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Review Article


Immune-Modifying and Antimicrobial Effects

of Eucalyptus Oil and Simple Inhalation
Angela E. Sadlon, ND, and Davis W. Lamson, MS, ND

Abstract parents, who may have applied Vicks VapoRub to

Eucalyptus oil (EO) and its major component, 1,8-cineole, the chest area and even to the nose for respiratory
have antimicrobial effects against many bacteria, including difficulty or infection. It seems that Vicks VapoRub
Mycobacterium tuberculosis and methicillin-resistant not only works through inhalation, but also
Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), viruses, and fungi (including through absorption into the tissues of the chest.1,2
Candida). Surprisingly for an antimicrobial substance, there Devices are now sold in pharmacies that allow
are also immune-stimulatory, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, one to inhale vapor, foregoing the bowl, towel,
analgesic, and spasmolytic effects. Of the white blood cells, stove, and risk of a par-boiled face. These devices
monocytes and macrophages are most affected, especially perhaps provide greater convenience than the bowl
with increased phagocytic activity. Application by either vapor of hot water, but the rather expensive per-use pads
inhalation or oral route provides benefit for both purulent and required for the device contain little EO.
non-purulent respiratory problems, such as bronchitis, asthma, This article reviews the published data on the
and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). There is a medicinal attributes, safety, and efficacy of
long history of folk usage with a good safety record. More eucalyptus oil. The article also describes a simple,
recently, the biochemical details behind these effects have low-cost home delivery system for the vapor and
been clarified. Although other plant oils may be more an easily constructed pocket inhaler. Included is
microbiologically active, the safety of moderate doses of EO limited information on activity of other plant oils
and its broad-spectrum antimicrobial action make it an with similar components.
attractive alternative to pharmaceuticals. EO has also been Most of the references cited have been obtained
shown to offset the myelotoxicity of one chemotherapy agent. from a PubMed search of eucalyptus oil cross-
Angela Sadlon, ND Holder Whether this is a general attribute that does not decrease the referenced with other subjects. Some of the
of the Thorne Post-Doctoral
Fellowship 2009-2010;
benefit of chemotherapy remains to be determined. This references cited were not found in PubMed, but in
Research associate to article also provides instruction on how to assemble bibliographies of other publications. A PubMed
Dr. Davis Lamson inexpensive devices for vapor inhalation. search for 1,8-cineole (Figure 1), the major compo-
Correspondence address:
(Altern Med Rev 2010;15(1):33-47) nent of most EO species and present in tea tree,
rosemary, and other plant oils, lists 635 publica-
Davis Lamson, ND, MS Introduction tions. References on EO as an antiparasitic or
Adjunct faculty in oncology, Eucalyptus oil (EO) has antibacterial, antiviral, antiprotozoan, bug repellent, or insecticide are not
Bastyr University, Kenmore,
WA; private practice, Tahoma and antifungal components and a long history of covered in this discussion; use of EO to increase
Clinic, Renton, WA; product use against the effects of colds, influenza, other penetration of other agents through the skin is
consultant, Thorne Research; respiratory infections, rhinitis, and sinusitis. also not included.
contributing editor,
Alternative Medicine Review Inhalation of the vapor is safe; historical usage
employed the method of breathing the vapor over a Components of Eucalyptus Oil
bowl of hot water containing a few drops of EO The percentage of components varies with
with a towel-tent over the head. Readers are likely species, plant part, and batch. Table 1 lists the
to have experience with eucalyptus oil via their major components of EO from five species and tea

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tree oil (TTO). The species selected were randomly was significantly inhibited in
chosen except for E. globulus (Figure 2),3 which is lymphocytes by 16- and 36 Figure 1. Structure of 1,8-Cineole
listed twice to demonstrate the variability of percent, respectively, while in
constituents within the same species, likely due to monocytes, TNF-a and IL-1b were
location of tree growth or time of year harvested. inhibited by 77- and 61 percent, H3C CH3
One publication claimed 43 components in the oil respectively. Thus, 1,8-cineole at
of E. tereticornis from fresh leaves as analyzed by 10-6 M had a larger impact on
gas chromatography.4 Oil yield from leaves ranging TNF-a and IL-1b production in
from 3.57-10.6 mg/g volatile components was monocytes compared to lympho-
demonstrated when various species were steam- cytes, but similar effects at 10-5 M.
distilled. E. globulus produced 5.25 mg oil/g of fresh The authors characterized 1,8-cin-
leaf.5 Research interpretation of microbial action is eole as a strong inhibitor of TNF-a
complicated by the use of different EO species with and IL-1b, with smaller effects on
varying percentages of individual components. No chemotactic cytokines. These
formal correlation between the amount of major authors suggest that since
constituents and the antibacterial activity has been 1,8-cineole can control airway
determined.6 mucus hypersecretion, it might reduce exacerba-
tions in asthma, sinusitis, and chronic obstructive
Immunomodulatory/Anti-inflammatory Effects In pulmonary disease (COPD).8
E. globulus oil dose-dependently stimulated
phagocytosis (according to several parameters) by
Figure 2. Photo of Eucalyptus globulus
human monocyte-derived macrophages (MDMs) in
vitro, without producing pro-inflammatory effects
(Table 2). Phagocytic activity was not increased
when the MDMs were exposed to TTO or lavender
oil. Eucalyptus oils phagocytic ability was halted
when EO-stimulated cells were treated with a

