Many common over-the-counter medications — such as decongestants and cough syrups for colds and ibuprofen for headaches — are off-limits during pregnancy.

So for many people, the idea of using something more natural while pregnant — like eucalyptus oil — can be appealing. And this is especially true because pregnancy can have side effects like headaches, hormonal acne, or increased nasal congestion.

Some research has suggested that eucalyptus can help to reduce congestion and inflammation in people with sinusitis. And when used topically with a carrier oil (such as castor or coconut) to safely dilute it before applying to skin, eucalyptus may help to manage acne outbreaks.

For those who prefer homeopathic remedies over medications, essential oils are a popular choice for easing the discomforts of pregnancy. But are essential oils like eucalyptus safe for use while you’re pregnant?

While there aren’t a lot of studies that specifically follow the use of essential oils — and especially eucalyptus — in pregnant people, we do know that when used with the proper precautions, eucalyptus is considered relatively safe during pregnancy. But again, some guidelines should be followed to minimize any potential risk to both you and baby.

Anecdotally, eucalyptus oil has been used during pregnancy for:

  • nasal congestion
  • headaches
  • nausea
  • acne

The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) notes that using eucalyptus oil topically or through a diffuser or steam setting are the best methods, as they pose the least risk for a negative reaction.

For topical use, it needs to be diluted in a safe carrier oil to prevent skin irritation, and you should first do a patch test on your inner arm.

Due to long-standing beliefs that essential oils can be dangerous and can contribute to miscarriages early on, many homeopaths and aromatherapists recommend avoiding the use of essential oils during the first trimester. Without research to ensure it’s safe, it’s best not to use these products until the second trimester.

To be clear, eucalyptus oil is not endorsed for oral use by the medical or natural communities and may be quite dangerous for you and baby if consumed by mouth. In fact, essential oils are never to be consumed orally.

In short, there’s very little direct research focused on the specific use of eucalyptus oil in people who are pregnant or breastfeeding. (There’s limited research for most herbal medicinal use in pregnant individuals.)

But in general, there’s a growing movement in the scientific community to study the impact and effect of complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) in pregnancy. This is partially because in other parts of the world there’s less of a stigma around using herbal medicines to treat common pregnancy ailments like nausea or nasal congestion.

Many experts originally believed that herbal medicinal use in pregnancy was limited to those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds or regions in the world classified as developing.

But other research in both Australia and the United Kingdom showed that people around the world — regardless of socioeconomic background or nationality — often turn to natural remedies for relief when they’re pregnant.

So, hopefully, more research will be done to confirm whether herbal remedies are truly safe, which ones are best, the right methods for use, and which should be completely avoided.

If you’re pregnant and thinking about adding eucalyptus oil to your routine but aren’t sure if it’s safe, talk with your doctor or midwife. They can provide clarity for usage guidelines as well as provide helpful tips.

Nausea, congestion, and pregnancy acne are all frustrating potential side effects as you grow that little human inside of you. If reaching for your standard medicine isn’t an option, eucalyptus oil — when used properly in the second and third trimesters — may provide some relief.

But before you reach for a bottle of natural essential oil, be sure to talk with your physician or midwife to discuss any potential side effects and best practices.