Camphor is a flammable translucent solid with a strong fragrance. It is commonly found in the puja room and has been used in many pain balms for centuries. It is extracted from the wood of the Cinnamomum camphora tree and is known for its healing properties (1).
Camphor is readily absorbed by the skin. It creates a cool sensation. It is an easily available ingredient that is said to provide many benefits such as reducing itching and irritation, strengthening hair roots, boosting hair growth, reducing muscle pain, treating cold and cough, and improving blood circulation (2).
In this article, we talk about the potential benefits of camphor for skin, hair, and health, its possible side effects, and the risks associated with it.
Table Of Contents
What Is Camphor?
Only 50-year-old Cinnamomum camphora trees can produce the active component from which camphor oil is produced. Camphor oil is extracted from the stems of the tree through a steam distillation process. It is usually manufactured from turpentine.
The chemical composition of camphor (terpene) includes pinene, camphene, B-pinene, limonene, 1,8-cineole, and P-cymene. Camphor is said to possess anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal, antispasmodic, anti-anxiety, and sedative properties (2).
Read on to find out why camphor is used in skin and hair products and how it provides relief from many health issues.
What Are The Benefits Of Camphor For Skin?
1. May Relieve Skin Itching And Irritation
Camphor has antifungal and antibacterial properties that may help in alleviating some skin-related issues like itching and irritation (2). One animal study also found camphor to be a potent wound-healing agent (3).
Camphor can increase collagen and elastin production in dermal fibroblasts to aid wound healing. It is also an effective anti-wrinkle ingredient in many cosmetics (3). However, more research is required to understand this benefit of camphor on humans.
2. May Alleviate Pain
Camphor can be used to relieve pain and swelling. A study conducted at Hamdard University (Pakistan) found that a spray consisting of menthol, eucalyptus, clove, and camphor possesses analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties and can reduce pain (4).
3. May Soothe Burns
Camphor can be used as a treatment for minor burns. It can be used to remove the burn scars as well. In one study conducted on rats, it was noticed that a herbal ointment containing camphor, sesame oil, and honey reduced the healing time of burns (5). Dissolve a small quantity of camphor in water and apply on the burn. This needs to be done on a daily basis until the scars disappear.
4. May Treat Acne
Camphor has the potential to treat acne. It is said to bring down the pain and swelling caused by the inflammation of hair follicles and sebaceous glands. The antibacterial activity of the bioactive compounds in camphor, such as 1,8-cineole, α-pinene, and camphene, is effective in acne treatment (6).
5. May Treat Eczema
6. May Cure Nail Fungus
Fungus on toenails can be unsightly and painful, but using camphor paste can help inhibit its growth. Camphor has been found to be effective in treating nail fungus because of its antiseptic and antifungal properties (8).
7. May Be Good For Cracked Heels
Anecdotal evidence suggests that camphor can soften your cracked heels. However, there is no scientific evidence to prove the same.
For relief from cracked heels, you need to soak your feet in a solution of camphor and water and scrub your feet. Following this, you may apply moisturizer or petroleum jelly on them. This will keep your skin moist and prevent cracks from occurring.
8. May Soothe Skin Rashes
Camphor contains certain anti-inflammatory compounds that could help provide relief from rashes (2). It is said to be particularly good for skin rashes that occur due to excessive heat and perspiration. Camphor, when dissolved in water and applied on skin rashes, is claimed to make them vanish after a couple of days of repeated use.
9. May Treat Fungal And Bacterial Infections
Cool and calm camphor is used in many skin ointments that are used to treat a whole range of fungal and bacterial infections. The antifungal and antibacterial properties of camphor have made it a must-use ingredient in the cosmetic industry (2).
Note: It is important to ascertain whether you are allergic to camphor before using it to treat skin problems. If it does not suit you, it may aggravate the skin condition. Further, it should not be applied to broken skin. It can enter the body through the broken skin and cause poisoning, especially if the concentration of camphor in the body goes up.
What Are The Benefits Of Camphor For Hair?
10. May Strengthen Hair Roots
Limited research is available to support this claim, but anecdotal evidence suggests that the use of camphor strengthens hair roots. Combining egg or yogurt with camphor oil can supply your hair with much-needed nutrients.
11. May Boost Hair Growth
When camphor oil is combined with certain essential oils, it is said to boost hair growth.