Photo by Forest & Kim Starr. Used with permission

microtubule-destabilizing chemical, suggesting
EOs phagocytic ability is dependent on the
microtubule network.7
To determine the effect on inflammation, a
cytokine profile was performed on MDMs treated
with EO only, lipopolysaccharide (LPS) only, and
with EO pretreatment, then LPS. EO produced no
difference in cytokine profile from the control
group. LPS significantly elevated interleukins (IL-4,
IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a). EO
reduced the inflammatory effect of LPS. Neither
LPS nor EO had influence on IL-2, IL-10, or
interferon-gamma (IFN-g).7
1,8-cineole inhibited the stimulated cytokine
production from human lymphocytes and mono-
cytes. At 1.5 mcg/mL (10-5 M), 1,8-cineole signifi-
cantly inhibited cytokine production in lympho- Stimulation of a human monocyte cell line with
cytes of TNF-a > IL-1b > IL-4 > IL-5 by 92-, 84-, LPS increased early growth response factor-1
70-, and 65 percent, respectively. Cytokine produc- (Erg-1) in the nucleus and the whole cell. (Erg-1 is a
tion in monocytes was also inhibited: TNF-a > transcription factor implemented in regulation of
Key words: eucalyptus, tea
IL-1b > IL-6 > IL-8 by 99-, 84-, 76-, and 65 percent, cell proliferation and apoptosis.) Pretreatment of tree, antimicrobial, cineole,
respectively. At 10-fold lower concentration, the cells with 1,8-cineole (1-100 mg/L) decreased MRSA
1,8-cineole demonstrated dose dependency with expression of Egr-1 in the nucleus and whole cell in
smaller declines of cytokines. At 0.15 mcg/mL (10-6 a concentration-dependent manner. There was no
M), production of TNF-a and IL-1b change in the expression of nuclear factor kappa B

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Review Article

Table 1. Eucalyptus and Tea Tree Oil Constituents

Boiling E. E. E. E. E. E. Tea tree

Constituent points C globulus3 globulus6 citriodora3 nicholii3 terticornis6 camaldulensis19 oil52
cineole 176 46.8% 44.3% ----- 83.63% 6.2% 33.8% 5.1%
-Pinene 156 28.9 9.3 0.14 2.93 8.3 4.20 2.6
d-Limonene 178 4.9 5.1 ----- 4.50 ----- ----- 1.0
- Pinene 165 0.6 2.7 0.36 0.03 2.5 16.70 -----
Myrcene 167 0.2 ----- ----- 0.03 1.3 0.71 () -----
-Phellandrene 136 ----- ----- ----- 0.17 1.6 1.97 -----
Camphene 158 ----- 23.1 ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
p-Cymene 178 1.4 1.6 ----- 1.00 28.6 ----- 2.9
Terpinene 175 0.1 () ----- ----- 0.09 () 0.8() 0.51 () 23.0 ()
10.4 ()
-Terpinolene 136 ----- ----- ----- 0.04 ----- 0.68 3.1
Linalol 154 ----- 0.3 0.66 ----- ----- ----- -----
Isopulegol 154 ----- ----- 3.41 ----- ----- ----- -----
Citronellal 154 ----- ----- 80.10 ----- ----- ----- -----
Iso-isopulgeol ----- ----- ----- 8.51 ----- ----- ----- -----
4-Terpineol ----- ----- 0.2 ----- 0.13 1.7 5.15 40.1
-Terpineol 175 1.8 0.3 ----- 1.91 5.6 0.80 2.4
Citronellol 156 ----- 0.1 4.18 ----- ----- ----- -----
-Terpinyl acetate 196 0.2 1.2 ----- ----- 0.2 ----- -----
Citronellyl acetate ----- ----- ----- 0.02 ----- ----- ----- -----
Geraniol 154 ----- 0.2 ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
Caryophyllene 204 ----- ----- 0.39 0.17 0.6 () ----- -----
Aromadendrene ----- 2.9 1.3 ----- 0.08 ----- ----- 1.5
Bicyclogermacrene ----- ----- ----- ----- 0.08 ----- 0.70 -----
Oxy-sesquiterpenes ----- 3.2 ----- 0.10 0.48 ----- 16.77 -----
Myrtenal ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- 2.10 -----
-Thujene 136 ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- 2.15 -----
trans-Pinocarveol ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- 1.47 -----
Cryptone ----- ----- 1.3 ----- ----- 17.8 5.85 -----
Borneol 154 ----- ----- ----- ----- 0.3 ----- -----
Cuminaldehyde ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- 6.5 ----- -----
Globulol ----- ----- 7.3 ----- ----- 0.5 ----- 0.2
Spathulenol ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- 1.8 ----- -----
-Cadinene ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- 1.3
Sabinene ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- 0.2
Viridiflorol ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- 0.1
EO and TTO constituents as percentages determined by GC-MS. Note with EO the differences between species and the variability within the same species. Out
of 800+ species of Eucalyptus, five were chosen to list their constituents. The dashes represent either unfound boiling points or undetectable constituents.

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(NF-kB).9 In a similar experiment using a-pinene

