Camphor Essential Oil
Camphor (Cinnamomun camphora) is a large evergreen tree native to China and Japan. The tree reaches heights of 100 feet at maturity and features white flowers and fragrant, red berries.1,2
Camphor produces three distinctive fractions (white, brown, yellow). Traditionally it was used to help soothe inflammation, relieve congestion, reduce muscle pain and alleviate symptoms of asthma or bronchitis.1 Today, only white camphor essential oil is used for therapeutic and aromatic purposes.2
Camphor essential oil is extracted from the tree roots, branches and stumps through a process of steam distillation.1 It produces a clear liquid with a strong, fresh aroma with subtle woody notes.
Commercially, camphor is one of the main ingredients in the popular brand name Vicks VapoRub, a soothing topical ointment used to relieve decongestion and inflammation.2
Camphor Essential Oil Uses
Traditionally used for pain relief, inflammation or congestion, camphor essential oil has a variety of therapeutic uses. With anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and antibacterial properties, learn how camphor essential oil can be used as a natural alternative for a number of everyday products.
Diffuse 2-4 drops of camphor essential oil in a nebulizer or diffuser. For a homemade diffuser, boil 2-3 cups of water until steaming and transfer to a bowl. Add the camphor essential oil and diffuse for up to 30 minutes at a time. Camphor’s fragrance has been compared to eucalyptus or peppermint essential oil.
Stress Relieving Bath
Relieve stress and soothe sore muscles with a camphor essential oil bath. As camphor essential oil has a strong aroma, only add 3-5 drops into warm, running water.
It’s been reported that camphor essential oil can help naturally relieve congestion and coughs. For a homemade decongestant, bring 2-3 cups of water to a boil. Once steaming, transfer into a large bowl. Add 4-5 drops of camphor essential oil. Lean over the bowl, with a towel covering your head and inhale the vapors.
Alternatively, dilute 3-5 drops of camphor into 1 Tbsp. of carrier oil, such as coconut or olive. Apply the mixture in a circular motion onto your chest.
When applied to topically, camphor has been reported to have a cooling sensation, similar to peppermint. Good for bruises and swelling, camphor essential oil can be diluted to provide relief.
In a bowl, add 2 cups of cold water. Add 5-6 drops of camphor essential oil and mix with a spoon. Dip a clean cloth into the solution and apply to the affected area until the cloth is room temperature. Repeat for up to 2 hours. Do not apply to open wounds. Users may add ice cubes if they wish to decrease the water temperature even further.
Combine 5 drops of camphor essential oil with 1 Tsp. of grapeseed, hazelnut, or olive oil and massage on to sore muscles. Camphor essential oil blends well with melissa, lavender, basil, rosemary, and chamomile essential oils.
Benefits of Camphor Essential Oil
Camphor essential oil has been used to relieve different conditions over the years and is mainly used in aromatherapy and as a topical application. As the interest in natural products increases, preliminary research has begun to focus on the beneficial properties of camphor essential oil.
In a 2002 study, camphor was identified as the primary (44%) bioactive compound in the essential oil of Artemisia annua aerial parts. The essential oil was screened for antimicrobial properties against pathogens including Candida albicans, Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Enterococcus hirae. The oil was noted to significantly inhibit the growth of the fungus strains and Enterococcus hirae bacteria.3
In a separate clinical study, camphor was identified as a key component of several varieties of sage essential oils. The various oils were tested for their antibacterial properties against 17 strains of bacteria that commonly appear in food preparation. Results indicate that the essential oils demonstrated significant antibacterial activity against all 17 strains of foodborne bacteria.4 While further research is required, camphor essential oil could hold potential for a natural food preservative.
A recent study published in the journal of Biomedical Chromatography examined the therapeutic properties of the perennial plant Feverfew, whose major bioactive component is camphor (50.5%). Essential oils produced from the plant were found to exhibit analgesic (pain-relieving) properties that have been noted to be helpful in relieving symptoms of migraines, headaches and rheumatoid arthritis.5 While further research is warranted to help determine the potency of these properties, the United States Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of 3 – 11 % camphor in topical pain relief creams.1
Preliminary research has noted that certain compounds found in camphor essential oil, particularly monoterpenes, have demonstrated anti-mutagenic properties on isolated human cancer cells. To date, cells from gastric cancer, colon cancer, leukemia and liver tumors have been tested, with only minimal side effects on healthy, neighboring cells. This contrasts current chemotherapy treatments which can attack both cancerous and healthy cells throughout the body.
Developed more than forty years ago, the camphor-based drug 714-X is still in use today and reported by physicians to be an effective treatment for breast and prostate cancer in some patients.1
Note: While this information is promising, further scientific research is required before camphor essential oil can be used in the treatment of cancer. Do not replace traditional cancer treatments with essential oils.
Camphor Essential Oil Side Effects
Camphor essential oil is generally considered safe for diluted, topical use and inhalation. Ingesting essential oils can be harmful and toxic. Never consume an essential oil unless under the direct supervision of a health care professional.
Always read and follow the directions as indicated on the label. Do not use camphor essential oil on children and ensure it is stored safely out of reach. If you are pregnant or nursing, or under a physician’s care, consult your doctor before using.
Where to Buy Camphor Essential Oil
Previously, high quality essential oils could only be bought at specialty health stores, or through expensive multi-level marketing companies. Now, due to advancements in technology, extremely high grade essential oils can be purchased over the internet at very reasonable prices.
Scientific Research Referenced in this Article
- Hamidpour, R., Hamidpour, S., Hamidpour, M., & Shahlari, M. (2013). Camphor (Cinnamomum camphora ), a traditional remedy with the history of treating several diseases. International Journal of Case Reports and Images, 4(2), 86. doi:5348/ijcri-2013-02-267-ra-1
- Lawless, J. (2013). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils.Retrieved March 11, 2017 from https://books.google.ca/books?hl=en&lr=&id=LhUT8qNwbR4C&oi=fnd&pg=PP3&dq=basil+essential+oil+stress+headaches+calming&ots=7WwGE2ig2C&sig=49Ch93uG1u7LH2L3m8H6ssXPVdo#v=onepage&q&f=false – View reference
- Juteau, F. Masotti, V. Bessiere, J. M., Dherbomez, M., Viano, J. (2002). Antibacterial and antioxidant activities of Artemisia annua essential oil. Fitoterapia, 73(6), 532-535. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0367-326X(02)00175-2
- Longaray Delamare, A. P., Moschen-Pistorello, I. T., Artico, L., Atti-Serafini, L., & Echeverrigaray, S. (2007). Antibacterial activity of the essential oils of Salvia officinalis L. and Salvia triloba L. cultivated in South Brazil. Food Chemistry, 100(2), 603-608. doi:1016/j.foodchem.2005.09.078
- Végh, K., Riethmüller, E., Tóth, A., Alberti, Á., Béni, S., Balla, J., & Kéry, Á. (2016). Convergence chromatographic determination of camphor in the essential oil of Tanacetum parthenium L. Biomedical Chromatography, 30(12), 2031-2037. doi:1002/bmc.3781