You can also mix camphor oil with a regular carrier oil (like coconut or olive) and apply it to your scalp. This is said to stimulate blood circulation and promote hair growth. However, there is no scientific evidence to prove the same.
12. May Improve Hair Texture And Fight Hair Loss
Anecdotal evidence suggests that camphor oil may improve your hair texture to give you smooth and soft hair.
It is claimes that camphor oil can reduce hair loss and boost hair growth. However, there is limited research to support either of these claims.
13. Kills Lice
Camphor acts as an excellent cleaning and disinfecting agent. It can also kill lice (9). Camphor oil mixed in bathing water is gets rid of head lice effectively.
Mix camphor oil with coconut oil and apply it to your scalp to suffocate the lice.
What Are The Benefits Of Camphor For Health?
14. May Relieve Muscle Pain
Camphor oil, in combination with menthol, can be used for pain relief, especially for back pain. This mixture also eases muscle tension with the help of its anti-inflammatory properties (10).
Massage the painful muscles with camphor oil to increase the blood flow in that area and reduce the pain and stiffness.
15. May Treat Arthritis
A study conducted by the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences on rats found that the anti-inflammatory effect of camphor may help in treating arthritis (11). However, more studies are required to understand this benefit of camphor in humans.
16. May Treat Spasmodic Problems
The antispasmodic properties of camphor may help in calming the nerves (12). The aromatic camphor oil vapors are believed to promote a sense of calm by reducing stress. Massaging with this oil may give you some relief from spasms.
17. May Helps Induce Sleep
Camphor oil may help relax the body and mind and induce sleep as it contains P-cymene. However, limited research is available to support this claim.
18. May Treat Cold and Cough
Camphor is found to be very effective against cold and cough. It is an active ingredient in many decongestants and vaporubs. There are many ways to use camphor to treat cough and congestion, including inhaling, rubbing, and using it as steam vaporization. Dissolving camphor in hot water for ten minutes and inhaling it via the steam can work wonders. It even soothes throat irritation and treats bronchitis (13).
19. May Aid Weight Loss
Camphor tree seed kernel oil (CKO) may help in reducing body fat. A study conducted on rats found that using CKO reduces body weight and fat deposition (14). However, more research is required to verify this benefit for humans.
20. May Help Treat Cardiovascular Problems
A study conducted on 190 patients with functional cardiovascular disorders found that a combination of camphor and crataegus may provide relief from symptoms of cardiovascular disorders (15).
21. May Promote Blood Circulation
Abnormal blood flow in your body leads to many health problems, but inhaling camphor may help correct that issue.
Camphor improves blood circulation (16). Improvement in blood circulation can alleviate the symptoms of rheumatic diseases, gout, and arthritis.
Research is extremely limited on some uses of camphor. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that camphor may benefit in treating the following conditions:
- Low libido
- Cold sores
- Anxiety and depression
After reading about these promising benefits of camphor, you must be wondering how to use it. Check out the next section to know more.
How To Use Camphor
1. Camphor As A Liniment
To get instant relief from pain, you can make your own pain-relief spray at home using camphor.
What You Need
- 2 drops of camphor essential oil
- 1 ounce pure grain alcohol
- 1 glass spray bottle
- Mix the alcohol and camphor essential oil.
- Pour the solution in a glass spray bottle.
- Apply it on sore muscles and sprains to relieve the pain.
2. Camphor As A Chest-Rub
You can make your own vaporub at home using camphor.
What You Need
- 1 ounce olive oil
- 2-inch cubes of beeswax
- 3-5 drops of camphor essential oil
- Glass jar
- Start by heating up olive oil in a pan and adding beeswax to it.
- Stir until the wax melts.
- Add the camphor essential oil and mix thoroughly.
- Pour the mixture in a jar and let it cool.
- Store this mixture at room temperature and use it when required.
The best thing about this rub is its long shelf life. It can last up to a year.
3. Camphor As A Bath Soak
Nothing relaxes you more than a long bath. But, using regular soap may not really relieve your tired muscles. Add camphor essential oil to a tub of water and enjoy the relaxing bath. Adding 2-3 drops of this essential oil soothes sore muscles and enhances blood circulation in the body. It also helps people suffering from cold and flu to get rid of uncomfortable congestion.
4. More Uses Of Camphor Uses
Adding camphor to your regular cold creams and antiseptics enhances their power and gives you instant relief. It also acts as an insecticide.
