(Eucalyptus) Red River Gum
Botany and Production
Eucalyptus camaldulensis, River Red Gum, of the Myrtaceae family is a tree originating from Australia, like most of the over 700 species within this genus. In Australia, Eucalyptus species constitute more than three quarters of the vegetation.
Eucalyptus species were first introduced to the rest of the world in 1770, and to the US around 1850. As such, Eucalyptus species are 'young' trees in the history of other continents except Australia.
The species E. camaldulensis was first described in 1832, from a location near the Camalduli monastery in Italy, to where it had been imported. It is a tree, that craves water. It is the only representative of the genus Eucalyptus in Crete where it is naturalised. It probably was originally cultivated as a roadside tree, but has since escaped towards damp areas mainly in the lowlands.
Its English name refers to the brilliant red hard wood it yields. It can become a very tall tree, up to 25 meters here in Crete, and has impressive trunks with a whitish-gray, peeling bark. It has blue-green leaves, the most spectacular flowers and develops small triangular fruits.
We collect the leaves of Eucalyptus camaldulensis along the Tavronitis riverbed in North Western Crete from a large naturalised population during the summer. The leaves are distilled fresh, and distillation has to be carried out for 3-4 hours in order to obtain the complete and balanced oil. The oil has a slightly yellowish colour and a balanced, fresh, profound flowery scent with lemony undertones, quite different from the penetrating, slightly camphorous medicinal top-note odour of commercial Eucalyptus oils.
An important word on quality
Eucalyptus oils are produced in China, Australia, Brazil, Spain and Portugal. Global annual production of Eucalyptus oils is estimated around 4000 tonnes (1992). The bulk of Eucalyptus spp. essential oils are produced for the flavour, fragrance and toiletries industries. Commercial Eucalyptus oils require a 1.8 cineole concentration of around 75-80%, and pharmaceutical industries require a 1.8 cineole content of 70% according to the British Pharmacopoeia. This means, that rectification or/and addition of synthetic 1.8 cineole is often applied to bring the oil up to that standard. Chinese Eucalyptus oils are reportedly often derived from camphor oil fractions in the laboratory, not being a genuine oil at all. Likewise, industry requires conform, standard batches year after year. This leaves Eucalyptus oils one of the most adulterated essential oils on the market. According to a report from the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), most Eucalyptus oils produced have to be rectified to increase 1.8 cineole content before entering the international trade. This is called 'value added processing'...In general, it is extremely rare to encounter a genuine, 100% natural oil of Eucalyptus.
Mostly, the leaves are 'harvested' from trees cultivated and felled for timber, as in Spain, Portugal and China. Collection from wild stands is peculiar to Australia. Recently, however, there has been some effort especially from some distillers in Australia and Tasmania, to produce true, organic Eucalyptus oils.
Eucalyptus camaldulensis, because of its generally low 1.8 cineole content, has largely escaped this adulteration fate, because it is of no interest to the industry at large.
A flowering E. camaldulensis captured a beautiful late March morning near Agia, Western Crete
In our essential oil of Cretan E. camaldulensis leaves, we found a complex composition and identified 76 components. Main compounds are: 1.8 cineole (18.%), limonene (13.8%), a-pinene (8%), b-pinene (5.4%), p-cymene (5.2%), spathulenol (5%), pinocarveol (3.7%), terpinen-4-ol (3.5%), phellandral (3%), aromadendrene (2.2%), a-phellandrene (2.2%), cumin aldehyde (1.7%), allo-aromadendrene (1.5%), myrtenol (1.5%), a-terpinol (1.1%), globulol (1%).
There is no formal safety testing on E. camaldulensis. However, Eucalyptus essential oils generally should NOT be used orally, as there have been several reports of incidental poisoning especially in children. Reports of severe poisonings, involved the ingestion of 4ml- 60ml of Eucalyptus oils with a high 1.8 cineole content (70-90%) by children.
Eucalyptus essential oils are, however, Generally Regarded As Safe (GRAS) at low concentrations as a flavouring and pharmaceutical component in industrial products. For foodstuffs, baked goods, beverages the recommended concentration is 0.002%.
Always use diluted at recommended dosages.
Principle of Action
Antiseptic especially for the respiratory system, antibacterial, anti inflammatory.
