This fragrant plant is so much more than just a pretty addition to your bathroom.

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Those delicate, coin-shaped leaves and their muted blue-green color are the visual factors that make eucalyptus a pretty addition to floral arrangements and a striking stand-alone plant. But it's not just pretty: The fragrant scent fresh eucalyptus gives off has aromatherapeutic properties that make it as beneficial as it is beautiful. This is especially true when you hang a fresh bunch of eucalyptus in your shower, something that's become a trend as of late.

Health Benefits of Eucalyptus

Studies have associated the inhalation of eucalyptus with reduced stress, decreased pain, lowered blood pressure, and relief from respiratory and sinus issues. In fact, a 2014 study showed that inhaling eucalyptus oil before surgery lowered patients' anxiety while a study one year earlier linked the oil with decreased pain, swelling, and inflammation in patients recovering from knee replacement surgery. The fresh, sharp scent also helps clear sinuses and perk up your brain. "Eucalyptus oil itself, through inhalation and aromatherapy, helps to increase the antioxidant capacity and decrease inflammatory reactions within the tissues," says Dr. Devin Miles, N.D. "When you inhale eucalyptus into the respiratory passages, that helps to reduce inflammation and promote drainage of congested sinuses. And if someone is fatigued, they can use this for energy—it helps promote mental clarity, alertness, and it's stimulating. When it comes to hanging fresh eucalyptus in the shower, the plant itself has that oil in it, so it may not be as strong, but with fresh eucalyptus leaves you would still get a really nice effect."

Eucalyptus branches hanging in shower
Credit: Liudmila Chernetska

While you can experience the plant's aromatherapeutic properties from inhaling the scent of the dried leaves or essential oil, the close proximity and added heat and moisture of the shower increase the accessibility of eucalyptus' health benefits. "The steam helps loosen up the eucalyptus oil molecules into the air, making it easier to breathe in," says Dr. Amy Rothenberg, N.D. "Usually five or 10 minutes exposure is plenty, though some people tolerate much longer periods of time."

Sourcing Eucalyptus

Though native to Australia, eucalyptus is now grown all over the world—making it possible to find fresh branches at grocery stores, florists, and online ($15.99, amazon.com). Collect the branches into a bunch using twine or a rubber band, and drape it over your shower head or on a hook inside the shower enclosure. To choose a prime branch, says Dr. Rothenberg, "You want fresh, green sprigs that are aromatic, meaning you can smell the eucalyptus easily. Avoid any moldy leaves and brown darkened leafy matter." A bunch of fresh eucalypti should stay fresh in your shower for two to three weeks—depending on the moisture in the room. Do keep a close eye on it, though. "If you use fresh eucalyptus, you'll want to swap out for a fresh batch when you start to see mold, browning, and when it's lost its appealing aroma," says Dr. Rothenberg.

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