Camphor, from the tree cinnamonum camphora, has a white wax-like appearance. It is available in the form of blocks, tablets, oil, and powder. While Western medicine hasn’t yet researched the benefits of camphor significantly, Chinese and Indians have been using camphor for centuries, chiefly for religious purposes but also as a remedy to treat ailments. Even in Europe, camphor was used as a fumigant during the outbreak of plague in the 14th century.1 In ayurveda, the fumes of camphor are considered to be healing for the human mind and body – which is why several religious rituals begin with burning it. Camphor is also a common ingredient in several ayurvedic medicines and remedies, including those that treat coughs, colds, vomiting, diarrhea, eczema, gastritis, and even poor libido. There are also medicines that use camphor to treat speech problems and psychiatric conditions.2 Here are 12 benefits of camphor that make it a necessary addition to your medicine box.
1. Reduces Oxidative Stress
The essential oil derived from the leaves of the camphor tree is shown to have antioxidant properties. Free radicals produced during the normal functioning of the body can cause oxidative damage or oxidative stress. This results in a variety of conditions ranging from cancer and cardiovascular disease to degenerative disorders and aging. The antioxidants in camphor can protect your body from the damage caused by these free radicals and keep diseases at bay.3
2. Prevents Cell Mutation And Fights Cancer
In low doses, camphor acts as an antigenotoxic substance – a substance that fights chemical agents that change the genetic structure of your cells. Camphor may prevent cancer by repairing your DNA and fighting the genetic mutation caused by these toxic chemical agents (or genotoxic substances). However, camphor shows no antigenotoxic effects in higher doses.4
3. Soothes Itchy Skin Like In Eczema
If your skin is itching and you can’t help but scratch, reach out for camphor essential oil. Camphor is known to provide relief for an itchy irritated skin.5 It gets absorbed by the pores and gives your skin a cooling sensation. Camphor can be used by patients of eczema as well, but only after a doctor has been consulted.
How to use it
- Mix a cup of coconut oil and a teaspoon of crushed camphor. You could apply this mixture on the itchy area 1–2 times a day. Coconut oil is a great source of relief for a stubborn itch and camphor can provide a cooling sensation.6
4. Clears Acne
Camphor can tighten your pores and revitalize your skin. Camphor also helps get rid of bacteria buildup (a cause for acne) and prevents infection.7 8 One study pointed out that camphor is especially beneficial to people with oily skin, making it useful for acne treatment.9
How to use it
- Make a mix of tea tree oil and camphor essential oil. Take a cotton bud and dip it in the diluted camphor oil. Apply this to the affected skin. Tea tree oil is another known method to reduce acne.10
Did you know that the Egyptians used camphor in their mummification process, owing to its antimicrobial property?11
- Another option is to gently rub camphor lotion on the affected area and sleep on it. Wash it off in the morning with a mild soap and lukewarm water.12
- Spirits of camphor can be used for spot treatment. All you need to do is dab a little on the pimple. It should dry off quickly.13
5. Treats Burns And Wounds
Camphor can help heal minor burns. By stimulating the nerve endings, it produces a cooling sensation. This relieves the pain and irritation from burns or wounds. A regular application can also lighten scars.14
How to use it
- Mix two cubes of camphor in a cup of coconut oil. Apply the mixture on the affected area. Continue applying it till you see a difference.
- For an even quicker remedy, dilute camphor with water. Rub it on your skin once a day.
6. Nourishes Hair
Several sources claim camphor can help solve hair loss, treat dandruff, and strengthen your hair. A few experts claim that massaging your scalp with a mixture of camphor and coconut oil can help stimulate healthy hair growth. While there’s evidence of traditional use of camphor for hair, we don’t yet know exactly how it works. Anecdotal evidence suggests that it can even kill lice, soothe itchy scalp, and remove dandruff.
Avoid using cooling substances like camphor on your scalp when you already have a head cold.
How to use
- Mix some powdered camphor in coconut oil or olive oil.
- Massage it on your scalp and let sit for 20 minutes.
- Wash off with a mild herbal shampoo.
7. Reduces Pain
If you are experiencing pain around your joints and muscles, camphor might be a ready option. One study reveals that camphor oil initially produces a cooling sensation and then creates a warming sensation, resulting in desensitization of sensory nerves, which relieves pain, especially of the joints.15 16 This is why it can be considered an alternative pain relief medicine for patients of osteoarthritis. However, camphor cannot cure osteoarthritis.