(a lesser component of EO than 1,8-cineole), Table 2. Immunomodulatory Effects of Eucalyptus Oil and 1,8-Cineole
nuclear translocation of NF-kB was reduced,
inhibiting NF-kB activity.10 Thus, EO (at least from Eucalyptus Oil
E. globulus) as a whole has NF-kB reducing Increases phagocytic activity and number of monocytes/macrophages7
activity.11 Decreases significantly or inhibits IL-4, IL-6, TNF- and NF-B when
An in vitro study of 1,8-cineole (10 mcg/mL inflammation present7
concentration) on LPS-stimulated human mono- No influence on IL-2, IL-10, INF-7
cytes showed a dose-dependent and significant Significantly lowers inflammatory cell infiltrates such as neutrophils8,17
Decreases airway mucin secretion of tracheal and bronchiole epithelium8
inhibition of TNF-a (99%), IL-1b (74%), leukotri- EO/5-FU combination inhibited myelotoxicity and increased phagocytic activity
ene (LT) B4 (47%), and thromboxane B2 (91%) of granulocytes7
after 20 hours. IL-1b-stimulated MDMs showed
98-percent reduction in TNF-a with the same 1,8-Cineole
concentration of 1,8-cineole.12 Inhibits or reduces TNF-, IL-1, IL-4, IL-5, IL-6, IL-8, LTB4, PGE2, TxB29,10,13
Affects monocytes/macrophages more than other leukocytes13
Decreases localization of Egr-114
Animals Studies Had no effect on NF-B14
Implementation of innate cell-mediated
immune response was also observed in vivo after TNF- = tumor necrosis factor-alpha; IL = interleukin; LTB4 = leukotriene B4; TxB2 = thromboxane B2;
EO administration. In rat peripheral blood, after NF-B = nuclear factor-kappaB; INF- = interferon-gamma; 5-FU = 5-fluorouracil
15 days of oral EO treatment, a significant increase
in monocytes occurred, without effect on granulo- discontinuing treatment. Significant inhibition of
cytes or lymphocytes. There was also a significant LTB4 and PGE2 was observed in both groups. The
increase of CD44 and CD25 monocyte surface FEV1 increased by 23.7 percent and RAW decreased
markers, but not on granulocytes or lymphocytes. by 26.1 percent after three days of cineole treat-
This effect continued for five days after cessation of ment. When lung function was checked four days
EO and was interpreted as monocyte activation after the end of treatment, FEV1 (28.7%) and RAW
and extravasation.7 (-17.6%) were still significantly improved compared
Effects on immune-suppression in rats were to before treatment.14
evaluated with a 5-fluorouracil (5-FU)/EO combi- The anti-inflammatory effect of oral 1,8-cineole
nation. EO inhibited 5-FU-induced myelotoxicity (200 mg three times daily) was demonstrated in a
and raised the phagocytic activity of the granulo- double-blind, placebo-controlled, 12-week trial of
cytic/monocytic system. It was suggested that EO asthma patients. The required oral glucocorticoid
might be useful as a cell-mediated immuno-regula- dosage was decreased by a mean of 3.75 mg in the
tory agent in immune-suppressive pathologies, cineole group compared to 0.91 mg in the control
infectious diseases, or after cancer chemotherapy.7 group. Prednisolone dose prior to treatment was
E. globulus oil (most effective dose, 300 mg/kg) 5-24 mg daily with average of 11 mg. Of note, the
resulted in significant reduction of bronchitis use of the rescue medication salbutamol (albuterol)
symptom severity, lower infiltration of inflamma- was increased almost two-fold in the control group
tory cells, and decreased airway mucins in LPS- when prednisolone was lowered by 2.5 mg;
induced chronic bronchitis in rats.13 whereas, there was no significant increase in rescue
puffs in the cineole group, even with a decrease of
Human Clinical Trials 5 mg prednisolone. Some participants dropped out
Asthma at that reduction (four in the cineole group, 11 in
LTB4 and prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), both the placebo group). The cineole group maintained
produced in the pathway of arachidonic acid lung function capacity (peak expiratory flow rate,
metabolism, were measured in stimulated mono- FEV1, and RAW) four times longer than placebo,
cytes from 10 patients with bronchial asthma and even at a lower prednisolone dosage.15
12 healthy controls after treatment with 1,8-cin-
eole (200 mg three times daily) for three days. Rhinosinusitis
Forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) and A study showed that cineole is effective for the
airway resistance (RAW) were measured the day discomforts of non-purulent rhinosinusitis.
before treatment, during treatment, and after Individuals (n=150) with subjective findings of

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headache with or without bending, tenderness to naloxone, did not reverse the analgesic effect of
pressure points of the trigeminal nerve, impair- 1,8-cineole, implying that 1,8-cineole does not
ment of general condition, nasal obstruction, and work through the mu-opioid receptors in the
nasal secretions (rated by quantity and viscosity) body.19
were randomized in a double-blind, placebo-con- Using rats and mice in pain evaluation methods,
trolled trial. Subjects in the treatment group 1,8-cineole was found comparable to morphine in
(n=75) showed over 80-percent improvement after analgesic effect on the central and peripheral
seven days of oral 1,8-cineole (200 mg three times nervous system. A synergistic effect was observed
daily) compared to less than 50-percent improve- between cineole and morphine, with naloxone
ment in the placebo group. Improvement was failing to antagonize the effect of cineole. EO with
determined by symptoms-sum-score. Ultra- morphine can allow the same strength of analgesia
sonography at the end of the study showed that with lower morphine dose. b-pinene had an
sinus shadowing remained in 37 patients in the anti-nociceptive supraspinal effect in rats; but in
placebo group and four patients in the cineole contrast to cineole, showed opioid antagonist
group. All patients also inhaled 100 mcg of the activity on morphine comparable to naloxone.20
decongestant xylometazoline three times daily to Rat superior cervical ganglion was used to
relieve nasal congestion.16 measure the nerve excitability (via intracellular
recording) when exposed to 1,8-cineole at concen-
COPD trations of 0.1, 1.0, 3.0, and 6.0 mM injected
The efficacy of oral cineole (200 mg three times intracellularly. Inhibition of excitability was seen at
daily) was demonstrated in 242 COPD patients in a 1.0, 3.0, and 6.0 mM. The 6.0 mM concentration
double-blind, placebo-controlled, six-month trial. showed a significant decrease in excitability,
Cineole demonstrated a significant decrease in the causing a complete action potential block in all the
exacerbation frequency compared to placebo tested neurons. The authors state that one mecha-
(occurrences in six months, 0.4 versus 0.9), sever- nism of action is indirectly due to depolarization of
ity (by subjective scoring), and duration (average the neuronal cytoplasmic membrane.21
4.0 versus 5.7 days). Patient medications at the
start of the study were not altered during the study. Efficacy of EO against Microorganisms
Lung function tests showed no significant differ- Antibacterial Action
ences between treatment and control. Other The antibacterial activity of several essential oils
symptoms of COPD, such as trouble breathing or was evaluated against S. aureus. The oil activity
dyspnea, showed improvement scoring in both order on growth inhibition was TTO (13 mm) >
groups, with no statistically significant differences chamomile (12.5 mm) > E. globulus (12 mm) using
between groups.17 4 mm discs. Injection of the essential oils into
nutrient broth inhibited cell growth. A 100-percent
Analgesic Effect inhibition resulted from 100 L of EO. Chamomile
Three species of EO (E. citriodora, E. tereticornis, oil suppressed growth above 50 L and TTO gave
and E. globulus) showed dose-dependent and significant inhibition at only 10 L. With the
time-dependent peripheral and central acting alginate-bead method, about three times the
analgesic properties in rodents compared to amount of EO as TTO was necessary for 100-per-
morphine, using standard experimental test cent inhibition. The affinity of cell binding was
models. E. tereticornis had the greatest anti-inflam- about double for TTO as the other oils, leading to
matory action in a model of rat paw edema. The speculation that TTOs superior antibacterial
anti-inflammatory action of EO compared to activity is due to its strong cell adhesion.22
dexamethasone showed an average of 75-percent An in vitro study tested antibacterial and
versus 97-percent inhibition, respectively, of anti-adhesion effects of five essential oils: manuka,
neutrophil migration into the rat peritoneal cavity. tea tree, Eucalyptus radiata, lavender, and rosemary.
A test for vascular permeability effect showed On periodontopathic bacterial strains, manuka, tea
reduction, but widely varied by species and tree, and eucalyptus oils showed the lowest
permeability agent.18 concentration needed for bacteriostatic, bacterio-
When rats or mice were injected with pro-inflam- cidal, and bacterial adhesion inhibition.
matory substances, 1,8-cineole was shown to Porphyromonas gingivalis, Actinobacillus actinomy-
prevent pain sensation. The opioid antagonist, cetemcomitans, Fusobacterium nucleatum,

