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52 The Open Agriculture Journal, 2016, 10, (Suppl 1: M3) 52-57
1874-3315/16 2016 Bentham Open
The Open Agriculture Journal
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Beneficial and Healthy Properties of Eucalyptus Plants: A Great
Maria Gabriella Vecchio1,*, Claudia Loganes2 and Clara Minto3
1ZETA Research Ltd, Trieste, Italy
2Institute for Maternal and Child Health - IRCCS Burlo Garofolo, Trieste, Italy
3Unit of Biostatistics, Epidemiology and Public Health, Department of Cardiac, Thoracic and Vascular Sciences,
University of Padova, Padova, Italy
Received: December 04, 2015 Revised: May 09, 2016 Accepted: May 11, 2016
Abstract: Eucalyptus (Eucapyptus spp.), an evergreen tall tree native to Australia and Tasmania, has been used since ancient times
by the aboriginal population for several purposes. In particular, the species E. globulus is widely used in the pulp industry, as well as
for the production of eucalyptus oil extracted on a commercial scale in many countries as raw materials in perfumery, cosmetics,
food, beverages, aromatherapy and phytotherapy. The 1,8-cineole (eucalyptol), the principal and the most important constituent
extracted from eucalyptus leaves, demonstrated an antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory activities. Despite the fact that the healthy
effects of eucalyptus have been well established by research, further studies are necessary to investigate other prime effects of the
plant and its possible implication in the treatment of a greater number of pathological conditions.
Keywords: Antibacterial, Anti-inflammatory, Antioxidant, Essential oil, Eucalyptol, Eucalyptus globulus labill.
In recent decades, the demand for plant derived products for therapeutic uses has been increased . In many
countries worldwide aromatic herbs are used in primary health care, especially in rural areas , and 80% of the
populations in developing countries use these traditional resources . For this reason, the use of essential oils extracted
from plants for clinical purposes have become an important topic in scientific research and industrial application thanks
to the different biological activities of oils, which exercise antimicrobial , antioxidant  and anti-inflammatory 
activities. In this brief review, the authors will focus the attention on eucalyptus, which is a plant used for several
Eucalyptus (Eucapyptus spp.), is a large genus of the Myrtaceae family, which includes 900 species and subspecies.
This evergreen tall tree is native from Australia and Tasmania and is the second largest genera after acacia . Since the
1850s, it has been successfully introduced into 90 countries worldwide where it is now one of the most important and
widely planted genera . In ancient times the eucalyptus plant was used for several purposes by aboriginal people,
both as medicine and as food. Nowadays, the plant is used in forestry (timber, fuel, paper pulp), environmental planting
(water and wind erosion control), as a source of essential oil (medicinal, perfumery oils), for arts and craft . Among
all the species of Australian Eucalyptus, the E. globulus was widely introduced overseas , becoming largely
cultivated in the subtropical and Mediterranean regions , as well as in Nigeria. E. globulus which has different
vernacular names (eucalyptus in Bengali and in Hindi; blue-gum eucalyptus in English and Karpuramaram in Tamil
), is considerably used in the pulp industry, as well as for the production of eucalyptus oil (henceforth EO),
* Address correspondence to this author at the Zeta Research Ltd,, Via A. Caccia, 8, 34129 Trieste, Italy; Mobile: +39 3938908862; Tel/Fax: +39 040
358980; Email: mariaGVecchio@zetaresearch.com
Beneficial and Healthy Properties of Eucalyptus The Open Agriculture Journal, 2016, Volume 10 53
extracted on commercial scale in many countries and adopted in perfumery, cosmetics, food, beverages, aromatherapy
and phytotherapy .
Eucalyptus plants draw the attention of researchers and environmentalists worldwide because it represents a fast-
growing source of wood as well as a source of oil used for several purposes. The oil is extracted from leaves, fruits,
buds and bark showing antibacterial, antiseptic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer activities [11, 13] and for
this reason used in the treatment of respiratory diseases, common cold, influenza, and sinus congestion [14, 15]. The
aim of this paper is to provide and collect scientific information about eucalyptus plants in order to present the
beneficial and healthy properties and its potential use.
