Native to Asia grows the large cinnamomum camphora, aka the camphor laurel. An evergreen tree that can grow to be as tall as 98 feet and as wide as 66 feet in circumference, the camphor laurel can now be found worldwide. In Australia, it is called the camphorwood, and in the southern region of the US, it’s simply the camphor.
Once the leaves of the camphor tree are crushed and distilled, a white crystalline substance is created. That substance is then used in medicines, incense, and as an insect repellent. In China, one chemotype is used to create imitation eucalyptus oil. For purposes of this article, we will look at the benefits of camphor oil, the only product of the tree that is used medicinally.
Camphor oil was originally extracted and distilled from trees that are considered mature, over 50 years old. At one time, the oil was extracted by steam distillation from various parts of the tree, including root stumps, branches, flowers, and chipped wood. Today, the oil is only extracted from the leaves in hopes of sustaining the life of the tree. Camphor oil comes in four grades, white, yellow, brown, and blue. White camphor oil is the only grade used medicinally and has a pungent, clean, menthol aroma.
Blending well with other oils such as rosemary, chamomile, cajeput, lavender, sweet basil, and eucalyptus; camphor oil can be used via aromatherapy and topically. Camphor oil is an ingredient found in products such as Vick’s Vaporub, Tiger Balm, and mothballs. It is antiseptic, analgesic, antispasmodic, antifungal, and antibacterial.
Aromatherapy benefits include:
- Relieve congestion and respiratory issues
- Pain relief
- Boosting immunity
- Easing spasms
- Improving circulation
- Help with insomnia
Topical use benefits:
- Soothe inflammation
- Help with acne
- Reduce muscle pain and aches
- Treat infection
- Insect repellent
As with any essential oil, there are some precautions to consider. While camphor oil is good for aromatherapy, it is considered poisonous when taken internally. When using topically, it is necessary to dilute it with a carrier oil or add 5-6 drops in the bath. Sources say not to use on small children due to an increase in the potential for seizures that could lead to death. It is also good to consider the risk of skin sensitivities as well.
Both pregnant women and asthma sufferers are cautioned against using camphor oil. As stated previously, white camphor oil is the only recommended grade that should be used. Specifically, yellow and brown camphor oils are toxic to humans. In areas where the camphor tree grows, pet owners are advised to keep their furry friends away to prevent any exposure to any of the toxic tree parts. Signs of camphor toxicity include nausea, vomiting, and a burning sensation in the throat and mouth.
If you are in need of a multi-use oil for aromatherapy or topical use, it would be worth the time to investigate camphor oil. Those wanting to purchase the oil will be pleasantly surprised to learn that it isn’t very expensive. Price seems to depend on what brand you choose and most tout that their product is 100% and of therapeutic grade. If you fancy strong, clean fragrances; then check out the simple DIY recipe below.
Homemade Pain Relieving Cream
1/2 cup coconut oil
2 tsp beeswax pellets
2 tsp camphor crystals (or 5 drops camphor oil)
2 tsp menthol crystals (or 5 drops peppermint essential oil)
5 drops eucalyptus essential oil
Melt the coconut oil and beeswax together in the microwave or a double boiler. Stir well. Next, allow the mixture to cool for a few minutes. Then add the camphor crystals or oil, the menthol crystals or oil, and the eucalyptus essential oil. Stir again. Pour the mixture into a container with an airtight lid, and allow it to cool completely. To use: Scoop the amount of the cream you want and apply it to the site of any aches and pains. The warmth of your skin will heat up the cream, making it easy to apply.