Is It Dangerous To Eat Eucalyptus Leaves?

If you've hopped on the latest wellness trend involving eucalyptus leaves, you may have hung a bundle from your showerhead to let its relaxing aroma sink in and enhance your shower experience. While the leaves are pretty and smell great on their own, there's actually science behind this trend; according to Healthline, the steam from a shower allows you to breathe in eucalyptus oil compounds, which can help with stress, pain, sinusitis, and more. The eucalyptus plant thrives in tropical and subtropical regions, and the humidity of a shower mimicks this environment and draws out the aroma. (via International Journal of Forestry Research).

In fact, eucalyptus oil is used today in a plethora of ways that extend far beyond the shower. It can be used as a mosquito repellent, to reduce pain from arthritis, to calm nerves, and to kill lice, WebMD shares. The oil isn't a new discovery, however, as eucalyptus has been used in traditional Chinese, Ayurvedic, and Aboriginal medicine for centuries and was even an 1800s England cleaning solution (via Mount Sinai). And while eucalyptus leaves are a staple in koalas' diets, you may want to exercise caution before downing them yourself.

Eucalyptus leaves and oil are toxic in large quantities

Eucalyptus may be a plant of many talents, but you may want to think twice before consuming the leaves or oil. While they can be beneficial when applied topically, eating the leaves may do more harm than good. According to WebMD, eucalyptus leaves contain high amounts of eucalyptol, which is toxic, making the plant unsafe for consumption. Regarding the highly concentrated oil, SFGate explains that even small amounts are dangerous, and downing just 3.5 milliliters can be deadly. Additional harmful effects of eucalyptus on the body include seizures, muscle weakness, and vomiting.

For all these reasons, you won't typically see eucalyptus leaves used in cooking, although it has been done in some cases. According to Specialty Produce, fishermen in Portugal use the leaves to flavor grilled fish, and there have been records of eucalyptus in cakes and purées. However, when it does pop up in recipes, only tiny amounts are used, as the recommended dose for eucalyptus oil is less than .05 milliliters. A eucalyptus martini recipe from The Spruce Eats, for example, uses 25 milliliters of a diluted eucalyptus syrup and only adds a leaf on top as a garnish.

The most common way eucalyptus leaves are consumed is by making tea or a tincture, according to Gardening Know How. And while the plant should be safe to consume in these ways, WebMD explains it shouldn't be given to children.