E. globulus is a rich source of phytochemical compounds as flavonoids, alkaloids, tannins and propanoids, extracted
in the leaf, stem and root of the plant . Several researches were conducted with the aim to isolate the
phytoconstituents from the plant’s organs: several volatile constituents as 1,8-cineole (eucalyptol) aromadendrene, α-
gurjunene, globulol, ß-pinene, pipertone, α-,ß-and γ-terpinen-4-ol, and allo-aromadendrene were found both in leaves
and in shoots (eucalyptol is, in particular, the principal and the most important constituent found in eucalyptus, also in
plant’s buds); borneol, caproic acid, citral, eudesmol, fenchone, p-menthane, myrecene, myrtenol, α-terpineol,
verbinone, asparagine, cysteine, glycine, glutamic acid, ornithine and threonine were extracted from fruits , while
forming acid, dextrin and sucrose were extracted from flowers and the honey . Despite the fact that more than 18
compounds were identified in EO, eucalyptol represents the 79.85% of the total chemical composition. The EO also
showed a high content of oxygenated monoterpenes, which change between each Eucalyptus species, with a potential
variation in therapeutic properties . The composition pattern of essential oil is affected by factors such as
geographical location  and seasons , with consequent influence on biological activities . EO is widely used
in many countries like China, India, South Africa, Portugal, Brazil and Tasmania  for perfumery, cosmetics,
aromatherapy, phytotherapy products and for food and beverages preparation .
Antiseptic and Antibacterial Effects
Eucalyptus plant was used traditionally as antiseptic and for the treatment of respiratory tract infections : the
herb is, in fact, very helpful for colds, flu, sore throats and chest infections including bronchitis and pneumonia .
Several studies showed a moderate antimicrobial activity of EO from E. globulus both on Gram-negative (Salmonella
enteritidis, Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa) and Gram-positive bacteria (Staphylococcus aureus,
Enterococcus faecium, Listeria monocytogenes 4b and Listeria monocytogenes EGD-e) and a bacteriostatic activity
against all strains tested (with the exception of Pseudomonas aeruginosa) . This effect on bacteria may be attributed
to the dominant presence of eucalyptol which, in the past, has demonstrated a strong antimicrobial activities against
many important pathogens . To strengthen these results, other researchers showed a significant activity of EO from
different Eucapyptus species against various microorganisms, including human pathogen spoilage bacteria, Candida
albicans , Propionibacterium acnes and Pityrosporum ovale .
These studies supported the potential use of EO (specifically from E. globulus and E. bridgesiana) as natural
preservative for food and pharmaceutical industries, which may be useful as an alternative antimicrobial agent in natural
medicine for the treatment of numerous infectious diseases.
The infection process frequently induces inflammation which determines the release of free radicals from the
phagocytes. Antioxidants are molecules able to scavenge reactive oxygen species or free radicals, protecting cells from
damage and death. At a physiological level, these free radicals play important roles in energy production, synthesis of
some biomolecules, phagocytosis, and cell growth in living systems . An imbalance between free radical generation
and unfavorable antioxidant defenses leads to oxidative stress, resulting in DNA or tissue damage [28, 29]. It is possible
to distinguish among two categories of antioxidants, the natural and the synthetic. Recently, due to the adverse effects
demonstrated by synthetic antioxidants, the interest in finding naturally antioxidant molecules in foods has increased
considerably . A study by Akolade and colleagues was conducted with an aim to determine the antioxidant effects
of EO from E. globulus grown in Nigeria . The antioxidant activity was evaluated by the ability of EO to scavenge
2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) radical in methanol (DPPH assay) and the results showed that, although its
activity resulted lower when compared with ascorbic acid, the EO depending on concentration, exerts radical
54 The Open Agriculture Journal, 2016, Volume 10 Vecchio et al.
scavenging activity. The low antioxidant capacity of the EO may be attributed to the absence of phenolics compounds
(such as thymol and cavacrol) in Nigerian E. globulus leaf .
The major derivative compound from E. globulus are called Globulusin A and Eucaglobulin which demonstrated a
suppressive effect on DPPH free radical development were examined. These molecules, in fact, scavenged DPPH free
radical in a concentration dependent manner, and revealed an inhibitory activity stronger than ascorbic acid .
According to all these assessments, and considering the various experimental methods used, eucalyptus plant is an
important source of antioxidants.
The aromatic constituents of EO are used as analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antipyretic remedies . Juergens
et al., examined the role of eucalyptol as inhibitor of the production and synthesis of tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α),
interleukin-1β (IL-1β), leukotriene B4, and thromboxane B2 in human blood monocytes, suggesting that eucalyptol is a
strong inhibitor of cytokines that might be suitable for long term treatment of airway inflammation in bronchial asthma
and other steroid-sensitive disorders . Moreover, in a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, the anti-inflammatory
activity of eucalyptol was evaluated in patients with severe asthma suggesting the efficacy of this molecule and a new
rational for its use as mucolytic agent in upper and lower airway diseases . These results should help to clarify
functional applications for the future of eucalyptus plant and its EO in anti-inflammatory treatments.
