Camphor Oil

Camphor Oil (Cinnamomum camphora)

By Hwaa Irfan

The Camphor Tree is of the same family as the Bay Tree, Lauraceae of the plant kingdom. It is a slow growing tree that can grow to a height of up to 35 meters bearing broadleaved shiny evergreen leaves, which alternate between a dark green and a light green. With wavy edges, and three yellow veins the tree bears pea-sized berries. It is drought tolerant, and grows in the fullness of the sun, or partial shade, but it will not grow in the cold. It is invasive in unnatural climates like Australia, and parts of the U.S., where it is even sometimes described as a “weed-like” in character.  The Tree bears white – yellow flowers, which has alternating sterile and non-sterile stamens.

Camphor oil from the Cinnamomum camphora is known as true camphor, hon-sho, gum camphor, . The word “camphor” comes from the French “camphre”, the camfora of the Middle Ages, which in turn comes from the Arabic “kafur,” which can be found in the following verse from the Qur’an: 

{Surely the righteous shall drink of a cup the admixture of which is camphor…} (Al Insan/Dahr 76: 5)

“Canfora” in Italian, “karpuuram” in Sanskrit, and “zhang shu” in Chinese, “bom zamgle/ kafm” in the Caribbean, “makafuri maita” in Swahili in camphor has been used for hundreds of years for medicinal purposes buy the Chinese, the Egyptians, and the Persians. In Nepal the tree is planted in gardens for purely religious reasons. In the Islamic funerary rites, it is customary to place fresh camphor on the forehead, the palms, the knees and the big toes of the feet of the dead person after the person has been ritually cleansed and dressed in their funerary garb, and it is highly desired to place a touch of fresh camphor on the nose of the dead person.

Camphor was used as a traditional remedy against the plague in Persia and for embalming. In China the oils was found useful in the building of ships as well as temples, because of the durable properties of the wood, and is used in embalming today. The wood is well known for its insecticidal, and antifungal properties, as well as a good wood preservative, hence why natural history cabinets and cabinets of entomologists are made of camphor wood.

Camphor essential oil comes from the woody parts of the Camphor Tree. Camphor oil is extracted through steam distillation with the main producers being China, Egypt, India, Japan, Madagascar and Sri Lanka. It should not be confused with N’gai, Champaca, Formosa or Borneo Camphor Oils, which come from a different family in the plant kingdom, and thus contain differing properties. After distillation and a vacuum process, there are three products, white, yellow, and brown camphor, but only the white oil is used because the yellow and brown oils are highly toxic; hence why it is not unusual to see camphor listed as white oil or White Camphor, which is also used as a solvent in the paint industry, and for the production of celluloid.

Camphor oil is available cheaply because of the adulterated form which is a derivative of turpentine, which in itself can be added to camphor devaluing its therapeutic value. It is also produced synthetically by oxidation of selected constituents camphene or isoborneol. 

Chemical Properties 

Camphor essential oil contains many properties all of which have not been identified, and they include:

  • Linalool
  • Safrole (high in yellow and brown camphor)
  • Cineole
  • A-pinene
  • B-pinene
  • Camphene
  • Sabinene
  • Phellandrene
  • Limonene
  • 1,8-cineole
  • Y-terpinene
  • P-cymeme
  • Furfural
  • Kaemferol
  • Piperitone
  • Geraniol
  • Cinnamaldehyde
  • Methyl cinnamate
  • Eugenol
  • Keto-tetrahydro-cymene
  • Isoborneol

In the research of camphor, which gave no indication of whether this was camphor oil as a whole, or a fraction (white, yellow or brown camphor oil) Dr. Abiya Chelliah of the Research Department of Plant Biology and Technology, St, Xaviers, Tamilnadu, India, the constituent safrole was found to contain to compromise the mucous membrane, prevents new growth of brain cellular tissue, and inhibits neural transmission, bearing in mind that it was once taken internally in Ayurvedic medicine to abate hysteria. It might be a homeopathic case of similar treats similar, the same approach that modern medicine applies with vaccines. However, Chelliah’s research also found it contains good antiviral, anti-inflammatory action, as well as beneficial in the healing of eczema, as an antidepressant, anti=epileptic, anti-asthmatic, effective in the treatment of Inflammatory Bowel disease, thrombosis, pulmonary hypertension, and supports/balances the nervous system.

The constituent cineole was found to be antitoxic, supports the liver, anti-diabetic, a cordial – that is a tonic to the heart, effective against glaucoma, a probable treatment for autoimmune disorders, multiple sclerosis, however it was also found to inhibit the action of phosphate, to compromise cholesterol (not clear whether this is good or bad cholesterol, as good cholesterol is required by the body), nutritive to the nervous system, and effective in the treatment of thrombosis.

