Eucalyptol

November 21, 2016
I’m present at your Thanksgiving meal.
What molecule am I?

Eucalyptol, also frequently called 1,8-cineol, is the primary constituent of oil produced by Eucalyptus spp. It is also found in tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) oil, Artemisia spp. (e.g., wormwood and sagebrush), and even Cannabis sativa.

French chemist François Stanislas Cloez isolated eucalyptol from Eucalyptus globulus in 1870. Another Eucalyptusspecies, E. cloeziana, was named in his honor.

Because it’s Thanksgiving week, you might have guessed that eucalyptol has something to do with the holiday. If so, you’d be right. In addition to the species mentioned above, eucalyptol is an ingredient in many spices used to prepare the turkey day meal: bay leaf, cardamom, rosemary, and sage, to name a few. It is a contributor to the wonderful aroma of holiday cooking.

Eucalyptol is also used as a flavor ingredient in oral hygiene products and cough suppressants. It is safe to ingest in small quantities, but it is toxic in larger doses. In 1981, M. Verma and C. E. Meloan found that eucalyptol in bay leaves is an effective cockroach repellent.

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