Cytotoxic and Toxic Features
Extracts and components isolated from some Eucalyptus species showed cytotoxic activities. In the two studies
presented in this section, the cytotoxicity of the compounds derived from Eucalyptus was evaluated measuring the
concentration of sample that inhibited 50% of cell growth (IC50). The first research was conducted on Cladocalol, a
formylated triterpene isolated from E. cladocalyx leaves, which showed cytotoxic effect on the myeloid leukemia cell
line HL-60 . The second study was carried out in Brazil and investigated the cytotoxic activity of E. benthamii EO
in vitro. The authors compared the activity of EO with some other terpene compounds (α-pinene, terpinen-4-ol and γ-
terpinene) on different pathogenetic cells lines, such as Jurkat (T leukemia cells), J774A.1 (murine macrophage tumor),
and HeLa (cervical cancer) cells lines. The results demonstrated a cytotoxicity of EO mainly against Jurkat and HeLa
cell lines comparing to the isolated terpenes, showing the potential use of E. benthamii as an alternative herbal source
. These studies demonstrated the cytotoxicity of EO on some cells, showing the importance to study the
characteristics of this plant for its potential use in the treatment of diseases. For what concern the toxicity, the
information in scientific literature related to EO showed the toxic effect of this compound when ingested. Several cases
of ingestion, especially in children, were recorded (the most common effects were burning sensation in mouth and
throat, abdominal pain and vomiting) . A case reported the story of a 3-years old boy who accidentally ingested EO,
causing a central nervous system depression within 30 minutes , while Day et al. conducted a survey to investigate
the unintentional EO poisoning in children with the aim to develop a strategy for the prevention , and Webb and Pitt
reported, in 7 years of study, 41 cases of EO poisoning among children under 14 years .
Other Positive Effects
Besides the collected data on antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, little is known about the influence of EO
extract on the cellular components of the immune system, and in particular on the monocytic/macrophagic system,
which are one of the primary cellular effectors of the immune response against pathogen attacks . The effect of EO
extract on the phagocytic ability of human monocyte derived macrophages (MDMs) was investigated both in vitro and
in vivo, on rat peripheral blood monocytes/granulocytes, after EO oral administration. The results demonstrated that EO
is able to induce activation of MDMs stimulating the phagocytic response, decreasing the release of pro-inflammatory
cytokines, acting as a complement receptor-mediated phagocytosis. Implementation of innate cell-mediated immune
response was also observed in vivo after EO administration, mainly involving the peripheral blood
Eucalyptol showed an important activity also in the therapy of symptomatic chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,
thanks to its efficacy in reducing frequency, severity and duration of inflammatory exacerbation . Like menthol, EO
decongests the upper respiratory tract in case of common cold activating the nasal receptors, and stimulates the
bronchial epithelium, determining an expectorant and mucolytic effect .
The benefits of eucalyptus extract on skin health and integrity were also reported . Several studies described a
Beneficial and Healthy Properties of Eucalyptus The Open Agriculture Journal, 2016, Volume 10 55
close relationship between the levels of ceramides and water-holding functions or between psoriasis or atopic dermatitis
and dry skin [42 - 44]. It is well established that some substances (i.e. lactic acid and nicotinamide) increase ceramide
levels in the stratum cornum [43, 45], and a recent study identified and demonstrates that eucalyptus extract is able to
increase the level of ceramide in human stratum corneum, improving the water holding and barrier functions . The
enhancement of these functions might be the result of the increase of ceramide levels in stratum corneum, keratinocytes
and epidermis, due to an increase of proteins biosynthesis involved in ceramide metabolism. The results of Ishikawa
and co-workers indicate that eucalyptus extract plays an important role in ceramide metabolism and confirm the
possibility to use this plant in therapeutic treatments of skin .
Furthermore, sideroxylonal was extracted from the flowers of E. albens., a new molecule that showed various bio-
property . This compound exhibits inhibitory activity against human plasminogen activator inhibitor type-1 (PAI-1)
which is related to the pathogenesis of arterial and thrombotic diseases. It means that the molecule extracted from
E. albens . should be a novel way to enhance fibrinolysis and to prevent the development of thrombotic diseases [47,
In conclusion, studies conducted on eucalyptus plant demonstrated its biological activities, due to the multitude of
compounds contained in the leafs, stem and roots [49, 50]. In particular, the abundance of bioactive secondary
metabolites, such as terpenoids, tannins, flavonoids, and phloroglucinol derivatives confers both the antiviral and
antibacterial effects  that explain the traditional use of the plant as an antiseptic and in the treatment of respiratory
tract infections. Among the genus Eucalyptus, the species E. globulus is the most widely cultivated in the subtropical
and Mediterranean regions, which reach a therapeutic importance thanks to its phytochemicals compounds. However,
despite the several known healthy effects of eucalyptus plant, further studies are necessary to investigate other prime
effects of the plant and the possible implication in the treatment of other pathological conditions, and in case of plant
toxicity, the diffusion of injuries prevention strategies.
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
The authors confirm that this article content has no conflict of interest.
The work has been partially supported by an unrestricted grant of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the
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