Renowned for its healing and disinfecting abilities, the ancient eucalyptus tree appears in many modern products. If you’re lucky enough to own one of these fascinating plants, you’ll find several uses for eucalyptus leaves. The botanical is at its most powerful when used in essential oil form. But the eucalyptus leaf’s antibacterial and healing properties exist even when used in fresh, whole-leaf form, or dried for later use.
The University of Maryland Medical Center suggests making teas with eucalyptus leaves during times of sore throat and stuffiness. The university's recommended dosage calls for using 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. of dried leaves per cup of hot water. Steep for 10 minutes before straining, and take the infused tea three times daily. If making the tea from fresh leaves, use 1/2 to 1 tsp. of eucalyptus leaves. Add honey and lemon for additional flavor and healing properties.
Strong infusions of fresh herbs make effective and comforting bath treatments, especially for sick or aching bathers. Use the vapors released from eucalyptus under steam to help ease bronchitis, sinusitis and other respiratory or stuffy issues. Pour a quart of boiling water over two handfuls of fresh leaves and let it steep overnight. Strain and add to the bath after filling with warm water.
Alternatively, put fresh eucalyptus leaves at the bottom of a sink or freestanding basin. Fill the basin with hot or boiling water. Bend over the basin with a towel covering your head and the basin, and inhale the steam for several minutes.
A eucalyptus-infused carrier oil can help with several ailments, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. "On the skin, eucalyptus oil has been used to treat arthritis, boils, sores and wounds. The oil can also be rubbed on the skin as an insect repellent," the medical center notes.
To make a soothing oil for aching joints or irritated skin, fill a glass jar with eucalyptus leaves and pour olive, sweet almond, sesame or jojoba oil to the top of the jar. Set the mixture on a sunny windowsill for at least two weeks. Strain the leaves and bottle the oil, which should carry the strongly camphor-medicinal smell of the eucalyptus. For even stronger oils, add fresh leaves to the strained oil and steep it for an additional two weeks, then strain and bottle.
Create your own Vicks-type chest rub by combining the infused eucalyptus leaf oil with equal parts beeswax. Gently melt grated beeswax in a small saucepan, stir in the eucalyptus oil, and pour the mixture into shallow, wide-mouthed glass jars. To thicken the ointment, add more beeswax, or create a looser salve by using more oil than beeswax.
Dry fresh eucalyptus leaves by hanging branches upside down in a dark, draft-free place, or by placing them in a dehydrator until they become dry and crumbly. Menthol-scented potpourri adds a cooling quality to sticky summer days, and—depending on the herbs used—also contains pest-repelling qualities. Moths, fleas and mosquitoes may be deterred in rooms scented with a pungent mixture of eucalyptus, catnip, pennyroyal, peppermint, spearmint and spearmint leaves, to which wintergreen berries and the essential oils of eucalyptus and pennyroyal are added. Potpourri crafter Louise Gruenberg adds a citrus tang to her menthol-based potpourri by adding citrus peels and essential oils of tangerine and orange.