How to use it
- For cramps, you would need to heat sesame oil and then mix it with crushed camphor. Massage the ointment on your joints.17
8. Cures Coughs And Colds
A stuffy nose? A stubborn cough? You might want to consider using camphor. One of the most popular benefits of camphor is its potential to clear a congested chest and nose. In fact, certain medicated chest and throat rubs for cough and cold also have camphor as an ingredient.18 19 This is because camphor oil has active compounds that can unclog a congested respiratory tract.
How to use it
- Mix equal parts of sweet oil and camphor essential oil and rub it gently on the chest.20
9. Treats Toenail Fungus
Popular anecdotal evidence reveals that people get rid of their toenail fungus just by applying a cough and cold chest rub on their toes. Why does this happen? Possibly because camphor is an active ingredient. Its antibiotic property helps destroy the fungus and lets your toe breathe freely again.21
10. Fights Anxiety
Add a few drops of camphor essential oil in your bath water to relax and calm your nerves.
Traditionally used in aromatherapy, camphor is known for its therapeutic properties that fight anxiety and reduce stress. Lavender oil, one of the most popularly used essential oils, contains high amounts of camphor. Reports suggest that lavender oil helps reduce neurological disorders, apart from stabilizing your mood and acting as a sedative. The only time camphor should not be used in aromatherapy is during pregnancy or if you’re affected by epilepsy.22 23 24
11. Improves Circulation
Camphor, when applied on the skin, increases blood circulation and eliminates the risk of disorders caused by improper blood flow. A study revealed that the application of petroleum jelly, which contained up to 20% camphor, on the skin improved circulation. However, it’s important to note that camphor or camphor oil should not be directly applied to the skin.25 Mix it with coconut oil or any other carrier oil.
12. Aids Digestion
Ayurveda holds that edible camphor stimulates the secretion of saliva, making sure that food is effectively broken down during chewing. It also aids in peristalsis, the process by which food is pushed down along the digestive tract. The ingestion of camphor also improves the function of digestive juices, which reduce the proteins, carbs, and fat present in food into components that can be easily absorbed by the body.26
13. Helps With Pregnancy Cramps
While it is unsafe to ingest camphor if you’re pregnant, its topical application can actually help you through pregnancy. Warm camphor oil can be applied on the stomach and the abdominal region to reduce the intensity of cramps.27
14. Repels Insects
Camphor is inflammable; so store it in a cool, dry place away from heat or a source of fire.
Mosquitoes bugging you? Burn a camphor tablet in a corner of your room. Studies have proven camphor acts as a natural mosquito repellent.28 It has also been used traditionally to get rid of moths. Camphor crystals are popularly kept in cupboards to repel cockroaches and other tiny insects.
A Note Of Caution
- Camphor oil is very strong to apply directly on the skin. It could cause skin irritation. You need to mix camphor oil with a carrier oil.
- Children shouldn’t use camphor orally or topically. It is highly toxic to them and may result in seizures.29
- For topical application, a camphor concentration of 3–11% is the approved dosage from the FDA. Using camphor beyond the recommended dosage is also toxic. It could act as a skin irritant. Always mix it with coconut oil, olive oil, or any other carrier oil.
- The ideal dosage for the oral consumption of camphor is 125–375 mg a day. But before you start taking camphor as a medicine, consult an ayurvedic practitioner.
|↑1, ↑4||Chen, Weiyang, Ilze Vermaak, and Alvaro Viljoen. “Camphor—a fumigant during the black death and a coveted fragrant wood in ancient Egypt and Babylon—a review.” Molecules 18, no. 5 (2013): 5434-5454.|
|↑2||Hebbar, J.V. Living Easy With Ayurveda. Partridge Publishing, 2015.|
|↑3||Hsu, Fu-Lan, Wen-Hsuan Li, Chan-Wei Yu, Yi-Chen Hsieh, Ying-Fei Yang, Jui-Tung Liu, Justin Shih et al. “In vivo antioxidant activities of essential oils and their constituents from leaves of the Taiwanese Cinnamomum osmophloeum.” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 60, no. 12 (2012): 3092-3097.|