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Streptococcus mutans, and Streptococcus sobrinus In a trial of 21 plant essential oils at several
were completely killed by exposure to manuka, tea dilutions against six bacterial species (E. coli, K.
tree, or eucalyptus for 30 seconds at concentra- pneumoniae, P. aeruginosa, P. vulgaris, B. subtilis, and
tions between 0.03-1.0 percent.23 S. aureus), 19 oils showed antibacterial activity
An in vitro study examined dental biofilm against at least one species. E. globulus oil showed
production of Streptococcus mutans, the primary the least activity against the bacteria.26
cause of dental caries, with 1-, 2-, and 4-mg/mL
concentrations of Mentha spicata oil, Eucalyptus Antibacterial Action of Vapor
camaldulensis oil, and chlorhexidine. At 1 mg/mL, An in vitro study examined the effect of vapor-
chlorhexidine showed the greatest potency. ized E. radiata and other essential oils against six
Regarding specific biofilm formation, E. camaldulen- strains of bacteria (H. influenza, S. pyogenes,
sis versus chlorhexidine scored 6.3 (at 2 mg/mL) penicillin-susceptible S. pneumoniae, penicillin-
and 1.9 (at 4 mg/mL) versus 13.0 (at 2 mg/mL) and resistant S. pneumoniae, S. aureus, and E. coli). The
4.0 (at 4 mg/mL), respectively, demonstrating a oils were from cinnamon bark, lemongrass, perilla,
superior ability of the EO.24 thyme, peppermint, tea tree, coriander, lavender,
An in vivo, four-week study of 100 volunteers rosemary, eucalyptus, and citron. E. coli showed
was conducted on plaque formation, with different least susceptibility. For most of the essential oils, H.
concentrations of M. spicata oil, E. camaldulensis oil, influenza was most susceptible, followed by S.
and chlorhexidine added to standard toothpaste. pneumoniae and S. pyogenes, then S. aureus. While
EO at all concentrations had significantly more all oils had a degree of effectiveness, EO was one of
inhibition compared to M. spicata and the least. Individual oil constituents were also
chlorhexidine.24 examined.27
The oils from different plant parts (leaf, stem,
and flower) of two Eucalyptus species (E. sideroxy- Tuberculosis (TB)
lon and E. torquata) were tested for antimicrobial In a striking case, a 28-year-old female (diag-
activity against nine bacterial species. All four nosed with TB by sputum culture and chest x-ray),
gram-positive bacteria (Staphylococcus aureus, who had refused conventional treatment,
Staphylococcus epidermidis, Enterococcus faecalis, and employed E. globulus oil inhalation (3 mL EO to
Bacillus subtilis) showed high sensitivity to EO; 500 mL boiling water) three times daily for three
whereas, only two of the five gram-negative weeks. After 10 days the malaise reduced, appetite
bacteria (Klebsiella pneumonia and Proteus mirabilis) improved, cough subsided, and weight was gained.
showed mild susceptibility; Escherichia coli, Objectively, the temperature normalized and
Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Salmonella typhi sputum cultures were negative, although erythro-
showed little-to-no susceptibility.25 cyte sedimentation rate (ESR) remained high at
The antimicrobial effect of E. globulus oil was 110 (normal range 0-15 mm/hr for males and 0-20
studied on bacteria from human specimen samples. mm/hr for females) and there was no change in the
Included were 120 isolates of Streptococcus pyogenes, chest x-ray. After three weeks, the patient was
20 isolates of Streptococcus pneumoniae, 40 isolates given conventional treatment anyway.28 The
of Streptococcus agalactiae, 20 isolates of present authors were unable to locate any report
Staphylococcus aureus, 40 isolates of Haemophilus on the in vitro effect of EO on Mycobacterium
influenza, 30 isolates of Haemophilus parainfluenzae, tuberculosis. (Note: In a private communication to
10 isolates of Klebsiella pneumonia, and 10 isolates the authors, a radiographics expert stated the chest
of Stenotrophomonas maltophilia. The most sensitive x-ray would not be expected to change significantly
bacteria were H. influenza, H. parainfluenza, and S. in 10 days for a patient with a positive film for
maltophilia. Some sensitivity was shown against S. tuberculosis.)
pneumoniae and S. agalactiae, while there was little
antibacterial effect against S. pyogenes or S. aureus. Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
EO showed no effectiveness against K. pneu- An in vitro comparison of E. globulus oil and
moniae.26 (Note: some results disagree with this thyme oil was conducted on 14 isolates of MRSA
report, which may be due to the difference in and other gram-positive and -negative bacteria.
species of EO.) Although EO was effective against MRSA, it was

