What is Eucalyptus?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Eucalyptus is a genus of plants containing over 500 unique species, primarily native to Australia and Tasmania. The distinctly aromatic trees have adapted to many extremes of the Australian environment, and come in a variety of shapes and sizes, depending on the region that they grow in. Eucalyptus has also been widely imported to other parts of the world, where it poses a substantial threat to native species, as it grows rapidly and often chokes other plants and trees out.

Eucalyptus oil is used in some perfumes.
Eucalyptus oil is used in some perfumes.

In Australia, eucalyptus is also known as "malee," and a specific widespread tree, Eucalyptus globulus, globe eucalyptus, is known as "blue gum." The trees have been used by the Aborigines for centuries for timber, tinder, and medical purposes, and have also been utilized by settlers to the region. In Australia, eucalyptus is an iconic part of the national culture, and appears in Australian art and films as a familiar part of the landscape.

Koalas, which are arboreal marsupials that are native to Australia, live in Eucalyptus trees.
Koalas, which are arboreal marsupials that are native to Australia, live in Eucalyptus trees.

The trees has a useful aromatic oil which can be extracted through steam distillation. The oil is used in perfumes, and also in complementary alternative medicine. The oil has been shown to have antiseptic, antibacterial, anti inflammatory, expectorant, and deodorant properties, and is a common additive in products like muscle rubs and deodorant compounds. Care should be taken when using products which contain eucalyptus oil, as it is flammable and also toxic when eaten.

Like many other members of the myrtle family, eucalyptus is extremely fast growing. It can shoot up to great heights in regions with enough water, or will spread out into dense bushes. The trees prefer moisture, and often cluster around waterways and springs. Many species are also designed to spread through wildfires, which are common in many parts of Australia. The seedpods will burst in a fire and grow quickly in a region stripped of other plants by a wildfire, quickly establishing a large tract of new eucalyptus trees.

Eucalyptus from Australia can be considered sustainable timber, because the trees are native to the region and they regrow quickly. However, eucalyptus harvested in other regions may not be sustainable, because it grows at great cost to native plant and tree species, and can destroy valuable habitat. In Australia, eucalyptus plays a vital environmental role, providing food and habitat to animals like koalas, along with helping to retain valuable topsoil. Eucalyptus can be found in a variety of wood products exported from Australia including flooring, paper, and finished furniture.

Eucalyptus is a genus of plants containing over 500 unique species, primarily native to Australia and Tasmania.
Eucalyptus is a genus of plants containing over 500 unique species, primarily native to Australia and Tasmania.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Buying furniture made out of eucalyptus is a great way to go green while still having beautiful pieces. Since the forests that are grown for this wood reproduce so quickly, you can rest easy knowing you have made a sustainable wood choice.

Eucalyptus wood is quite hard, very much like oak and if treated it can last around 100 years. Most people prefer this wood because it is a cheaper choice than other woods, while still having a nice appearance.

A good thing to remember though is that eucalyptus wood isn't very water resistant, so it is best if used indoors.


You can actually find eucalyptus tea if you head into any health specialty store. This tea is great for sore throats and does wonders for me when I have a cold or the flu. I find it very soothing and while the taste isn't something I would normally go for, it does the job and isn't any worse than most medicine.

One of the best things I think eucalyptus does when in tea form is work as a decongestant. I hate feeling stuffy and find that the tea helps to clear out my lungs and airways so that I can breathe easier when sick.


I use a facial cleansing cream that contains eucalyptus. This cream removes makeup very well. It also soothes sunburn. I think the same soothing properties of eucalyptus that work to open up congestion work to soothe a sunburn.

The eucalyptus in the cream makes my face feel refreshed and moisturized. When I use it in the morning, it wakes me up with its strong scent. It's kind of like a waterless cold shower for my face!


Eucalyptus is available in a salve form. This makes it easy to rub on a congested chest or under congested nostrils.

I have a lot of trouble breathing through my nose at night. I rub a bit of this salve inside of my nostrils, and it really opens my nose up for easier breathing.

When I get a chest cough, I rub this salve on it at night. It seems to help open up my airways. The smell is very powerful, but to me, that smell has come to represent relief, so I don't mind it.


@JaneAir - I don't particularly like the smell of pure eucalyptus oil but I get colds so much in the winter I think I might try it! Anything natural that will clear out my sinuses when I'm sick sounds like a good idea to me.


I love the smell of eucalyptus! I actually started using oil of eucalyptus to clear out my sinuses whenever I have a cold awhile back and it works great. Believe it or not I got the idea from watching an episode of Lost!

There was one episode where one of the castaways was having trouble with her asthma and had used up her inhaler. They rubbed some eucalyptus oil on her chest and it helped her breathe a lot better. I looked it up online and found that eucalyptus really does help with breathing!

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