Thought Eucalyptus was just a delicacy for koala bears? Think again! It’s actually a potent medicinal herb with a myriad of benefits. We were overjoyed a few years ago, when we discovered “Silver Drop” Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus gunnii), which is a much more cold hardy version of this Tasmanian native herb. After planting it throughout our farm, here in zone 7, it now thrives in our gardens and towers over us.
Used medicinally to relieve respiratory and chest congestion, ease coughs and soothe burns, Eucalyptus has long been used by Aboriginal tribes for its healing properties. Antiseptic components in the plant’s oil, like cineole- a chemical found in the herb’s oil that gives the plant its camphor-like, pungent aroma adds the active ingredient that makes Eucalyptus an expectorant. Often compared to Vick’s Vapor Rub, Eucalyptus has a strong, piney smell that aids in decongestion when inhaled.
To create your own decongestant, forget about the artificial drugstore remedies like Vick’s, and opt for the grease-less, natural source. Just boil some water, crush a cup of fresh ‘Silver Drop’ Eucalyptus leaves. Remove the water from the stove top, wait for it to stop bubbling, and toss in the leaves. Hover over the hot concoction with a towel over your head to collect the steam and breathe deeply until the water cools. You can then use the cooled Eucalyptus water as a fragrant hair or skin wash, to infuse your body with the plant’s fresh fragrance. I like to add lots of freshly crushed leaves to a satchel and place it in the floor of my shower where the hot water will release the essential oils into the steam. It’s a great way to open up your lungs if you’re asthmatic, clear a stuffy nose if you’re sick, or just relax and treat your body to a fresh fragrance after a long day.