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Table 3. Microbial Sensitivities to Eucalyptus


Microbe Sensitivity Ref.

out-performed by thyme oil, which performed S. aureus Moderate E. globulus [22]
comparably to vancomycin or chloramphenicol. High E. sideroxylon, E. torquata [25]
Both oils were out-performed by antibiotics None E. globulus [26]
(imipenem, ciprofloxacin, tetracycline, cotrimoxa- Little to none E. globulus [27]
zole, gentamicin, norfloxacin, and sulfamethoxa- S. epidermidis High E. sideroxylon, E. torquata [25]
zole) against B. cereus, E. coli, and K. pneumoniae.29
E. faecalis High E. sideroxylon, E. torquata [25]
In two human cases of MRSA following trau-
matic injury, Polytoxinol (eucalyptus, tea tree, B. subtilis High E. sideroxylon, E. torquata [25]
Little to none E. globulus [27]
thyme, clove, and lemongrass extracts in ethanol)
was used topically for daily treatment. Both cases Haemophilus influenza High E. globulus [26]
resulted in complete clearance of MRSA, one after H. parainfluenza High E. globulus [26]
five days of application, the other after three weeks.
Stenotrophomonas maltophilia High E. globulus [26]
No antibiotics were used during the herbal combi-
nation therapy.30 Polytoxinol was also used to treat Mycobacterium tuberculosis High improved symptoms and negative [29]
sputum culture reported; no studies found
chronic MRSA osteomyelitis, which became on the bacterial strain directly E. globulus
progressively worse and unresponsive to antibiot-
ics over two years. The essential oil combination Porphyromonas gingivalis High E. radiata [23]
was administered for two days at the site of the Actinobacillus High E. radiata [23]
infection (via Osteoset Pellets soaked with 3 mL of actinomycetemcomitans
the herbal antiseptic) and 1 mL/day funneled to Fusobacterium nucleatum High E. radiata [23]
the beads in the wound cavity for an additional two Streptococcus mutans High E. radiata [23]
days. By three months the wound healed with
complete resolution of symptoms. Although the Streptococcus sobrinus High E. radiata [23]
ESR was slightly elevated at 14, the C-reactive C. albicans High E. sideroxylon, E. torquata [25]
protein (CRP) decreased by almost 50 percent (to High E. globulus [34]
12) and wound cultures were negative for infection. Aspergillus flavas High E. sideroxylon, E. torquata [25]
X-ray showed resolution of infective process with A. niger High E. sideroxylon, E. torquata [25]
incorporation of the bone graft.31
Table 3 summarizes the sensitivity of microbes Tinea corporis High E. pauciflora [35]
to various species of eucalyptus. Tinea cruris High E. pauciflora [35]
Tinea pedis High E. pauciflora [35]
K. pneumonia Mild E. sideroxylon, E. torquata [25]
An in vitro study showed E. globulus oil has a mild None E. globulus [26]
but noticeable plaque reduction effect for mumps Little to none E. globulus [27]
virus, but no effect on adenovirus.32 The essential
P. mirabilis Mild E. sideroxylon, E. torquata [25]
oils of eucalyptus (species not given), tea tree, and
thyme were tested in vitro for antiviral activity S. pneumoniae Mild E. globulus [26]
against Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1); indi- S. agalactiae Mild E. globulus [26]
vidual components of the oils were also tested. While Mumps virus Mild E. globulus [26]
all oils greatly reduced viral count, dilution revealed
that TTO was more active than thyme, which was S. pyogenes Little E. globulus [26]
more active than EO. Viral replication was reduced P. vulgaris Little to none E. globulus [27]
96 percent when the whole essential oil (TTO, thyme, E. coli Little to none E. sideroxylon, E. torquata [25]
or EO) was used, and all oil dilutions were well below Little to none E. globulus [27]
the cytotoxic level. Although individual monoter- P. aeruginosa Little to none E. sideroxylon, E. torquata [25]
penes were effective, 1,8-cineole demonstrated the Little to none E. globulus [27]
weakest effect. Antiviral effects were demonstrated
S. typhi Little to none E. sideroxylon, E. torquata [25]
by essential oils and monoterpenes, whether added
to host cells prior to infection or after entry of Adenovirus None E. globulus [26]
HSV-1 into cells. The high anti-HSV-1 activity Microbial susceptibility to EO in vitro. The exceptions are Tinea and TB, which were done in vivo.
occurred by direct inactivation of free virus particles. Note: the data from the study of gaseous EO exposure on bacteria is omitted from the table
All materials tested interacted in a dose-dependent because of experimental difference. In the gaseous experiment, EO behaved comparably to
manner. It was stated that monoterpene TTO on H. influenza, S. pyogenes, and S. pneumoniae, but considerably less on penicillin-
resistant S. pneumoniae, S. aureus, and E. coli.

