Eucalyptus Oil Relieves Sinusitis
A major ingredient of eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) oil relieves inflammation of the sinuses (sinusitis), according to a study published in Laryngoscope (2004:114:738–42).
Sinusitis is a common upper respiratory condition marked by swelling and overproduction of mucus in one or more sinuses. Typical symptoms of sinusitis include nasal stuffiness and pressure and pain in the head, especially with motion or when bending forward. Sinusitis can be caused by allergy, or bacterial or viral infection. Treatment typically includes antihistamines, decongestants, and antibiotics. Though frequently prescribed, antibiotics are not effective against viral sinusitis.
Eucalyptus has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and decongesting properties, and has been used traditionally to treat asthma, nasal congestion, runny nose, cough, sore throat, and sinusitis. The oil from eucalyptus is antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral, and has been used topically to treat skin and dental infections, and to prevent cavities. Medicinal herbs containing what are known as “volatile” oils have strong and distinctive aromas; these herbs and their oils are generally antiseptic, relaxing to muscles and nerves, and decongesting. Cineole, also known as eucalyptol, is the major component of the volatile oil extracted from eucalyptus. One previous controlled trial found that cineole effectively reduced inflammation and mucus production in people with severe asthma.
The current study randomly assigned 152 people with acute non-bacterial sinusitis to receive either capsules of cineole taken by mouth (200 mg three times per day) or placebo for seven days. The severity of symptoms such as headache and nasal blockage, and the amount and quality of nasal mucus, were assessed at the beginning of the study and after four and seven days of treatment. Ultrasound evaluation of the sinuses was also performed at the beginning and end of the study. People receiving cineole showed significantly greater improvement in symptoms than those in the placebo group on both the four- and seven-day evaluations. At the end of the study, 92% of those treated with cineole had experienced improvement in more than half of their sinusitis symptoms; by contrast, only 45% of those receiving placebo had improved in more than half of the symptoms. Furthermore, ultrasound exams showed no swelling or fluid in the sinuses of 95% of the cineole group at the end of the study, compared with only 51% of the placebo group.
The results of this study show that cineole can relieve the symptoms of acute non-bacterial sinusitis more effectively than placebo. The use of cineole to treat sinusitis might reduce the need for antibiotics, thereby helping to prevent antibiotic-related side effects and the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Because cineole, like other volatile oil components, can be irritating to the stomach lining, people with a history of gastritis or peptic ulcer disease should use it with caution.
Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, VT, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.
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