Camphor is a transparent waxy crystalline material that has a strong pungent aroma. The crude camphor oil is formed in the cells and is thus distributed in all parts of the tree, but the essential oil from camphor is produced by steam distillation of crude camphor oil mainly obtained from the leaves and stems.
Camphor or the Karpura has religious significance in the Hindu rituals. Burning of camphor symbolizes union with God – just as the camphor burns itself out without leaving any residue, so does burning one’s ego in the fire of true knowledge will lead them to complete union with God. According to the ancient Indian traditional systems of healing, camphor purifies the air and inhaling that air has numerous medicinal benefits.
Botanical name: Cinnamomum camphora Family: Lauraceae English name: Camphor tree Hindi name: Kapur, Karpura
Camphor is a profusely branched evergreen tree. Its leaves are simple, alternate, aromatic, ovate or oblong. Its flowers are yellowish white in axillary panicles; its fruits are dark green, ovoid or globose. Deposits of camphor and its oil are of medicinal value.
Camphor is bitter in taste and has aromatic, emollient, thermogenic, calmative, expectorant and aphrodisiac properties. It is useful in vitiated conditions of Vata, inflammations, cardiac debility, cough, asthma, convulsions, dyspepsia, flatulence, diarrhea and dysentery.
Ayurveda recommends the use of camphor mixed with oil for external application in inflammatory conditions.
Small quantities of camphor powder can be used as cardiac stimulator.
In traditional medicine, camphor oil is used in the treatment of muscular pains, rheumatism, arthritis, and sprains.
Camphor oil can also be used in cases of coughs and cold, fever, and flu.
Since camphor is highly toxic, it should not be used in aromatherapy massage.
Overdose of camphor can cause convulsions and vomiting.
Pregnant women should use camphor cautiously.
Epilepsy and asthma patients should avoid using camphor.
A research study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology suggests that crude extract of Cinnamomum camphora showed strong anti-oxidative activity and effectively suppressed the production of cytokine, nitric oxide and prostaglandin E(2) thus exhibiting anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties. [J Ethnopharmacol 2006 Jan 16; 103(2):208-16. Epub 2005 Sep 22.]