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Eucalyptus-based rubs have been found to warm muscles in athletes.1 This suggests that eucalyptus may help relieve minor muscle soreness when applied topically, though studies are needed to confirm this possibility.
Side effects from the internal use of eucalyptus can include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Eucalyptus oil should not be used by infants and children under the age of two, especially near the face and nose, due to the risk of airway spasm and possible cessation of breathing.2 The oil may aggravate bronchial spasms in people with asthma and should not be taken internally by those with severe liver diseases and inflammatory disorders of the gastrointestinal tract and kidney.3, 4 Whole-body application of eucalyptus oil (double-distilled, containing 80 to 85% cineole oil) resulted in severe nervous system toxicity in a six-year-old girl.5 In a case report, a 4-year-old girl suffered a seizure after application of a eucalyptus oil preparation to the hair and scalp for the treatment of head lice.6 Eucalyptus should not be used in large amounts by people with low blood pressure as it may cause a further drop in blood pressure.7 The safety of eucalyptus oil has not been established in pregnant or nursing women.
Although there are no known reports of drug interactions, the German Commission E monograph suggests that because eucalyptus oil may activate certain enzyme systems in the liver, it may potentially weaken or shorten the action of some medications, including pentobarbital, aminopyrine, and amphetamine.8, 9
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The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2015.