Camphor for Herbal Naturopathy: properties, benefits, uses, side effects

Camphor is a terpene extracted from the Camphor tree with an antiseptic action and useful in the treatment of inflammation and neuralgia. Let’s find out more.

What is camphor

Camphor is a terpene extracted from the tree of the same name, Cinnamomum camphora (L.) Presl. Camphor is present in the essential oil extracted from the oil idioblasts contained in the various tissues of the plant, but which are particularly abundant in the wood of the trunk and root.

Camphor is extracted from the wood of roots, trunk and branches of trees of 50-60 years of age. The steam distillation of the fragmented wood leads to the extraction of the essential oil which, by cooling, forms rosy or greyish crystalline granules.

Today, given the excessive cost due to the use of ancient trees, the leaves are also used.

Camphor is very useful in phytotherapy for its anti-inflammatory action on the musculoskeletal and respiratory system.

Where is camphor found

The camphor tree is truly a huge tree. In the forests of East Asia, where it grows spontaneously, it can reach heights of 40 m and extend to a width of 5 m. The leaves are alternate, persistent, petiolate, with oval flap attenuated at both ends, or acute or sharp at the apex and subottuse at the base, coriaceous, with three main veins well marked.

The flowers are small, whitish, arranged in pauciflore axillary tops. The fruit is a small ovoid drupe, smooth, purple or purplish when ripe.

Not only the camphor tree, but also other plants can develop varying concentrations of this terpene. Rosemary essential oil, for example, can be extracted from some plants that, due to pedo-climatic conditions, develop high concentrations of camphor. The essential oil of rosemary chemotype camphor is used for the treatment of musculoskeletal inflammation, like the essential oil of camphor.

Properties of camphor

Known to all are the antiseptic and antiparasitic properties of camphor, so much so that it is customary to use the same to protect clothing. Several studies have also been conducted on the repellent action of camphor against parasites, fungi and insects and, therefore, on its possible use in the food industry.

Camphor has proven itself useful for storing seeds from the attack of pests and insects; another action is directed against toxigenic fungi, where camphor acts by blocking the growth of the same.

Camphor is present on the market mainly in the form of oils, ointments and creams for topical applications.

Camphor, for external use, is used to treat inflammatory problems. Applied to the skin is able to recall blood; this rubefacient action is useful in the treatment of neuralgia, inflammation, sprains, rheumatism, cramps and muscle pain.

In addition, camphor also acts effectively in the treatment of febrile stages and bronchitis. Camphor lowers the normal body temperature by little or nothing, but by a lot the feverish one. Camphor has shown good antibacterial and antifungal action.

For internal use it is rarely used as a cardiotonic or as a cough remedy. Camphor is one of the best remedies for the heart and circulation.


For external use and at the maximum recommended doses, camphor does not give adverse reactions, unless the person is sensitive to this active substance.

Poisoning by camphor is very rare and in any case the symptoms are short-lived; in severe intoxications, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, visual disturbances, impulsive movements, delirium, loss of consciousness are manifested.

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