Kaempferol is a flavanoid which has strong antioxidant properties.

Therapeutic Properties

The oil has a sharp, but woody penetrating aroma with the cooling effect of menthol. It is easily tolerated by the skin, and subcutaneous tissues, but less tolerated by the mucous membranes. Being very potent it should be used with care. It’s key notes are cool/refreshing, but calming, that can pierce! 

  • Anti-bacterial
  • Anti-fungal
  • Anti phlogistic
  • Anti-rheumatic
  • Antiseptic
  • Anti-viral
  • Analgesic
  • Anthelmintic
  • Carminative
  • Cordial
  • Diaphoretic
  • Diuretic
  • Expectorant
  • Sedative
  • Spasmolytic
  • Sudorific
  • Odontalgic
  • Rubefacient
  • Tonic
  • Vermifuge
  • Vulnerary

For glossary see It All Makes Good Scents 

Camphor essential oil in India has been used in liniments for the treatment of joint and muscular pains, as a balm for chilblains, and skin diseases. It has also been used for bronchial congestion via inhalation/vapour therapy. It has been added to water in regions that experience a rainy season to disinfect the water which is kept in a container. Excessive use can lead to vomiting, palpitations, and serious convulsions which can lead to death.

It is an effective stimulant and diaphoretic for the metabolism, blood circulation, the digestive system, all secretions and excretions. As a pacifier of the nervous system, it is effective when applying a local anesthetic by numbing the sensory nerves. It calms down nervous disorders and convulsions. As a sedative inn cases of neuralagia camphor causes the blood vessels to contract thus reducing pressure in the cranial nerve concerned.

It also happens to be an aphrodisiac when taken internally (erring on the side of caution), but applied externally it helps to cure erectile dysfunction in men by increasing the blood circulation in the affected parts.


Camphor essential oil (i.e. white oil), is very potent, and should be used with care.

  • Arthritis, rheumatism
  • Bronchitis, colds, coughs, flu
  • Burns
  • Depression, nervous tension, shock
  • Fever, infections, inflammations
  • Gout
  • Insect repellent
  • Muscular aches and pains, sprains
  • Oily skin conditions, acne
  • Poor circulation
  • Poor digestion, flatulence
  • Hyper-metabolic rate


Camphor essential oil is best used by those experienced at using this oil.  As a spasmolytic it should be avoided by those who suffer from epilepsy who are on epileptic drugs, and should only be taken in the throes of a fit. Pregnant women should also avoid camphor oil. For those with sensitive skin, the oil can cause irritation, and should not be combined with homeopathic remedies. In large doses it can lead to respiratory failure in children. Camphor oil is potentially narcotic as a result of desensitizing the nerves, and the smell can be addictive. Take too much, and the brain can lose control over the function of the limbs.

The Food and Drugs Administration, U.S., set a limit of 11% of camphor in consumer products, except of white camphor essential oil, which contains minimal amount of camphor. Camphor oil is classed as a convulsant and neurotoxin.


White camphor is effective in vapour therapy for the treatment of colds, flu, and respiratory disorders.

As a liniment in treatment of pains of the joint and muscles, chilblains, skin diseases (not for those with sensitive/thin skin.

A drop added to a bath before adding water disinfects the whole body.


Burfield, T. “The Anatomy of Adulterations.”


Chelliah, A. “Biological Activity Prediction of an Ethno Medicinal Plant Cinnamomum Camphora Through Bio-informatics.”

Felter, H.W. and Lloyd, J.U.  “Camphora.” Kings American Dispensatory 1898

Aromatherapy Series:   

It All Makes Good Scents!

Amber Oil

Angelica Root Oil

Anise Oil

Bath Oil

Basil Oil

Bay Oil

Bergamot Oil

Bitter Almond Oil

Bitter Orange Oil

Black Seed Oil

Calendula Oil


26 thoughts on “Camphor Oil

  1. I’m not really a whole lot of a on-line reader to be honest but your site is really decent, continue to keep writing! I’ll go ahead and take note of the site and visit down the road. Adios for now.

    • Wonderful experience!!!! Your site and blogs are very helpful in providing useful information camphor oil. The use of camphor oil in aromatherapy is very beneficial as aromatherapy is itself a very soothing process.

  2. Pingback: Camphor Essential Oil. 100% Pure. Therapeutic Grade. 1 Oz (30ml) |

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