Expectorant for the respiratory system, muscle warming, promotes woundhealing. Clears and focuses the mind
The aboriginal people of Australia used the leaves of Eucalyptus species as a tea for fevers, and in poultrices for infected wounds and inflammations. Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory of Australia, used the leaves of E. camaldulensis and E. tetrodonta in washes and liniments for joint and muscle pain, as a mouthwash in cases of toothache and for symptoms of cold and 'flu. These traditional uses are consistent with the wide commercial use of Eucalyptus oils today. The oil is used in mouthwashes gargles and dental preparations, as well as in skin rubs to relieve muscle aches and pains. An ingredient in cough syrups and candies. Used also in household cleaners and room sprays as a general disinfectant, cleaner and deodorizer about the house.
There is a certain paradox regarding the scent of Eucalyptus essential oil..everybody seems to know its scent, it is one of the most commercially vulgarised essential oils..but few have experienced the profound, eternal wise spirit, which these ancient trees from an other continent bring with them and communicate through their true oil. Eucalyptus trees have been around for around 50 million years, can grow over 90 meters tall and become 400 years old. Eucalyptus trees have a special connection with fire, whereas the leaves burn easily because of their essential oil content, the tree itself survives the fire and actually thrives, flourishes on it- the tree regenerates after a fire. The true scent of Eucalyptus has this regenerating, incarnating spirit of survival through fire, of raising like a phoenix from the ashes again and again during its life. Its true scent invites us to view changes as opportunities for renewal, difficulties as a step-stone for growth and development.
The scent of Eucalyptus camaldulensis promotes easier mental concentration and logical thought processes, it somehow has inward turning, purifying and renewing quality. At the same time invigorating and calming, it reconnects us with our breath and frees us from congestion and blockages, both physically and mentally.
Therapeutically, the essential oil of E. camaldulensis can be used in much the same way as other Eucalyptus oils. Interesting is the fact, that even though the oil does contain a lower percentage of 1.8 cineole, the compound acclaimed to be of 'medicinal value', the oil never the less is very efficient for bronchitis, asthma, coughs, colds and 'flu. This is consistent with the finding, that isolated1.8 cineole generally is much less anti bacterially potent, than the whole entire oil of Eucalyptus.
The oil is an excellent disinfectant, expectorant and decongestant for the respiratory system. At the onset of colds and flu one can prepare direct inhalations. Add a drop or two to a bowl of boiling water, cover head and bowl with a towel and inhale a few times daily. Often you can experience immediate relief. These inhalations clear the nasal passages and are useful in cases of sinusitis as well.
The oil is mucolytic and anti inflammatory. Some people experience relieve during asthma attacks, sniffing directly to a bottle of Eucalyptus essential oil, however it seems important that the oil is genuine, a 100% natural essential oil.
An excellent oil to evaporate in the aroma lamp in times of cold epidemics, either alone or in combination with thyme. Our oil is used evaporated in kindergartens here in Crete, and the results are excellent. Much less runny noses and infections among the kids, much less sick-leave among the adults. Additionally, our oil has the fresh but floral, rounded scent which is generally well liked and is as such not associated with a sharp medicinal odour. A drop of Thymus capitatus essential oil added, contributes to the bactericidal activity of the evaporate.
Once a cold has taken hold, one can prepare a chest-rub for adults. Add Eucalyptus camaldulensis essential oil at 2% and Thyme essential oil at 1% to a basic oil such as almond- or oliveoil, rub with fast strong strokes onto chest and upper back, put on a t-shirt and get to bed. For young children, the oil of Myrtus communis, Myrtle, should be used instead.
Eucalyptus camaldulensis, added to a massage oil at 1-2% can help relieve muscular pains and strains, as it has a cooling effect on the skin, but a deeply warming effect on muscles.
Used directly, Eucalyptus is a good antiseptic and disinfectant for small wounds.
Eucalyptus camaldulensis effectively repels insects, and for this purpose may be applied diluted at 1-2% in a body oil to the skin, or used in aroma lamps and sprays. You can add the oil at 3% to water in a spray-flask, shake well before each use, and spray onto curtains, mosquito nets or generally around the house.
The name Eucalyptus comes from the Greek 'eu', meaning good or well, and 'kalypto', I cover. It is said to refer to the membranous cap which protects the developing flowerbuds.
Here in Crete, the trees flowers in early spring, however, one is fortunate to meet such splendidly flowering trees as we had the chance to encounter this year (2009).
It is a truly spectacular sight, so here we share some more impressions with you...
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