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hydrocarbons were slightly superior to monoterpene The oils of three eucalyptus species (E. polyan-
alcohols in antiviral activity, with a-pinene and themos, E. globulus, and E. perriniana) were assessed
a-terpineol demonstrating the greatest effect. The for antioxidant ability. E. polyanthemos showed an
Selectivity Index (Total Cytotoxicity50/Inhibitory antioxidant effect comparable to a-tocopherol, as it
Concentration50), the best indicator of effectiveness, inhibited hexanal from oxidizing to hexanoic acid
was 5.3 for EO, 60.0 for TTO, and 6.4 for thyme oil.33 for at least 30 days. At 500 g/mL, E. polyanthemos,
E. globulus, and E. perriniana inhibited hexanal
Antifungal oxidation by 99-, 55-, and 16 percent, respectively.
Two Eucalyptus species (E. sideroxylon and E. In comparison, 50 g/mL a-tocopherol inhibited
torquata) and their different plant parts (leaf, stem, hexanal oxidation by 98 percent.5
and flower) were tested for antifungal activity. The Additional research demonstrates the antioxi-
EO showed (in order) strong antifungal activity dant ability of EO by the same experimental
against Candida albicans, Aspergillus flavus, and A. method, although the species was not given.36
niger, compared to a fluconazole control (with no However, when E. globulus was compared with 10
action from oil of E. sideroxylon flower).25 other essential oils for free radical scavenging
E. globulus oil and 29 other essential oils (includ- ability, it performed poorly, and the authors of the
ing TTO) were evaluated against biofilm-forming C. study attributed it to the high amount of monoter-
albicans strains, both sensitive and resistant to penes. In regard to lipid oxidation, E. globulus
fluconazole. Eighteen oils showed anti-Candida demonstrated moderate inhibition (48.6%).37
activities with the strongest being EO, peppermint,
ginger grass, and clove, with respective percentage Nasal Ciliary Beat Frequency (CBF)
inhibitions of 81-, 74-, 40-, and 29 percent. EO can affect the cilia in the respiratory tract.
Fluconazole showed 78-percent inhibition, which Ciliated nasal cells from healthy volunteers were
was less than EO. Note that TTO was not among treated with EO, pine needle oil, or a combination
the highest inhibitors.34 of menthol, EO, and pine needle oil at concentra-
An herbal preparation with the active principal tions from 0.2 to 11 g/m3. Nasal cells experienced a
one-percent oil of E. pauciflora was applied twice dose-dependent decrease in the CBF starting with
daily for three weeks to 50 patients with a skin the smallest concentration of the oils tested.
infection by any of three species of Tinea. After For EO, at 0.2 g/m3 the relative decrease was
two weeks, all patients were KOH-negative and 14.6 percent compared to the control cells. At 7.5 g/
after three weeks, 60 percent of patients com- m3, the relative decrease in CBF was 32.5 percent.
pletely recovered and 40 percent showed improve- This appears to imply that, in the case of vapor
ment; none of the recovered patients had relapsed inhalation of oils for respiratory health, multiple
at two months. A five-percent EO concentration exposures at lower concentration could be more
produced no adverse skin effects during three beneficial than fewer exposures at higher
weeks of application.35 concentration.38
In another CBF study, the ciliated epithelial
Antioxidant Activity of Eucalyptus Oil brushings of the inferior nasal turbinate were
EO can react biologically as an antioxidant. The examined with oils of sesame, soy, peanut, thyme,
free radical scavenging capability of E. tereticornis lavender, eucalyptus, and menthol (all diluted with
oil from fresh or decaying leaves and separate oil Miglyol 840, a neutral, low-viscosity carrier oil).
constituents was studied against superoxide anion Brushings were placed on slides and exposed to test
and hydroxyl radical. Both oils showed strong solutions for 2, 5, 10, and 20 minutes. Most of the
antioxidant ability either comparable or exceeding oils (less for thyme oil and none for Miglyol 840)
the standard antioxidants ascorbic acid and produced an increase in the CBF. The beat fre-
t-butylhydroxytoluene, respectively. Interestingly, quency increased by 20 percent at 10 minutes with
the sum of the major individual constituents of the EO (0.2%) and remained elevated at 20 minutes.
oil did not match the exceptional results of the EO (2%) increased the ciliary beat frequency 11.8
whole oil, suggesting a synergistic effect when in percent at five minutes, with a continual decrease
combination.4 seen at 10 minutes and longer.39

