STORY UPDATED: check for updates below.
Does eucalyptus oil help cure hallucinations or take away symptoms of autism? No, that's not true: Eucalyptus oil does have destressing properties, according to a psychiatry professor, but there are no credible scientific publications proving eucalyptus oil can cure psychosis or autism. The FDA advises that consumers should not use an essential oil to treat serious diseases or conditions and to consult a health care provider.
The claim appeared in a Facebook post (archived here) where it was published on January 29, 2022. The video opened:
This boy is trapped with an alien in his body. Constantly fighting the alien to get it out of himself...
This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:
(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Mon Feb 7 15:32:40 2022 UTC)
Narrative text that appears on screen throughout the almost six-minute video describes a little boy who has hallucinations about an alien living inside his body. The text story declares the hallucinations disappeared as soon as the boy started drinking an herbal tea that contained eucalyptus oil. Another little boy is mentioned briefly at the end of the video for purportedly having no continuing signs of autism after drinking the same herbal tea.
A "Dr. Marc Huber" is mentioned in the video as a "world-leading neurologist" and as the person who prescribed the herbal tea as a cure. The video did not mention where "Dr. Marc Huber" works, and a Google search did not show any results for a neurologist named Dr. Marc Huber.
Lead Stories reached out to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about the claim that eucalyptus oil could cure hallucinations or relieve symptoms of autism. They responded to us in a February 3, 2022, email:
In general, consumers should be cautious of products marketed and sold online claiming to diagnose, cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent any disease. Products claiming to diagnose, cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent disease, but are not proven safe and effective for those purposes not only defraud consumers of money, they can lead to delays in getting proper diagnosis and treatment of a potentially serious condition. They can also place people at risk for serious injury. The FDA advises consumers and parents not to use essential oils to treat or prevent any serious disease or condition and to consult their health care provider for appropriate treatment.
Dr. Helen Lavretsky also spoke to Lead Stories about the claim in emails over the dates of February 4, 2022, to February 7, 2022. Dr. Lavretsky is a professor of geriatric psychiatry at UCLA. Her response:
I am not familiar with any studies to the effects of eucalyptus essential oil on mental health, especially autism or hallucinations ... Eucalyptus has been used for mildly calming and energizing effects, effects on breathing and lungs and overall health. Nobody credible claims cure for anything especially psychosis and autism to my knowledge.
According to an essential oils health warning from the Department of Health from Western Australia, as little as 2 millimeters of an essential oil can cause significant issues for an infant. Symptoms of toxicology include, but are not limited to; seizures, skin irritation, and vomiting.
Stuart Heard, PharmD, a clinical professor of clinical pharmacy at the University of California, San Francisco, discussed the potential dangers of eucalyptus oil in a February 7, 2022, email:
The California Poison Control System does not recommend ingesting eucalyptus oil. Amounts as little as 1ml have caused toxic symptoms in children, and as little as 15ml in adults have led to significant toxicity and hospitalization.
The toxic dose range for eucalyptus oil is all over the map. The important point to convey is that toxicities (and fatalities) have been reported with ingestions, and it is not a one size fits all scenario/it depends on the situation. So, it is best to call the poison center (1-800-222-1222) if there is an exposure. Common effects include nausea and vomiting that can lead to aspiration of the oil into the lungs and cause pneumonia. Eucalyptol, the monoterpenoid found in eucalyptus oil can also affect the autonomic nervous system resulting in seizures and coma.
2022-02-08T01:45:16Z 2022-02-08T01:45:16ZAdds statement from University of California, San Francisco professor.