encyclopedia

Camphor

Scientific Names:    

Cinnamomum camphora (L.) Siebold [Fam. Lauraceae]    
     

Forms:    

Volatile oil extract of camphor tree parts; pure camphor or camphor mixtures    

   
Traditional Usage:    

– Analgesic
– Anesthetic
– Antinflammatory
– Antiseptic
– Antinflammatory
– Back Pain
– Bile Stimulant
– Bone and Joint Conditions
– Breathing Disorders
– Bronchial Congestion
– Bronchitis
– Cellular Regeneration
– Central Nervous System Stimulant
– Chest Rub
– Circulation Stimulant
– Coughs
– Digestive Disorders
– Expectorant
– Fatigue
– Flatulence
– Indigestion
– Insecticide
– Insect Repellent
– Moth Repellent
– Muscle Pain
– Nasal Congestion
– Stimulant
– Stomachache
– Vascular Disorders     
    
     
Overview:    

The camphor tree, Cinnamomum camphora (L.) Siebold [Fam. Lauraceae], is an aromatic tree with all parts of it yielding the odor and giving the taste of camphor. Camphor trees are native to the eastern and warmer latitudes of Asia. Crude camphor is principally isolated in Canton and then exported to other parts of the world where it undergoes purification for medicinal use. Camphor is an active ingredient in such familiar over-the-counter remedies as Vicks VapoRub and Mentholatum ointment. Rubbed on the skin, camphor stimulates circulation. Its inhaled vapors reduce bronchial secretions. When taken internally, it combats bronchial spasms, improves breathing, and promotes circulation. Camphor is also used as a remedy for vascular disorders, bronchitis, cough, and bone and joint conditions. In Asia, camphor is also used for acute breathing disorders, indigestion, inflammations and muscle pain. In folk tradition, cakes of camphor were used as a moth-repellent. It was once popular as a remedy for stomachache and bowel complaints, but fell out of favor due to the danger of overdose, which can easily prove fatal. Many pharmaceutical drugs are prepared from camphor including a local anaesthetic and antiseptic called carbolated camphor prepared by dissolving 100 parts of camphor and 36 parts of carbolic acid in 4 parts of alcohol or alternatively as 2 parts camphor and 1 part phenol as liquid. Ten-drop doses of an olive-oil solution have been given in catarrh of the stomach and to disinfect wounds, ulcers, boils, and herpetic skin affections, as well as to relieve the pain of ingrown nails and dental caries. Common cinnamon, Cinnamomum zeylanicum, one of the world's oldest spices, also provides camphor in the root-bark oil. Approximately twenty-four components are found in the volatile oil isolated from all parts of fresh or dried camphor trees, with camphor as the most abundant component.    
     
    
Active Ingredients:    

Purified Camphor contains only the compound, camphor. Cinnamomum camphora volatile oil contains: Camphor as the most abundant component; azulene; bisabolone; alpha-bisabolene; beta-bisabolene; borneol; cadinadiene; cadinene; cinnamonol;  cineole; p-cymene; cymol; citronellic acid; citronellol; cuminalcohol; cresol; cubenol; cuminaldehyde; eugenol; geraniol; kaempferol; linalool; alpha-pinene, and other monoterpenes.    
     
    
Suggested Amount:    

Camphor is most often used externally as a rub or salve. Camphor is also a component of the digestive formula, Swedish Bitters. It is not recommended to take pure camphor internally, except under the supervision of a qualified practitioner.    
     
    
Drug Interactions:    

None Known    
     
    
Contraindications:    

None known for adults, however, camphor salves are contraindication for use on infants. No harmful effects are known during pregnancy, however care must be taken to protect infants from over-exposure to camphor during lactation.    
     
    
Side Effects:    

External application of camphor can cause skin irritation and even lead to poisoning through inhalation. Eczema (a skin inflammation) occasionally appears after application of oily salves containing camphor.    
     
    
References:     
     
Duke JA. 1992a. Handbook of Biologically Active Phytochemicals and their Activities. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, p. 22.
 
Duke JA. 1992b. Handbook of Phytochemical Constituents of GRAS Herbs and Other Economic Plants. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, pp. 164-166.
 
Miyazawa M, Hashimoto Y, Taniguchi Y, Kubota K. 2001. Headspace constituents of the tree remain of Cinnamomum camphora. Nat Prod Lett 2001; 15(1): 63-9.
 
Wijesekera RO. 1978. Historical overview of the cinnamon industry. CRC Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 1978; 10(1): 1-30
 
Zhou X, Li XD, Yuan JZ, Tang ZH, Liu WY. 2000. Toxicity of cinnamomin–a new type II ribosome-inactivating protein to bollworm and mosquito. Insect Biochem Mol Biol. 2000 Mar; 30(3): 259-64.