CAMPHOR (Cinnamomum camphora – Lauraceae)

The crystalline substance commonly known as camphor (the one which was used for moth balls) comes from a member of the laurel or bay family, Cinnamomum camphora, also known as Camphora officinarum and Laurus camphora, and it is related to the cinnamon and cassia trees. Cinnamomum camphora, which can grow to over 30 m (100 ft) in height, is native to China, Taiwan and Japan, but is cultivated also in Sri Lanka and California. It is evergreen, often with growth right down to the ground, and can have an enormous trunk circumference (over 12 m (40ft) has been recorded in China); it can also live, so the Chinese say, for up to 1,000 years.


Description: The older the tree, the more oil it contains. The clippings, wood and roots are distilled for both the crystalline ketone camphor (C10H16O), and the camphor oil.
The principal constituents: The composition of the oil is extremely complex and the constituents include azulene, borneol, cadinene, cam¬phene, carvacrol, cineol, citronellol, cuminic alcohol, dipentene, eugenol, phellandrene, pinene, safrol and terpineol.
Dangers: Because it is a terpenic ketone, the essential oil can be highly toxic, particularly to those who are allergy prone or suffer from asthmatic conditions. The very hot and acid fumes should never be inhaled. I do not recommend camphor oil for therapeutic use.

‘Solid’ camphor was once used as insecticide, but moth balls are now composed of naphthalene, a crystalline substance derived from coal tar or petroleum. Natural camphor is hardly produced today as it can be derived synthetically from oil of turpentine.

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