A kookaburra has recently moved into my hood – which is only 10 minutes from the city of Sydney. He, or she, has been singing every morning, and according to folk tale when the kookaburra sings. it will rain. That crafty Aussie bird hasn’t been wrong yet. What happened to our long, hot summer? Anyway, the cute little song we’ve been singing for almost a century in Australia goes like this:
“Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree,
Merry merry king of the bush is he.
Laugh, Kookaburra, laugh, Kookaburra,
Gay your life must be!”
So the kookaburra sits in a gum tree. A eucalyptus tree. There are many types of euclaypts in Australia and quite a few essential oils are produced from them. Here’s a few I know about:
1. Eucalyptus globulus
This eucalyptus tree – the “blue gum” – is the one most used to produce the essential oil. You are probably going to get Eucalyptus globulus when you buy eucalyptus oil. This oil is sharp, strong, clean and fresh and is the classic, most identifiable eucalyptus scent.This oil has been produced for nearly a century and the main production now comes from China. There are many of these trees in the USA too and other warm climates. The tree is easily able to adapt, and because of this it has been the most planted eucalyptus tree in the world.
2. Eucalyptus radiata
This is also called the “narrow-leaved peppermint gum” and there seem to be quite a few chemotypes (different scents). I buy this as my everyday eucalyptus oil, as it’s a bit milder and sweeter in scent than the globulus. It still has the same amazing qualities of globulus, and in fact all the eucalypts (as with the melaleucas – see my post http://wp.me/p2R7rE-55) share similar properties. I recommend trying this lovely oil next time you need some eucalyptus oil.
3. Eucalyptus polybractea
This is the ‘Blue mallee’ tree. The oil from this tree has a high cineole content (1,8-cineole is one of the particular active ingredients in eucalyptus tree), which gives it a camphorous and pungent scent. Penetrating and sharp, it is less likely to be found when searching for “eucalyptus oil”, but I have bought blue mallee oil from supermarkets here in Australia and it’s inexpensive and gorgeous. I think there is one brand I found in a supermarket that’s also organic. Even looking at these three pictures it’s hard to distinguish the difference in the look of the leaves and flowers.
4. Eucalyptus citriodora
Yep if you guessed lemon scented you’d be right. It has a citronella/lemon scent, a bit like lemon verbena too. It is high in citronellal and that would explain the scent. It is a warm, almost herbaceous lemon scent and has different shaped leaves to the others discussed so far. I don’t really use this oil although I do carry it in my kit. I would probably use a classic eucalyptus with another lemon scented oil if I need that combination.
5. Eucalyptus dives
This eucalyptus tree is also used to distill essential oils, but I don’t really use this one a lot either. In fact I don’t think I even have any. Its common name is “broad-leaved peppermint” (radiata was called narrow-leaved peppermint). It has a couple of chemotypes that produce oils and once again the constituents are particular to its type but include the 1,8-cineole, common to all eucalypts. I can’t describe the scent as I can’t remember the last time I used it or smelled it. It is however used for its high piperitone content which gives it a pepperminty-camphor scent.
6. Eucalyptus piperita
Wikipedia claims this is called “Sydney peppermint” but I’ve never heard that. Can’t say I ever smelled the oil either but this one is also high in piperitone too. I’ve never looked for it for sale but I’m sure someone makes it. The English phyto-chemist H. G. Smith who moved here in the late 1800’s, wrote a paper on the volatile oil of Eucalyptus piperita and also wrote a book with his colleague on the Eucalypts of Australia.
7. Eucalyptus smithii
This is the “gully gum” also found in South Africa where this is the main eucalyptus for oil production. It was named after Mr Smith (from the paragraph above) and is quite high in 1,8-cineole. It has that classic eucalyptus scent and all the qualities you would expect:
decongestant, astringent, analgesic, anti-septic, expectorant and the list goes on. It’s typically used for colds, flu, coughs and many respiratory complaints and is warming and refreshing.
I love Eucalyptus!