Volume 15, Number 1 Alternative Medicine Review 40

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Review Article

Antispasmodic Effect plant experienced chest tightness, sore throat,

Eucalyptus tereticornis Sm. oil and 1,8-cineole dyspnea, cough, and wheezing. During an inhala-
were evaluated on chemically- and electrically- tion trial the patient was blinded to multiple smells
induced muscle contraction of guinea pig tracheal while determining the trigger. No change was seen
smooth muscle. EO inhibited potassium-induced with exposure to water, ammonia, or pine oil.
smooth muscle contraction at 200-1,000 g/mL, When EO was combined with ammonia, the vocal
with 50-percent contraction inhibition at 248 g/ chords adducted, recreating her symptoms. The
mL. EO (200-400 g/mL) enhanced the contrac- patient, who had a past medical history of allergic
tions when induced by acetylcholine, but caused rhinitis and had three children with asthma, was
relaxation at 800-1,000 g/mL. Cineole inhibited instructed in breathing techniques that stopped
potassium-induced, smooth muscle contraction at the symptoms.46
600-1,000 g/mL with 50-percent contraction Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database
inhibition at 446 g/mL. Cineole significantly states that foods in the United States containing
enhanced the acetylcholine-induced contractions at eucalyptus oil are safe. Ingesting 3.5 mL or more of
all concentrations (10-1,000 g/mL).40 the undiluted oil at one time has been reported to
Cineole applied to guinea pig tracheal smooth be fatal,47 although other reports show ingestion of
muscle resulted in a statistically significant more than 3.5 mL to be non-fatal (see below).
decrease in contraction. Cineole also significantly Topically, the undiluted oil potentially causes
relaxed smooth muscle when combined with neurotoxicity when used for a prolonged period of
ovalbumin stimulation (in previously sensitized time or administered in large amounts over the
animals), but no effect occurred with muscarinic- body.47 An example of toxicity was observed in a
induced contractions, demonstrating the effect is six-year-old female with full body pruritic urticaria,
from the sympathetic branch of the nervous who had received some benefit from application of
system.41 bandages soaked with a mixture of vinegar, olive
Another study demonstrated that 1,8-cineole oil, ethanol, and EO containing 80- to 85-percent
vapor had little to no effect on citric acid-induced cineole. The solution was applied over two days,
cough in guinea pigs. However, the authors noted a culminating in a final one-time application of 50
possible dose-dependent, antitussive effect on the mL of the EO in the form of the solution. The
respiratory tract, but failed to increase the concen- patient developed slurred speech and unsteady gait,
tration to verify. It was noted that different species and lost consciousness within 30 minutes. Upon
of EO might produce better or worse results arousal, the patient had nausea, vomiting, inability
depending on the cumulative effect of their to walk, decreased deep tendon reflexes, hypotonia,
respective constituents.42 Other studies using hypotension, and proteinuria. The patient made a
a- and b-pinene show spasmolytic effects on ileum full recovery after six hours following removal of
preparations.43,44 EO from the skin. The initial body-wide pruritic
urticaria resolved within 48 hours with no further
In Vitro Malignancy Study treatment and no further recurrence.48
Two cancer cell lines MCF7 breast cancer cells The most inclusive review on EO poisoning in
and HEPG2 liver cancer cells were exposed to EO. children (109 children, mean age two years) was
E. torquata oil had a notable cytotoxic effect on conducted retrospectively over a 12-year period.
MCF7 cells and the oil of E. sideroxylon had a mild Various extremes of EO poisoning were reported,
effect; neither had a substantial effect on the with no notable effects occurring when 1.7 mL or
HEPG2 cell line.25 less of pure EO was ingested. Minor poisoning
occurred with doses around 2.0 mL, including
Safety of EO ataxia, vomiting, abdominal pain, and/or miosis.
The safety information on EO is based on oral Moderate poisoning occurred after a mean of 2.5
and topical administration. Although no articles mL, which included a decrease in the level of
were located specifically assessing inhalation consciousness or a Glasgow coma scale of 8-14.
toxicity, there is a reference reporting toxicity Major poisoning occurred with ingestion of at least
when the inhalation solution was ingested by 7.5 mL and included unconsciousness, unrespon-
young children.45 There is one case report of vocal siveness to verbal command, absent eye opening,
cord dysfunction with EO exposure; a 46-year-old abnormal extensor/flexor responses to noxious
female who had daily exposure to a Eucalyptus stimuli, and/or a Glasgow coma scale score of 3-7

41 Alternative Medicine Review Volume 15, Number 1

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amr Review Article

for any duration without hypoventilation. Life- Self-Constructed Pocket Inhaler

threatening poisoning is considered unconscious- A suitable-sized piece of stockinet or loosely
ness with hypoventilation. Caution is to be exerted woven fabric can be rolled on a small wooden
with a vomiting patient, since aspiration of pure skewer and twisted into a two-dram glass vial
EO can cause pneumonitis.49 (Patient Handout 2). The fabric easily accepts 70
For pregnant or lactating women, small oral drops of EO without saturation. Carrying the vial
amounts of EO found as flavoring in food are inhaler in a pocket close to the body furnishes heat
considered safe. Use of EO by pregnant or lactating for satisfactory vaporization. Hold the vial close to
women for medicinal purposes should be avoided or touching the lips or nostrils during inhalation.
because of insufficient toxicity information.47 The amount of vapor intake is regulated by the
A product of encapsulated EO for intestinal distance from the vial and the speed of breathing
release is available and anecdotal reports on its use the closer and slower, the more vapor. Best results
for respiratory problems are highly favorable. A seem to be obtained by alternating mouth and
side effect can be constipation, which might be due nasal inhalation during sessions of 3-5 minutes
to imbalance of gut flora or relaxation of smooth several times daily.
muscle contraction, similar to antispasmodic
effects discussed above. Tea Tree Oil
A discussion of the activity of eucalyptus oil
Inhalation Pharmacokinetics would be incomplete without discussing tea tree oil
Study of the pharmacokinetics of inhaled as the two oils share most of the same terpenoid
1,8-cineole in humans show peak plasma concen- molecules as constituents. The major difference is
tration after 18 minutes. Elimination from blood is the predominance of 1,8-cineole (about 45%) in EO
biphasic, with mean distribution of 6.7 minutes with little or no terpinen-4-ol, compared to
and an elimination half-life of 104.6 minutes.50 No terpinen-4-ol of 30 percent or more in TTO and
studies were found showing the inhaled pharmaco- cineole of 15 percent or less.
kinetics of whole EO. Several studies show the Terpenoid molecules are structured from
pharmacokinetics of skin permeation by EO. multiples of the five-carbon isoprene unit, and
many are interconvertible under in vitro acid
Inhalation Delivery Devices catalysis to equilibrium mixtures. Whether this
Commercial Devices for Vapor Inhalation occurs in animals or humans is an interesting
Devices for vapor inhalation range from those speculation that could account for some curiosities
that enrich the air with vapor to those that allow that arise from examination of research data. There
direct inhalation into the nose or mouth, with a is a report of the balance of TTO constituents
range of accessories. While these devices are not changing in the bottle.51 Under phytochemical
expensive, there are even less expensive self-assem- conditions particular enzymes likely dictate the
bly devices made from commonly available parts. balance of constituents.
Two delivery methods are demonstrated for The medicinal properties of TTO and several of
eucalyptus vapor. The first method is a heated cup its constituents were reviewed in 2006, listing the
with a few drops of eucalyptus oil. The second is a antimicrobial effects on 27 bacterial strains and 24
pocket inhaler that uses body heat to vaporize the fungal strains, along with viral and protozoal data;
oil. anti-inflammatory activity is also elucidated.52
There is evidence that antimicrobial activity of TTO
Self-Assembly of Electrical Inhalation Device may exceed EO in some cases, but little data on
Obtain a cup heater and a mug that is slightly oral use of TTO exists. Its activity is thought due
wider than the heater plate, providing a spacer to chiefly to terpinen-4-ol and a-terpineol; the former
slow heating (Patient Handout 1). After the heater is the major component of TTO, but both are minor
and cup have warmed for about 10 minutes, add components of EO.
three drops of EO to the cup and inhale through Although the 2006 review noted the therapeutic
the mouth and nose for a few minutes. The amount resistance associated with conventional antibiotics
of vapor inhaled can be varied by the distance from did not occur with TTO, two other publications
the cup and the number of drops. Keep eyes closed conclude that TTO habitual use (defined as three
while inhaling and avoid wearing glasses as the oil days) at sub-lethal antibacterial doses does reduce
can affect plastic lenses. efficacy of standard antibiotics against MRSA;

