaceae native to Australia and cultivated worldwide. Eucalyptus oil has a history of wide application, as a pharmaceutical, antiseptic, repellent, flavouring, fragrance and industrial uses. The leaves of selected Eucalyptus species are steam distilled to extract eucalyptus oil.The main chemical components of Eucalyptus oil, eucalyptol and alpha-terpineol, give the essential oil a soothing, cooling vapour.
Eucalyptus oil is used in flavouring. Cineole-based eucalyptus oil is used as a flavouring at low levels (0.002%) in various products, including baked goods, confectionery, meatproducts and beverages. Eucalyptus oil has antimicrobial activity against a broad range of foodborne human pathogens and food spoilage microorganisms. Non-cineole peppermint gum, strawberry gum and lemon ironbark are also used as flavouring. Eucalyptus oil is also used as a fragrance component to impart a fresh and clean aroma in soaps, detergents, lotions, and perfumes. It is known for its pungent, intoxicating scent. Due to its cleansing properties, Eucalyptus oil is found in mouthrinses to freshen breath.
Safety and toxicity
If consumed internally at low dosage as a flavouring component or in pharmaceutical products at the recommended rate, cineole-based 'oil of eucalyptus' is safe for adults. However, systemic toxicity can result from ingestion or topical application at higher than recommended doses.
The probable lethal dose of pure eucalyptus oil for an adult is in the range of 0.05 mL to 0.5 mL/per kg of body weight. Because of their high body-surface-area-to-mass ratio, children are more vulnerable to poisons absorbed trans dermally. Severe poisoning has occurred in children after ingestion of 4 mL to 5 mL of eucalyptus oil.
Eucalyptus oil has also been shown to be dangerous to domestic cats, causing an unstable gait, excessive drooling, and other symptoms of ill health.