For thousands of years, indigenous Australians have used the oil from the “gum” or eucalyptus tree as an antiseptic or healing agent. From the very early days of white settlement in 1788, people started to recognise some of the many uses of this aromatic oil.
By the 1850s, methods of distilling the oil by steaming gum leaves had been developed, principally by one Joseph Bosisto, a Melbourne pharmacist (who incidentally was Mayor of Richmond in Melbourne from 1864 to 1866). He first started producing commercial quantities of the oil in 1852, and his product is still produced in Australia. It takes about 5 kgs of gum leaves to produce 50 ml of oil.
Note that the bottle is labelled “POISON”. If you drank a whole bottle of Mr Bosisto’s product, you would certainly need to be hospitalised, and it (the oil, that is) might kill you. However, I gather there have been no reported deaths due to ingestion of eucalyptus oil in the past 50 years.
Due to the incredible generosity of Australians handing out gum tree seeds to people all over the world who wanted them, Australia lost its early almost complete domination of the eucalyptus oil market, and countries including Spain, Portugal and South Africa took over. However, Australian production has been increasing in recent decades. Jobs and growth, as we say.
Eucalyptus oil has a vast range of uses, from antiseptic to food flavouring, from insect repellent to cleaning and deodorising. Need to remove the remains of sticky labels from plastic? Use eucalyptus oil. A spoonful of eucalyptus oil in a foot bath brings relief to sore and aching feet.
“A short spray of Bosisto’s on the pillow at night helps keep my nasal passages clear.”
“What a great snail and slug repellent! I never used snail bait before because of the dangers to children and pets. Now my seedlings are safe and so is the family.”
“At the first sign of a cold, you paint the soles of your feet with eucalyptus oil. Never fails.”
“I have suffered with loss of hair through a nervous condition and have been many years trying everything – even a specialist, only to be told there was nothing anybody could do. The other day somebody told me to use eucalyptus oil which I did. I just couldn’t believe the results. I have hair coming all over my head. “
“Years ago my husband, who lived on a sheep station, also had horses. One horse that had strangles, he treated with eucalyptus in bran in a nose bag and after a time the horse improved. He is sure it was through using the eucalyptus”.
Eucalyptus oil even has a high octane rating and could be used in your car, but the production costs are too high to make this financially feasible.
Stand by for “The Good Oil: Part 2”.