|↑5||Staubach, Petra, and Martin Metz. “Magistral formulations and pruritus therapy–What is established, what is confirmed, what is new?.” JDDG: Journal der Deutschen Dermatologischen Gesellschaft 11, no. 11 (2013): 1049-1055.|
|↑6||Agero, Anna Liza, and V. Verallo‐Rowell. “P15 A randomized double‐blind controlled trial comparing extra‐virgin coconut oil with mineral oil as a moisturizer for mild to moderate xerosis.” Contact Dermatitis 50, no. 3 (2004): 183-183.|
|↑7||Soković, Marina, Jasmina Glamočlija, Petar D. Marin, Dejan Brkić, and Leo JLD van Griensven. “Antibacterial effects of the essential oils of commonly consumed medicinal herbs using an in vitro model.” Molecules 15, no. 11 (2010): 7532-7546|
|↑8||Camphor: Compound Summary for CID 2537. National Center for Biotechnology Information.|
|↑9||Sellar, W., 1992. The Directory of Essential Oils. Daniel, New York, ISBN-13: 9780852072394|
|↑10||Enshaieh, Shahla, Abolfazl Jooya, Amir Hossein Siadat, and Fariba Iraji. “The efficacy of 5% topical tea tree oil gel in mild to moderate acne vulgaris: a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study.” <i>Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology, and Leprology</i> 73, no. 1 (2007): 22.|
|↑11||Wisseman, Sarah. “Preserved for the afterlife.” Nature 413, no. 6858 (2001): 783-784.|
|↑12||S. R. Vas, Luis. The Joy of Natural Living. Pustak Mahal, 2001|
|↑13||Mars, Brigitte, and Chrystle Fiedler. The Country Almanac of Home Remedies: Time-Tested & Almost Forgotten Wisdom for Treating Hundreds of Common Ailments, Aches & Pains Quickly and Naturally. Fair Winds Press (MA), 2014.|
|↑14||Donkin, R.A. Dragon’s Brain Perfume: An Historical Geography of Camphor. Brill, 1999|
|↑15, ↑25||Kotaka, Tomohiko, Shoji Kimura, Makoto Kashiwayanagi, and Jun Iwamoto. “Camphor induces cold and warm sensations with increases in skin and muscle blood flow in human.” Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin 37, no. 12 (2014): 1913-1918.|
|↑16||Hamidpour, Rafie, Soheila Hamidpour, Mohsen Hamidpour, and Mina Shahlari. “Camphor (Cinnamomum camphora), a traditional remedy with the history of treating several diseases.” International Journal of Case Reports and Images (IJCRI) 4, no. 2 (2013): 86-89.|
|↑17||Madhavi, M. Green Remedies. Pustak Mahal, 2001.|
|↑18||Paul, Ian M., Jessica S. Beiler, Tonya S. King, Edelveis R. Clapp, Julie eirsonallati, and Cheston M. Berlin. “Vapor rub, petrolatum, and no treatment for children with nocturnal cough and cold symptoms.” Pediatrics 126, no. 6 (2010): 1092-1099.|
|↑19||Eccles, Ron, Martez Jawad, David L. Ramsey, and J. David Hull. “Efficacy of a Topical Aromatic Rub (Vicks VapoRub®)-Speed of Action of Subjective Nasal Cooling and Relief from Nasal Congestion.” Open Journal of Respiratory Diseases 5, no. 01 (2015): 10.|
|↑20||Jefferis, Benjamin Grant; Nichols, James Lawrence; Nichols (Grandma). The Household Guide, Or, Domestic Cyclopedia: a Practical Family Physician, Home Remedies and Home Treatment on All Diseases : an Instructor on Nursing, Housekeeping and Home Adornments. J. L. Nichols, 1905|
|↑21||Ramsewak, Russel S., Muraleedharan G. Nair, Manfred Stommel, and Louise Selanders. “In vitro antagonistic activity of monoterpenes and their mixtures against ‘toe nail fungus’ pathogens.” Phytotherapy Research 17, no. 4 (2003): 376-379|
|↑22||Ali, Babar, Naser Ali Al-Wabel, Saiba Shams, Aftab Ahamad, Shah Alam Khan, and Firoz Anwar. “Essential oils used in aromatherapy: A systemic review.” Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine 5, no. 8 (2015): 601-611.|
|↑23||Koulivand, Peir Hossein, Maryam Khaleghi Ghadiri, and Ali Gorji. “Lavender and the nervous system.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2013 (2013).|
|↑24||Complimentary Therapies. Epilepsy Society.|
|↑26||Khare, C. P., Chandra Kant Katiyar. The Modern Ayurveda: Milestones Beyond the Classical Age. CRC Press, 2012.|
|↑27||Hebbar, J.V. Living Easy With Ayurveda. Partridge Publishing, 2015.|
|↑28||Ansari, M. A., and R. K. Razdan. “Relative efficacy of various oils in repelling mosquitoes.” Indian journal of malariology 32, no. 3 (1995): 104-111.|
|↑29||Guilbert, J., C. Flamant, F. Hallalel, D. Doummar, A. Frata, and S. Renolleau. “Anti-flatulence treatment and status epilepticus: a case of camphor intoxication.” Emergency Medicine Journal 24, no. 12 (2007): 859-860.|