CAMPHOR

OTHER NAME(S):

Alcanfor, Arbre à Camphre, Camphor Tree, Camphora, Camphora Officinarum, Camphre, Camphre de Laurier, Camphre Gomme, Camphrier, Cemphire, Cinnamomum Camphora, dl-Camphor, dl-Camphre, Gum Camphor, Kapur, Karpoora, Karpuram, Laurel Camphor, Laurus camphora.

Overview

Overview Information

Camphor used to be made by distilling the bark and wood of the camphor tree. Today, camphor is usually manufactured from turpentine oil. It is used in products such as Vicks VapoRub.

People apply camphor to the skin to relieve pain and reduce itching. It is also applied to the skin on the neck and chest so that it can be breathed in to reduce the urge to cough. There is some good evidence to support these uses. There is no good scientific evidence to support other uses of camphor.

It is important not to apply camphor to broken skin, because it can enter the body quickly and reach concentrations that are high enough to cause poisoning.

Camphor is used in manufacturing to make mothballs.

How does it work?

Camphor seems to stimulate nerve endings that relieve symptoms such as pain and itching when applied to the skin. Camphor is also active against fungi that cause infections in the toenails.

Uses

Uses & Effectiveness?

Likely Effective for

  • Cough. Camphor is FDA-approved as a chest rub in concentrations less than 11%.
  • Pain. Camphor is FDA-approved for use on the skin as a painkiller in concentrations of 3% to 11%. It is used in many rub-on products to reduce pain related to cold sores, insect stings and bites, minor burns, and hemorrhoids.
  • Itching. Camphor is FDA-approved for use on the skin to help itching or irritation in concentrations of 3% to 11%.

Possibly Effective for

Insufficient Evidence for

  • Insect bite. Early research shows that applying camphor along with menthol and eucalyptus oil might help reduce the size of mosquito bites.
  • Low blood pressure that occurs upon standing (orthostatic hypotension). Early research suggests that taking a product containing camphor and hawthorn by mouth helps prevent drops in blood pressure upon standing. But it isn't clear if taking camphor alone provides the same benefits. Also, this product is not available in the US.
  • Acne.
  • Burns.
  • Decreasing libido.
  • Depression.
  • Gas (flatulence).
  • Hemorrhoids.
  • Cold sores (herpes labialis).
  • Memory.
  • Obesity.
  • Toenail fungus (onychomycosis).
  • Osteoarthritis.
  • Ear infection (otitis media).
  • Infection of the airways.
  • Toothache.
  • Warts.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of camphor for these uses.

Side Effects

Side Effects & Safety

When taken by mouth: Camphor is UNSAFE. Ingesting camphor can cause severe side effects, including death.

When applied to the skin: Camphor is LIKELY SAFE for most adults when applied to the skin in a cream or lotion in low concentrations. Camphor can cause some minor side effects such as skin redness and irritation. Do not use undiluted camphor products or products containing more than 11% camphor. These can be irritating and unsafe. Camphor-containing products are LIKELY UNSAFE when applied to broken or injured skin. Camphor is easily absorbed through broken skin and can reach toxic levels in the body.

When inhaled: Camphor is LIKELY SAFE for most adults when inhaled as the vapor from rubs applied to the chest.

Do not heat camphor-containing products (Vicks VapoRub, BenGay, Heet, many others) in the microwave. The products can explode and cause severe burns.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Taking camphor by mouth is UNSAFE during pregnancy or breast-feeding. There isn't enough reliable information to know if applying camphor to the skin is safe when pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Children: Camphor is POSSIBLY UNSAFE in children when applied to the skin. Children tend to be more sensitive to the side effects. Doctors recommend that camphor products are not used on the skin in children. Camphor is UNSAFE in children when taken by mouth. Seizures and death can occur if these products are eaten. Keep camphor-containing products away from children.

Liver disease: Taking camphor by mouth or applying it to the skin has been linked to liver damage. In theory, using camphor might make liver disease worse.

Interactions

Interactions?

We currently have no information for CAMPHOR Interactions.

Dosing

Dosing

The following doses have been studied in scientific research:

APPLIED TO THE SKIN:

  • For cough: A layer of 4.7% to 5.3% camphor ointment is applied to the throat and chest. The area may be covered with a warm, dry cloth or left uncovered.
  • For itching: A 3% to 11% ointment is typically used three to four times daily.
  • For pain: A 3% to 11% ointment is typically used three to four times daily.
  • For osteoarthritis: A topical cream containing camphor (32 mg/gram), glucosamine sulfate (30 mg/gram), chondroitin sulfate (50 mg/gram), shark cartilage (140mg/gram), and peppermint oil (9mg/gram), is used as needed on sore joints for up to 8 weeks.

View References

REFERENCES:

  • Agarwal, A. and Malhotra, H. S. Camphor ingestion: an unusual cause of seizure. J.Assoc.Physicians India 2008;56:123-124. View abstract.
  • Berggren, L. [Drugs and poisons in the life of Vincent van Gogh]. Sven.Med Tidskr. 1997;1(1):125-134. View abstract.
  • Burrow, A., Eccles, R., and Jones, A. S. The effects of camphor, eucalyptus and menthol vapour on nasal resistance to airflow and nasal sensation. Acta Otolaryngol. 1983;96(1-2):157-161. View abstract.
  • Dutta, B. K., Karmakar, S., Naglot, A., Aich, J. C., and Begam, M. Anticandidial activity of some essential oils of a mega biodiversity hotspot in India. Mycoses 2007;50(2):121-124. View abstract.
  • Eccles, R., Lancashire, B., and Tolley, N. S. The effect of aromatics on inspiratory and expiratory nasal resistance to airflow. Clin Otolaryngol.Allied Sci 1987;12(1):11-14. View abstract.
  • Emery, D. P. and Corban, J. G. Camphor toxicity. J.Paediatr.Child Health 1999;35(1):105-106. View abstract.
  • Hempel, B., Kroll, M., and Schneider, B. [Efficacy and safety of a herbal drug containing hawthorn berries and D-camphor in hypotension and orthostatic circulatory disorders/results of a retrospective epidemiologic cohort study]. Arzneimittelforschung 2005;55(8):443-450. View abstract.
  • Kroll, M., Ring, C., Gaus, W., and Hempel, B. A randomized trial of Korodin Herz-Kreislauf-Tropfen as add-on treatment in older patients with orthostatic hypotension. Phytomedicine 2005;12(6-7):395-402. View abstract.
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  • Martin, D., Valdez, J., Boren, J., and Mayersohn, M. Dermal absorption of camphor, menthol, and methyl salicylate in humans. J.Clin.Pharmacol. 2004;44(10):1151-1157. View abstract.
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