Though camphor is generally safe for consumption, it does have a few side effects that you need to keep in mind. Check them out in the following section.
What Are The Side Effects Of Camphor?
Camphor is generally safe when it is used in recommended amounts. However, even a slight overdose of camphor, either by inhalation or application on the skin, may cause some side effects like poisoning, vomiting, and drop in body temperature.
Remember to store camphor products away from children. An overdose of camphor can result in seizures in children and even death in children (17), (18). Usually, symptoms of an overdose and poisoning show up within minutes. An overdose can cause irritation in the eyes, on the skin, and in the mucous membranes. This can lead to diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, headache, fainting, and convulsions. So, limit its usage and consult a doctor in case of any emergency.
Before you start using camphor on your skin and hair, check out the safety precautions you need to keep in mind.
Risks And Precautions
Camphor exhibits its toxicity within 5 to 90 minutes of ingestion. The symptoms include muscular contractions, effect on the nervous system, and confusion. Don’t ignite products that contain camphor as an ingredient.
Don’t take camphor in any form (internally or topically) if you have any liver problems. People with asthma are also advised to avoid the usage of camphor. Ingesting small doses of camphor also can cause seizures in children (17). Some medications that contain camphor can be fatal to toddlers (18).
There is a variety of camphor oils available in the market. Check out the differences between them in the next section.
Differences Between Brown, Yellow, And White Camphor Oil
Only white camphor oil is safe for treating health ailments. Most medical products contain white camphor. Safrole is a compound found in yellow and brown camphor oil. It is a listed carcinogen. Therefore, yellow and brown camphor oils are not safe for use.
Products Containing Camphor
Camphor is found in many products such as ointments, balms, and creams. It is the main ingredient in cosmetics such as nail polish and facewash. Camphor is a common ingredient in shaving and anti-itch creams as well.
Products containing camphor include:
- IcyHot Balm
- Tiger Balm
- Biofreeze Pain Relief Gel
- Bengay Pain Relieving Cream
- Vicks VapoRu
Camphor has many potential health benefits ranging from treating skin irritation and hair problems to relieving muscle pains. It is generally regarded as safe but has some side effects when used in excess amounts.
If you want to reap its benefits, use this waxy white solid only in recommended amounts. Please consult a doctor in case you experience any side effects.
- Camphor, Heart and Toxins, ScienceDirect.
- Cinnamomum camphora, Bioenvironmental Issues Affecting Men’s Reproductive and Sexual Health, ScienceDirect.
- Camphor Induces Proliferative and Anti-senescence Activities in Human Primary Dermal Fibroblasts and Inhibits UV-Induced Wrinkle Formation in Mouse Skin, Phytotherapy Research, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Clinical efficacy of polyherbal formulation Eezpain spray for muscular pain relief, Pakistan Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- The Healing Effect of Sesame Oil, Camphor and Honey on Second Degree Burn Wounds in Rat, World Journal of Plastic Surgery, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- New Perspectives on Antiacne Plant Drugs: Contribution to Modern Therapeutics, BioMed Research International, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Plants used to treat skin diseases, Pharmacognosy Review, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- In vitro antagonistic activity of monoterpenes and their mixtures against ‘toe nail fungus’ pathogens, Phytotherapy Research, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Lousicidal, ovicidal and repellent efficacy of some essential oils against lice and flies infesting water buffaloes in Egypt, Veterinary Parasitology, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Invisible Pain, DailyMed, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Study on antiinflammatory effect of different chemotype of Cinnamomum camphora on rat arthritis model induced by Freund’s adjuvant, Journal of Chinese Medicine, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Antispasmodic activity of extracts and compounds of Acalypha phleoides Cav, Phytotherapy Research, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Vapor Rub, Petrolatum, and No Treatment for Children With Nocturnal Cough and Cold Symptoms, Pediatrics, AAP News & Journals Gateway.
- Camphor Tree Seed Kernel Oil Reduces Body Fat Deposition and Improves Blood Lipids in Rats, Journal of Food Science, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Effects of an herbal crataegus-camphor combination on the symptoms of cardiovascular diseases, Arzneimittel-Forschung, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Camphor induces cold and warm sensations with increases in skin and muscle blood flow in human, Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Camphor poisoning: An unusual cause of seizure in children, Journal of Pediatric Neurosciences, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Medications which can kill a toddler with one tablet or teaspoonful, Journal of Toxicology, Clinical Toxicology, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
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