Volume 15, Number 1 Alternative Medicine Review 42

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Review Article

An Inexpensive Inhaler Eucalyptus Oil Vapor

for Respiratory Difficulty
Davis W. Lamson, MS, ND

Required Materials:
Eucalyptus oil
Coffee mug with base larger than heater, so doesnt touch heater
Electric cup heater

Eucalyptus oil is known to have antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral actions. However, it does much
more than that. Research shows eucalyptus oil has smooth-muscle relaxing effects, antioxidant activ-
ity, mucus thinning, immune stimulating, and anti-inflammatory actions. These actions work in unity to
improve respiratory ailments ranging from bronchitis to asthma to sinusitis, etc.

The old-fashioned, but effective, method of administration was to breathe the vapor over a bowl of hot
water containing a few drops of eucalyptus oil, with a towel over the head to make a tent. Be careful
not to burn your face.

More modern equipment is available at your local drug store. There is a personal steam inhaler for
about $40.00. The single-use pads are rather pricey and contain little eucalyptus oil. Applying a few
drops of eucalyptus oil allows reuse of a pad.

A smaller dry device for about $20.00 may be more useful for children as it warms a pad containing
eucalyptus and menthol to provide vapor while sleeping. Oil can be added to the pad as mentioned.

The picture above shows the least expensive electrical method

Obtain cup heater, mug with a base wider than the heater plate, and eucalyptus oil
Warm heater and mug for approximately 8 minutes
Add 2-4 drops of eucalyptus oil to the warmed mug
Close eyes when inhaling and do not wear glasses
Inhale through the mouth and nose for a few minutes
The amount of vapor inhaled can be varied by the distance from the mug

The authors authorize use of this handout, as long as author attribution remains.

43 Alternative Medicine Review Volume 15, Number 1

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amr Review Article

Pocket Inhaler Eucalyptus Oil Vapor

for Respiratory Difficulty
Davis W. Lamson, MS, ND

Required Materials:
Eucalyptus oil
Screw cap glass vial, 2 dram, 17 x 60 mm (about 5/8 x 2.5)
Stockinet or loose fabric to prevent oil spillage

Eucalyptus oil is known to have antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral actions. How-
ever, it does much more than that. Research shows eucalyptus oil has smooth-
muscle relaxing effects, antioxidant activity, mucus thinning, immune stimulating,
and anti-inflammatory actions. These actions work in unity to improve respiratory
ailments ranging from bronchitis to asthma, to sinusitis, to COPD.

Equipment for Inhalation of Vapor

Another information page describes the equipment for vapor inhalation available in
most drug stores. That page also includes a description for the use of an extremely
low-cost electrical device for the vapor by assembly of a cup heater and cup.

The Pocket Inhaler and Use

A suitable-sized piece of stockinet or loosely woven fabric can be rolled on a small
wooden skewer and twisted into the glass vial. In the pictured example, the fabric
easily accepted 70 drops of eucalyptus oil without observable separate liquid.

Carrying the vial inhaler in a pocket close to the body furnishes the heat for satisfac-
tory vaporization. Hold the vial close to the lips or nostrils during inhalation. The
amount of vapor intake is regulated by the distance from the vial and the speed of
breathing, the slower the more vapor. Best results are obtained by alternating mouth
and nasal inhalation during sessions of about 3-5 minutes several times daily.

The authors authorize use of this handout, as long as author attribution remains.

Volume 15, Number 1 Alternative Medicine Review 44

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Review Article

shorter application was not investi- In 2007, elucidation of the mecha- Acknowledgements
gated.53,54 This appears similar to the nism for the strong anti-inflammatory The authors thank Richard and Jileen
action of sub-lethal doses of standard effect of inhaled TTO on the stimulated Russell and the Smiling Dog Foundation
antibiotics. Many other studies on the immune system was obtained in mice. It for a grant supporting this project and
action of TTO on MRSA have been was demonstrated that the hypotha- Thorne Research, Inc. for funding the
published since the TTO review; the lamic-pituitary-adrenal axis mediated Thorne Post-Doctoral Fellowship for
reader is referred to PubMed citations the effect.57 A.E.S., and the Tahoma Clinic
for this information. Foundation for grant administration.
Clinical efficacy studies of TTO have Conclusion
been demonstrated topically for skin, Eucalyptus oil and its major compo- References
intranasal, dental, and one case each for nent 1,8-cineole have a variety of 1. Amrish C, Kumar SP. Transdermal
bacterial vaginosis and percutaneously antimicrobial, immune stimulatory, delivery of ketorolac. Yakugaku Zasshi
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reports of ingested TTO, except for inflammatory cytokines), antioxidant, 2. Cal K, Sopala M. Ex vivo skin absorption
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Pharmacol Sin 2007;28:908-912.

45 Alternative Medicine Review Volume 15, Number 1

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amr Review Article

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Volume 15, Number 1 Alternative Medicine Review 46

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Review Article

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