Eucalyptus is one of the most popular essential oils used in aromatherapy diffusers to enhance relaxation. Its pungent aromas are also used in inhalers, massage balms, cleaning oils and fabric fresheners to treat asthma, soothe muscles, and clean and disinfect household surfaces and clothing.
Anyone who’s ever smelled eucalyptus has a definite feeling about its aroma. Some find it relaxing, refreshing or stimulating. Others think it smells like every icky concoction their mother rubbed onto them when they had a cold.
To a lesser degree, that sums up the feelings of people who’ve tried eucalyptus honey. Some absolutely love its relatively-strong taste and pungent aroma. Others think it smells and tastes nasty.
There can be no doubt, though, that eucalyptus honey’s bold taste adds a unique flavor to foods when used for cooking or served directly from the jar – and is a particularly useful honey when it comes to health benefits.
Here’s a deeper dig on the subject.
Eucalyptus Honey: One of Australia’s Gifts to the World
Eucalyptus trees are native to Australia and can be seen all over the continent, mostly along the Australian coast where Koala bears feed on their leaves. But throughout the glory days of the British Empire this large evergreen was also introduced to India, several Mediterranean European nations, South Africa and a few South American countries because of its beauty and its usefulness in the production of paper. As you might guess, eucalyptus trees flourish best in coastal areas.
Eucalyptus is a type of myrtle and there are more than 700 different species in the eucalyptus genus, many of which produce enough nectar for honey bees to produce appreciable amounts of honey. It’s generally agreed that the best honey is made from the nectar of the eucalyptus globulus tree.
Some eucalyptus honey is produced by beekeepers in Portugal, Spain and Italy, but it’s not an overly popular varietal in Europe. Most of this honey is produced in Australia (and a little is produced by Californian, South African, Israeli and Brazilian beekeepers), and it is primarily consumed in Australia, New Zealand and America.
Those who favor light, sweet varieties like acacia or orange blossom honey may find eucalyptus honey too strong for their taste. In fact, the difference between those varietals and eucalyptus is usually obvious as soon as you compare the jars; eucalyptus honey is normally dark brownish-orange or dark amber rather than a light amber color, and normally dull rather than translucent.
As soon as the jar is opened, the aroma makes it evident that eucalyptus is a stronger and more distinctive honey. The scent is pungent and long-lasting, and reminiscent of the forest with a hint of mint or menthol.
Now, for the taste that some love and some hate. Eucalyptus honey is medium-sweet with a rather strong earthy flavor, with undertones of menthol and caramel (some identify the latter taste more as butterscotch). Somewhat surprisingly, there is no bitterness and only a slight woody and medicinal aftertaste. Eucalyptus honey has a high fructose content, so it crystallizes fairly quickly.
The taste, as well as the appearance and aroma of the honey, will vary depending on the source of the nectar and the location where it was gathered, as well as the climate conditions the year the honey was produced. Eucalyptus is usually a mono-floral honey (all of the nectar comes from the same species of plant), but the qualities of the honey can obviously differ if honeybees mix in nectar from other blooms. Generally speaking, however, this is a unique, dark, bold and aromatic varietal.
Unlike most honey varieties, eucalyptus honey contributes more than just sweetness when used in the kitchen. It can be added as a sweetener for tea, of course, but it will add its own rich flavor instead of simply replacing sugar. Similarly, eucalyptus can be drizzled over a wide range of foods, but will change the overall nature of their flavor; good choices to match with this honey are grilled fruit and blue cheese, and it will add a notable tang to salad dressings and marinades. Eucalyptus honey can also be used in cooking or baking, but its distinctive flavor may alter the taste you expect from the finished product. One final suggestion: it’s a great honey for brewing mead.
Eucalyptus Honey: Nutritional and Health Benefits
Before we check out the benefits of eucalyptus honey, it’s important to reinforce the best advice for buying any honey: processed, supermarket honey is never as good as raw honey. In fact, the stuff you find in most grocery stores is virtually useless in terms of nutrition and health. That’s because the ingredients responsible for honey’s benefits, bee pollen and propolis (bee glue), are eliminated when honey goes through pasteurization and ultra-filtration so it will look smoother on the shelf and last longer before crystallizing.
Raw eucalyptus honey contains much more vitamin C and vitamin B9 than other mono-floral honeys; that’s its primary nutritional benefit, since it’s quite low in essential vitamins and minerals. A single tablespoon contains 17 grams of carbohydrates from sugar and 60 calories, making it a food which should be eaten in moderation and not for its nutritional benefits.
Health benefits, though, are a different story. Most honey has natural antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antifungal and antiseptic properties. But the eucalyptol compound that gives eucalyptus honey (and other products derived from the eucalyptus plant, like essential oil and royal jelly) its trademark aroma and taste is a potent anti-inflammatory on its own – adding to the medicinal power of this honey.
Eucalyptus honey is often used with great effectiveness to treat coughs and colds as well as upper respiratory infections; some studies have shown it to be more effective than cough syrups for sore throats, the menthol-like properties of eucalyptus makes it an excellent decongestant, and it has strong expectorant power to clear mucus. Some believe that eucalyptus honey may eventually be proven as a first-line treatment for more serious respiratory diseases.
As with many honeys, eucalyptus honey produces good results when applied topically for treating and healing wounds, including cuts and burns, thanks to its antiseptic and antibacterial action. It has also been shown to act as a vasodilator helpful in treating heart diseases, and it can help ease diarrhea.
The bottom line: even if you’re one of the people who hates the smell and/or taste of eucalyptus, it’s still a good honey to have in your bathroom or kitchen cabinet for when you don’t feel well.