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Last updated date: 22nd Jul 2024
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What is Camphor?

Camphor, an organic compound (organic camphor) with a penetrating, mildly musty fragrance, has been used as a part of incense and as a medicinal for decades. Modern uses of the camphor compound have been as a plasticizer for cellulose nitrate and also as an insect repellent, specifically for moths. The molecular formula of camphor is given as C10H16O.

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About Camphor

Camphor takes place in Cinnamomum camphora, camphor laurel, which is common in China, Japan, and Taiwan. It can be isolated by passing steam via pulverized wood and condensing the vapours; camphor compound crystallizes from the distillate's oily portion, and it is purified by sublimation and pressing. Several methods have been used to produce camphor compounds from the -pinene compound since the early 1930s.

Camphor belongs to the organic compound group, which is defined as terpenoid ketones. The reactions and the structure peculiar to it were fundamental problems of 19-century organic chemistry. This pure camphor compound is a white colour and waxy solid that melts at around 178°–179° C.


For centuries, camphor has been generated as a forest product by condensing vapour produced by roasting wood chips, which are cut from the related trees, and then, bypassing the steam through pulverised wood and vapour condensation. Many common camphor tree stocks had been exhausted by the early nineteenth century, including the remaining large stands in Taiwan and Japan, with Taiwanese production far exceeding Japanese. Camphor compound was the primary resource that was extracted by the colonial powers of Taiwan and one of the most lucrative as well.

First, the Chinese and then, the Japanese have established monopolies on the Taiwanese camphor. In 1868, a British naval force sailed into one of the local British representatives, and the Anping harbour demanded the end of the monopoly of the Chinese camphor, which is after the local Qing representative had refused, the British bombarded the town and took that harbour. Then, the "camphor regulations" team negotiated between the two sides and subsequently saw a brief end to the monopoly of the camphor.

Physical Use of Camphor

The sublimating capability of the camphor gives it many uses, where some of the use of camphor is given below.


The first significant man-made plastics were the low-nitrogen (otherwise "soluble") nitrocellulose (or pyroxylin) plastics. Camphor compounds were used in significant amounts (130) as the plasticizer in nitrocellulose lacquers, as well as other lacquers and plastics, in the early decades of the plastics industry.

Pest Deterrent and Preservative

Camphor compound is believed to be toxic to insects and is therefore used as a repellent sometimes. Camphor can be used as an alternative to the mothballs. Camphor compound's crystals are at times used to prevent damage to insect collections by other tiny insects. It is kept in the clothes, which are used in festivals and special occasions, and also as a cockroach repellent in the cupboard corners. The camphor incense sticks or smoke of camphor crystal can be used as an environmentally-friendly mosquito repellent.

Some recent studies have revealed that the essential oil of camphor can be used as an effective fumigant against the red fire ants because it affects the climbing, attacking, and feeding behaviour of both minor and major workers.

Camphor can also be used as an antimicrobial substance. Camphor oil was also one of the main ingredients in the embalming, which the ancient Egyptians used for mummification.

Solid camphor compound releases the fumes that produce a rust-preventative coating and is thus stored in the tool chests to protect tools against rust.


In the ancient Arab world, camphor compound was a commonly used perfume ingredient, as per the Perfume Handbook. The Chinese people referred to the best camphor compound as "brain perfume of dragon" because of its "portentous and pungent aroma" and "centuries of uncertainty over its mode of origin and provenance."

Medicinal Uses

Camphor compound is regularly applied as a topical medication as an ointment or skin cream to relieve the itching problems from insect bites, joint pain, or minor skin irritation. It can also be absorbed in the skin epidermis, where it stimulates the nerve endings sensitive to cold and heat, producing a cool sensation when applied gently or warm sensation when applied vigorously. The action on nerve endings induces slight local analgesia.

Camphor compound can also be used as an aerosol, typically by steam inhalation, to inhibit coughing and relieving the upper airway congestion because of the common cold.

In higher doses, camphor compounds produce symptoms of disorientation, irritability, muscle spasms, lethargy, abdominal cramps, vomiting, and convulsions. In adults, lethal doses are in the range of 50–500 mg/kg (orally). In general, two grams of camphor cause serious toxicity, whereas four grams are potentially lethal.

Camphor compounds have limited use in veterinary medicine, such as a respiratory stimulant for horses.

Camphor compound was used by Ladislas J. Meduna to induce seizures in schizophrenic patients.

Traditional Medicine

Camphor compound has been used in traditional medicine over centuries, probably as most generally as a decongestant. Camphor was also used in ancient Sumatra to treat swellings, inflammation, and sprains. Camphor was also used for centuries for various purposes in traditional Chinese medicine.

It can also be used in India since ancient times.


Camphor compound is a parasympatholytic agent which acts as a non-competitive nicotinic antagonist at nAChRs.

FAQs on Camphor

1. Give the culinary uses of Camphor?

One of the earliest well-known recipes as an ingredient for the ice cream dating to the Tang dynasty includes camphor. In medieval and ancient Europe, camphor compound was used as an ingredient in sweets.

It was also used in a wide variety of both sweet dishes and savoury in medieval Arabic language cookbooks, like al-Kitab al-Ṭabikh compiled by the ibn Sayyâr al-Warrâq in the 10 century. It was also used in savoury and sweet dishes in the Ni'matnama, as per the book written in the late 15 century for the sultans of Mandu.

2. Give the benefits of Camphor?

Some of the benefits of camphor include:

Relieves Skin Itching And Irritation

The aromatic and cool camphor can be used to alleviate irritation and skin itching. So, it is recommended to use this camphor paste if you feel like scraping your skin red for instant relief.

Alleviates Pain

Camphor compound can be used to relieve the pain, which is caused by the sores on the skin and for insect bites. It can also be used as a rub and can be applied directly onto the skin.

3. Explain why camphor moves on water?

This happens due to the reason of difference in densities. Anything which has less density than water doesn't sink. For example, if you are alive, your sink means, because while respiration, the air is in your body, and if you are dead, there is no action of the body.  So, you float on the water.