Eucalyptus Oil Poisoning

Juliet Merschen

Table of Contents

Eucalyptus Oil
Application of the Oil
Poisoning Symptoms


The common Eucalyptus tree has the scientific name Eucalyptus globulus
It has two subspecies, the more well-known being globulus
A common name is the Tasmanian bluegum
The name Eucalyptus means "well-covered"; it describes the bud cap. All eucalypts are evergreen, although some species have deciduous bark. Bluegum is a perennial dicot. [2]
In the United States the plant is located in California and Hawaii [1]
Eucalypts originated between 35 and 50 million years ago, not long after Australia-New Guinea separated from Gondwana. Eucalypts were first introduced from Australia to the rest of the world in 1770 by the botanist Sir Joseph Banks on the Cook expedition. They have been introduced to many parts of the world (particularly California, Morocco, Portugal, Brazil, Isreal, and South Africa for timber, firewood, pulpwood, and beautification. It is also found in New Guinea and Indonesia. Several species have become invasive and are causing major problems for local ecologies as in Hawaii for example. [2]
The wood is usually unsuitable for lumber because of excessive shrinkage, collapse on drying, cracking. Bluegum eucalyptus is highly flammable and should not be planted near homes and other structures. [6]

Eucalyptus Oil

The toxic part of the plant is contained in the oil which known by many names:
  • Eucalyptus globulus oil
  • Terpenes nature
  • Dinkum oil
  • Eucalyptus citriodora oil
  • Oil of eucalyptus[3]
  • Oleum Eucalypti
  • Essencia de Eucalipto
  • Essence of Eucalyptus Rectifiee [4]
  • Acaroidesor yacca resin
  • Eucalyptus absolute
  • Eucalyptus citriodora distillate
  • Eucalyptus concrete
  • Eucalyptus globosus oil haiti
  • Eucalyptus globulus distillate
  • Eucalyptus globulus labille oil

  • CRN #8000-48-4 [5]

Eucalyptus oil is acquired by tesifying the oil distilled from the leaves of numerous species of Eucalyptus.
The dominant active ingredient is cineole, which is an insoluble colorless liquid. Medicinal eucalyptus oil contains 70% W/W or more of cineole. The oil is also composed of pinene and other terpenes; it may also contain small quantities of phellandrene. Contingent on the origin and purity of the oil up to forty one compounds have been identified in eucalyptus oil. [4]

Cineole has the formula C10H18O
  • 1,3,3-trimethyl-2-oxabicyclo[2.2.2.]octane
  • 1,8-Cineole
  • 1,8-epoxy-p-menthane
  • 1,8-oxido-p-menthane
  • Cajeputol
  • Eucalypto
  • limonene oxide

  • CRN# 470-82-6 [5]

According the the two following articles Cineole has been synthesized in the lab. Two different methods of the synthesis are given:
  1. The oxymercuration–demercuration reaction limonene or alpha-terpineol provides 1,8-cineole.
    Lindmark-Henrikssona, M.; Isakssona, D.; VanImagekb, T.; Valterová, I.; Högberga, H.; SjödinCorresponding, K. J. of Biotechnology. 2004, 107:2, 173. " Transformation of Terpenes using a Picea abies Suspension Culture".
  2. When subjected to a Picea abies suspension cell culture (4R)-Limonene was slowly transformed by the suspension culture into limonene-(1,2)-epoxide as the major product and 1,8-cineole as one of the minor products.
    Villeccoa, M. B.; Catalánb, C. A. N.; Joseph-Nathan, P. Tetrahedron. 2003, 59:7, 959. "First total synthesis of heterocurvistone".

Application of the Oil

Eucalyptus oil has a diverse collection of medical and commercial applications. In pharmaceutical preparations it has the ability to produce prespiration, promote secretion or expulsion of mucus from the respiratory tract, can encourage estrus. Eucalyptus oil is typically nonsensitizing, nonirritating, and nonphototoxic to the skin. The oil is used as a flavoring in some cold/cough medicines, boiled sweets, baked goods, beverages, dairy desserts, puddings, and meat products. It is used in liniments, disinfectants, ointments, mouthwashes, and toothpastes. It is used by veterinarians for treating distemper in dogs, influenza in horses, and septicaemia in all animals. The oil has insecticidal, antifungal, and antibacterial activity against Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, and Bacillus subtilis. [6]

Poisoning Symptoms

The general symptom of poisoning from oil overdose is Somnolence (general depressed activity) [3]
Poisoning affects the central nervous system (convulsions, slower reflexes, loss of consciousness, and hypoventilation), the gastrointestinal system (abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea) and the respiratory system (labored respiration, inflamation of lungs, and spasms of the bronchi that makes exhalation difficult and noisy). It is well absorped orally and taken internally, it may be toxic to the kidneys causing Nephritis (inflammation). Often the first symptoms seen are the gastrointestinal effects. Drowsiness may occur within minutes and in some cases a coma may occur within 10 minutes. The affected person may vomit while drowsy or even unconscious. Muscle weakness and ataxia, or inability to coordinate voluntary muscle movements, may occur. Tachycardia, or abnormally rapid heartbeat, and weak irregular pulse has been noted. Both miosis, the reflex contraction of the sphincter muscle of the iris, and mydriasis (pupillary dialtion) can occur (miosis being more common). CNS depression and vomiting have been delayed up to four hours. [6]
The lowest published lethal dose for a man who has taken the oil orally is 375 mg/kg [3]


There is no specific antidote.
Recovery from symptoms is often within 24 hours. The main risk is in the act of inhaling because the principle toxic effects are vomiting and depression of conscious state. Therefore aggressive gastrointestinal decontamination without airway protection may in itself be harmful. Milk should not be given since the oil is lipid soluble. Administration of of activated charcoal or colonic washout solution gastric lavage should only be attempted under general anaesthesia with endotracheal intubation. [4]


[1] USDA, NRCS. 2004. The PLANTS Database, Version 3.5 ( National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.
[2] Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia:Eucalyptus. Retrieved February 20, 2005 from
[3] Centers for Disease Control: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health: The Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances: Eucalyptus Oil. Retrieved February 20, 2005 from
[4] International Programme on Chemical Safety: IPCS INCHEM: Eucalyptus Oil. Retrieved February 20, 2005 from
[5] Chemexper: Retrieved February 20, 2005 from
[6] United States Department of Agriculture: USDA Forest Service: Management Considerations: Species Eucalyptus Globus. Retrieved February 20, 2005 from

citation log

picture: J.S. Peterson @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database