Eucalyptus oils in the trade are categorized into three broad types according to their composition and main end-use: medicinal, perfumery and industrial. The most prevalent is the standard cineole-based "oil of eucalyptus", a colourless mobile liquid (yellow with age) with a penetrating, camphoraceous, woody-sweet scent.
Research shows that cineole-based eucalyptus oil (5% of mixture) prevents the separation problem with ethanol and petrolfuel blends. Eucalyptus oil also has a respectable octane rating and can be used as a fuel in its own right. However, production costs are currently too high for the oil to be economically viable as a fuel.
If consumed internally at low dosage as a flavouring component or in pharmaceutical products at the recommended rate, cineole-based 'oil of eucalyptus' is safe for adults. However, systemic toxicity can result from ingestion or topical application at higher than recommended doses.
The probable lethal dose of pure eucalyptus oil for an adult is in the range of 0.05 mL to 0.5 mL/per kg of body weight. Because of their high body surface area to mass ratio, children are more vulnerable to poisons absorbed transdermally. Severe poisoning has occurred in children after ingestion of 4 mL to 5 mL of eucalyptus oil.
French chemist, F.S. Cloez, identified and ascribed the name eucalyptol — also known as cineole — to the dominant portion of E. globulus oil. By the 1870s oil from Eucalyptus globulus, Tasmanian blue gum, was being exported worldwide and eventually dominated world trade, while other higher quality species were also being distilled to a lesser extent. Surgeons were using eucalyptus oil as an antiseptic during surgery by the 1880s.
The Australian eucalyptus oil industry peaked in the 1940s, the main area of production being the central goldfields region of Victoria, particularly Inglewood; then the global establishment of eucalyptus plantations for timber resulted in increased volumes of eucalyptus oil as a plantation by-product. By the 1950s the cost of producing eucalyptus oil in Australia had increased so much that it could not compete against cheaper Spanish and Portuguese oils (closer to European Market therefore less costs). Non-Australian sources now dominate commercial eucalyptus oil supply, although Australia continues to produce high grade oils, mainly from blue mallee (E. polybractea) stands.
Commercial cineole-based eucalyptus oils are produced from several species of Eucalyptus:
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