Using eucalyptus oil in a sauna might sound "hippie" or "New Age", but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, in this blog post, I’ll explain that there’s decent evidence demonstrating eucalyptus oil’s health benefits, such as potentially improving relaxation and countering inflammation.
But first, let’s consider some eucalyptus oil basics:
Understanding Eucalyptus Oil 101
There’s no one thing called “eucalyptus” (1; 2; 3). Eucalyptus is made up of hundreds of different species, running from 700 to 900 depending on which source you refer to.
Most of these species are found in Australia. The eucalypts consist of shrubs, trees, and other plants. The name is derived from Greek - “eu” means good and “calyptus” refers to covering or hiding, which happens to the flowering buds.
Not all eucalyptus plants are rich in what is called “1,8-cineol (eucalyptol)” - the most important active ingredient why people use eucalyptus for therapeutic purposes. Eucalyptus plants containing 1,8-cineol have been used throughout the ages to help people feel well, give respiratory relief and decongestion, and potentially counter pain.
That active ingredient is also the basis of eucalyptus essential oil - which is frequently used in aromatherapy. Different ways of applying eucalyptus do exist though, such as rubs that you can put on your chest, the entire plant that can be used to make tea, and other methods. I'll focus most on eucalyptus essential oil in this blog post - because that's easiest to obtain and most frequently used in a sauna.
So let's now explore the eucalyptus oil for sauna use combination:
Eucalyptus Sauna Benefits
In this section, I’ll explore the eucalyptus oil for sauna use benefits and disadvantages. I’ll first consider the benefits of that oil that feels so invigorating and healing.
Let's begin with the basics:
Helps You Relax
There’s quite some support for the common belief that eucalyptus helps you relax (4; 5; 6).
One study showed that a combination of different essential oils, which included eucalyptus oil, did in fact lead to both muscle and mental relaxation.
Another study showed that the combination of peppermint and eucalyptus oil had the same effect. The combination also led to an increase in cognitive performance.
The research here is sparse though, although promising…
Lower Pain And Inflammation
There’s quite some research showing that eucalyptus counters pain - unfortunately, most of that research consists of animal studies (7; 8; 9; 10).
One study did investigate humans though and showed beneficial effects from inhaling eucalyptus (11). The study participants who inhaled eucalyptus not only experienced lower levels of pain but also had lower blood pressure. The control group inhaled almond oil, which did not have the same effect.
In animal studies, eucalyptus oil inhibits different types of pain, such as that of the organs and around the core of the body, pain caused by excess inflammation, and somatic pain. The latter type of pain is localised in the muscles, bones, skin, joints, and other peripheral tissues.
Other studies have also shown that eucalyptus oil has an anti-inflammatory effect. Endurance after eucalyptus use is also increased, as rats who inhale it can swim longer until they’re exhausted.
However, keep in mind that it’s mostly animal studies that are promising though. These results still have to be confirmed in humans.
Again, while mainly animal studies exist in this domain, there are promising results showing eucalyptus has anti-microbial effects (12; 13; 13; 14). These effects concern both bacteria and viruses. Some studies are also carried out in “petri-dishes” in lab settings.
For viruses, benefits exist both for prevention and treatment. Infections by viruses are prevented and viruses' entry into the cell is actively prevented.
Moreover, an effect against (drug-resistant) bacteria is also found in laboratory studies. Limited human research using vapour - also known as inhalation - or oral ingestion, as viable methods of administration.
This research is very promising, as people with respiratory conditions often have problems in this domain. Let’s move on to that specific topic next:
Supports Healthy Airways
Many respiratory conditions, such as asthma, bronchitis, “chronic obstructive pulmonary disease” and pneumonia, are either caused by microbes or they increase your risk of infection (15; 16; 17; 18). Here too, eucalyptus can help open up your airways.
In essence, some studies even claim that the antimicrobial properties are strong enough to rival prescription pharmaceuticals. Of course, always consult your doctor before using eucalyptus for the aforementioned purpose.
Direct effects on the respiratory system also exist. For instance, eucalyptus may reduce coughing and help clear up your nasal passages. Of course, for people who already have problems breathing, opening up the airways is an amazing benefit.
Also, at a normal dose, eucalyptus oil can improve immune function in the respiratory system. At doses that are too high though, counterproductive effects arise. And, I’ll precisely consider that topic next in the following section:
Dangerous Potential Side Effects? Why You Need To Be Careful With Eucalyptus Oil For Sauna Usage
In the natural health and wellness industry, there’s sometimes the belief that more is better. If eating liver once a week is good, then five times a week is better. And if exercising three times a week is good, then twice per day is better.
Well, the same is true for the use of eucalyptus oil (19; 20; 21; 22). In fact, eucalyptus oil can be dangerous when it’s ingested or when you put it on your skin in higher quantities. So even though the compound is natural, you’ll have to respect its ability to alter biological responses in your body.
Side effects occur not only in adults but also in children. When children get access to eucalyptus oil or a vaporiser, they may expose themselves to an excessive dose. And, because a wide array of exposures lead to side effects, if children are exposed then medical assessment is recommended.
Some people are also plain allergic to eucalyptus, making it a suboptimal substance of choice.
Eucalyptus can be equated to prescription medication in some ways. Exposure to the skin alone can lead to slurred speech, impaired motor coordination, muscle weakness and the loss of consciousness, as one case report showed (23).
So what's the solution? Let's explore how to use this compound properly:
Safe Eucalyptus Use In A Sauna
So how should you use eucalyptus oil in sauna, then?
It’s very simple: use a few drops of eucalyptus oil in a small container, place that in a sauna, and enjoy the benefits.
Also, In almost all cases, essential oils, whether eucalyptus or another one, should not be placed directly on the skin, undiluted.
Again, if you’re using the eucalyptus oil in sauna, just use one or a few drops, and the magic will happen. If you use a very high number of drops, side-effects might occur, such as a burning sensation of the mouth or airways, nausea, itching across the body, having a harder time breathing and chest tightness, and swelling.
As always, more is not necessarily better. And with that being said, let's explore an overview:
Conclusion: Unwind Even Better With A Few Magical Drops Of Eucalyptus Oil In A Hot Sauna
The sauna eucalyptus oil combination is extremely promising. Far from being an “alternative health” or “hippie solution”, there’s actually decent emerging scientific backing showing the effects aren’t only restricted to your mind.
Of course, I’d like to see more high-quality research on eucalyptus oil in infrared sauna usage, such as on relaxation, inflammation, and sleep quality benefits. But, so far, there’s certainly something to this therapy.