Species of Eucalyptus originated between 35 and 50 million years ago after Australia-New Guinea separated from an ancient super continent called Gondwana that broke up about 180 million years ago. However, it was only about fifty thousand years ago when eucalypts dominated and came to account for roughly 70 percent of Australian forest as fire became more frequent because of the presence of the humans since the fire-loving Eucalyptus trees need fire for their seeds to sprout. This is because their fruits are completely filled with resin and their seedlings thrive in ash-rich soils that are freshly burned.
Eucalypts are not only resilient. They also play a very important role in the environment as these evergreens provide shelter and food for a large number of animals and insects. Since Indigenous Australians have always been resourceful, they did not fail to notice the uses and benefits of these trees. They used the wood to make tools and firewood. The bark was used to make boats; the leaves were used to make poison which helped them harvest fish in a waterhole, while they used the leaves and roots in treating many ailments.
In modern Australia, Eucalyptus trees still remain as significant as before since people continue to use it as a source of timber and Eucalyptus oil which is used as a medicinal ingredient.
Plant Characteristics of Eucalyptus
Eucalyptus Globulus is an aromatic evergreen that belongs to the Myrtle Family which is naturally distributed in Tasmania and southeastern Australia. This tree which is now naturalized and widely planted in different regions around the world such as New Zealand, Hawaii, Macronesia, western United States, Chile, Spain, Portugal, and other parts of southern Europe can reach a height of 150 to 180 feet and a diameter of 4 to 7 feet. It has a straight trunk which is two-thirds of its total height, white flowers that bloom from July to August, and hard woody fruits. The dark green, leathery leaves of its older branches are narrowly lanceolate and often curved; while the leaves of the young shoots are ovate, opposite, and horizontal. Eucalyptus trees are hermaphrodite and they are pollinated by bees.
Many of Eucalyptus species are called “gum trees” because of the sticky gum-like substance that come from their trunks.
Modern Medicinal Value of the Eucalyptus Leaf
Eucalyptus is popular because of its many health benefits. It is useful in helping keep the respiratory system healthy and in treating coughs, colds, and congestions. The essential oil that comes from it has a powerful scent and is believed to be an effective agent against respiratory illnesses. Below are the other health benefits one may get from Eucalyptus:
- It may relieve pain.
Eucalyptus contains limonene, a terpene that can help treat pain because of its analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects. This compound also has antioxidant, anti-proliferative, antibacterial, and antifungal properties.
Another component of Eucalyptus is cineole which has strong therapeutic properties that is beneficial in pain management.
With compounds like limonene and cineole, Eucalyptus may help decrease pain, provide comfort, and improve quality of life.
- It may decrease stress.
As previously mentioned, Eucalyptus contains limonene. This terpene has anti –stress properties which reduce anxiety as well.
- It may help keep the skin moisturized and hydrated.
Hydrated skin results in complexion that is healthy, smooth, glowing, and beautiful. It is common knowledge that moisture helps keep the skin young. Ceramides which are a type of fatty acids that maintain skin barrier and retain its moisture are increased with the regular use of Eucalyptus. Thus, Eucalyptus is not only good at treating pain, it may improve the health of the skin as well.
- It can help improve dental health.
Decay-causing bacteria can cause serious damage to one’s teeth. These form an acid that attacks the tooth’s enamel when they come into contact with the starches and sugars from the drinks and food that are eaten. Eucalyptus leaves contain eucalyptol, macrocarpal C, and ethanol, compounds that can lower levels of bacteria and may improve dental health.
- It may stimulate the immune system.
Eucalyptus has powerful antiviral and antibacterial properties that can help protect the body from infections. For hundreds of years, humans have used it to treat many of their ailments. An animal study suggested that the oil that comes from it can enhance the immune system’s phagocytic response to pathogens. Also, Eucalyptus is high in antioxidants, especially flavonoids which may lower the risk of heart disease, dementia, and certain cancers.
- It may lower blood sugar levels.
Eucalyptus tea may help regulate and lower blood sugar levels. However, it is advisable that a physician must be consulted first before drinking it if one is taking diabetes medications as it might cause the blood pressure to go too low.
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