Refreshingly cool with menthol-like fragrance, camphor holds a very prominent place in most Hindu rituals and ceremonies. However, barring religious significance, owing to their natural therapeutic benefits, for centuries Camphor is used as a traditional remedy to treat a number of ailments ranging from simple cough to serious cardiac problems. These white cubes are also used in many other myriad ways.
Camphor Tree – Description
Native to Eastern Asia, the evergreen Camphor tree grows largely in cold climes, several hundreds of feet above sea level. Reaching almost a height of hundred feet, Camphor tree, known as Cinnamomum camphora in botanical terms, derives its name from ‘kinnamomon’, which indicates ‘spice’ in Greek. The word ‘camphora’ too derives signifies the Greek ‘kamfora’, meaning ‘tree’. A part of the family of Lauraceae, the camphor tree related to the cinnamon tree consists of pointed glossy green leaves bearing clusters of flowers in yellow and white hues with small oval red berries following the flowers.
Camphor – Other Names
- Camphor Tree
- Laurus camphora
- Laurel Camphor
- Gum Camphor
- Camphre Gomme
- Camphre de Laurier
- Camphora Officinarum
- Arbre à Camphre
- Chandra Prabha
A naturally occurring sweet-smelling substance, Camphor belongs to the family of terpenoids, plant substances that comprise of other perfumed fragrances like citral and menthol. Until the 1920s, Camphor was synthesised via camphor laurel. However, during the industrial era, the waxy white transparent crystalline substance, consisting of formula C10H16O, synthesised through the bark of the tree, the leaves go through a distillation process via turpentine oil. The resultant camphor chunks/ oil are then used commercially and otherwise.
Camphor is available as preparations in the forms of liniment, spirit, tincture and emulsion.
Camphor Uses and Benefits
» Topical application of camphor liniment provides relief from congestion.
» Inhaling the vapour of Camphor offers benefits for clearing up the mucous, facilitating normal breathing by eliminating congestion of the lungs, nasal and bronchial tracts. Hence, it is one of the key ingredients in the manufacturing of lozenges, cold rubs and balms.
» Due to the antispasmodic activities camphor and coconut oil, boiled together and applied locally relieves tired worn out muscles, joints, sprains, cramps and spasms.
» Owing to the sedative and stimulating properties of camphor, massaging the body with warm coconut or sesame oil mixed with camphor just before a shower relieves swelling aches and pains produced by arthritis, gout, osteoarthritis and rheumatism, thereby providing a sense of rejuvenation. Topical application of this mixture gives relief from neuralgia, a painful condition caused due to swelling of the ninth cranial nerve because of pressurisation from the adjoining blood capillaries.
» Applied topically camphor imparts a cool icy sensation creating numbness and reducing pain.
» Due to the anti inflammatory substances application of Camphor oil helps ease pimples, acne, boils along with pain and swelling caused by gum infection, neuralgia and rheumatism. In Mexico camphor mixed with olive oil was an effective remedy for neuralgia.
» Camphor is a popular insect and moth repellent. Soaking a piece of cloth in camphor oil and leaving it in the open makes the lingering fragrance drive away insects like fleas, mosquitoes and flies. The oil is also beneficial for repelling germs from the household and for eradicating head lice. Chunks of camphor placed on the cupboards helped repel moths.
» Camphor oil is excellent for skin and eliminates skin itching, rashes and inflammation.
» Camphor makes a wonderful astringent for tightening the pores and remains a time tested remedy for acne and pimples. Camphor keeps skin oil free and gets rid of impurities from the surface providing a fresh glow and improving complexion.
» Superb cleanser camphor tones the skin and helps soothe scars caused by burns along with smoothening rough cracked and coarse heels.
» An excellent remedy for skin disorders camphor ointment/ oil relieves onychomycosis (fungus of the toenails) and symptoms of warts, eczema, hives and psoriasis.
» Massaging camphor boiled with coconut oil helps strengthen the weak roots and promote hair growth. Due to the substances that encourage blood circulation, camphor nourishes the hair follicles and alleviates thinning hair by restoring the gloss and sheen of the strands. Mixed with Egg/yoghurt or other herbal oils camphor provides maximum benefits for hair and keeps them dandruff free. (Also read benefits of egg white for hair)
Veterinary Uses of Camphor
- For drying milk in female dogs
- For removing ticks and fleas
- Treating swollen glands
- Inhalant for dogs in cases of pleurisy, bronchitis and pneumonia
- Camphor is beneficial for treating skin infection in cows and buffaloes
Other Uses of Camphor
» Camphor is used for manufacturing incense.
» The Chinese used camphor for embalming bodies
» The Chinese lacquerwear contained camphor
» The Chinese used camphor in manufacturing pigments and inks.
» The earth religions used camphor to cleanse and purify holy places and homes of negative vibrations.
» In incense form, camphor inspires dreams of prophecy and divination associated with the Chariot card of Tarot.
» The bark of the camphor tree was utilised to make chests
» The ancients used Camphor for funeral rites
» Camphor chunks emit fumes and form a coating that prevents rusting. Therefore, camphor is stored in tool kits.
» Camphor is a substance used in manufacture of fireworks
» According to folklore with their pungent odour camphor helped discouraged reptiles and snakes
» In olden days according to folklore, people wore bags of camphor around their necks to ward off illnesses.
» Most toothpowders/toothpastes and mouthwash contain an element of camphor
» Latin American folk remedy used a liniment consisting of solution of camphor soaked in wine for treating tumours
» In India camphor is used in religious ceremonies and rituals
» In voodoo rituals, camphor is one of the most sacred stuff to offer to the moon goddess on a new moon to thank her for her abundant blessings. Camphor is also offered for love and attraction
Precautions and Warnings
» It is unsafe using products with more than 11% concentrations of camphor
» Do not use undiluted camphor products
» Avoid suing more than one teaspoon of camphor solution in water for inhalation
» Do not apply products containing camphor on broken skin since it gets absorbed rapidly in the body and produces toxicity.
» Avoid heating balms in a microwave oven, as they are likely to cause burns.
» Consuming camphor may lead to dire consequences including mortality. symptoms of camphor toxicity include vomiting, nausea, burning of the throat and mouth, which appears within five minutes to one and a half hours time.
» Camphor is not safe for children. External use may produce side effects given the sensitive nature of their skin. When taken internally camphor can cause seizures or death.