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Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) is an evergreen tree native to Australia but cultivated worldwide. It was first used by the Aborigines in the dry outback—they chewed the roots, which hold a high concentration of water. They also drank eucalyptus tea as a remedy for fever. As this use spread, eucalyptus became known as Australian fever tea.

The highly concentrated oil that's steam-distilled from the leaves of the tree has been used medicinally since at least 1788, when doctors reportedly noted the presence of the oil and began using it to treat chest problems and colic. In the late 1800s, its ability to promote sweating and clear mucus led to eucalyptus oil being prescribed for respiratory conditions including bronchitis, flu, asthma, and coughs. As word about eucalyptus oil spread, it began to be used in other ways, including as a liniment for tired, sore muscles, and to ease the pain of arthritis.