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Camphor : Health Benefits, Uses, Dosage and Side Effects

By NS Desk | Herbs | Posted on :   06-Nov-2020

Ayurveda originated more than 5,000 years ago in the Golden Country, India. Since then, it has been used for different purposes and is also known as the "Mother of all Healing." Items like Brahmi, Cumin, Turmeric, Licorice root, Gotu kola, Bitter melon, etc. have been used strongly for this purpose.

Another such element is Camphor. It is commonly known as Kapur and is extensively used as an offering to God in Hinduism by lighting it up. This transparent, solid element is waxy and easily flammable. With a rich and strong aroma, Camphor has been used for ayurvedic treatment for ages and has also left effective and lasting results. The tree from which Camphor is extracted, Camphor Laurel, is found in East Asia to a great extent. Used in several products today, Camphor can have many ways to be employed. Here is all you need to know about Camphor and its use.

How did the Word “Camphor” Originate?

The origin of the word "camphor" can be related to several languages. Used from the very ancient times, the word comes from a French word "Camphre" which was derived from "Camfora" used in Medieval Latin, again from Arabic "kafur" coming from the Tamil word "Karuppuram" from "Kapor" used in Austroasiatic languages. All these are, in the final analysis, derived from the Austronesian- "Malay Kapur."  It is named as kapur Barus in old Malay. The word means "the chalk of Barus." Barus was of an ancient port near the modern-day Sibolga city on the western coast of Sumatra island. This port was known for trading camphor extracted from laurel trees that were abundantly found in this region.

What is the source of Camphor?

Camphor is a plant-based element, generally extracted from the camphor laurel or the camphor tree. There has been synthetic production of Camphor in the modern world. Pure camphor extracts are still available and are more valued.

The wood chips are roasted, and the vapors from the same are condensed to leave behind the whitish or transparent solid. This is what is available to us for use as the Camphor.

History of Camphor

First used in the 10th Century in India, Camphor was offered as burning to the deities in Hinduism. The word was then penned down for the first time in Susruta and kavya literature.

In the early days, Camphor was made by distilling the bark and wood of the camphor tree. Contemporarily, it is manufactured from turpentine oil. However, the original form of extraction has not lost its ways even today.

Benefits of using Camphor

As an antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory, Camphor has a lot of uses then we can think of. From skin conditions to body aches, it is used to cure several problems with scientific explanation and evidence to all of it.

Camphor is an excellent use on skin to treat infections and inflammations. It is used to treat burns and even medical issues. The component works wonders on acne and hair loss problems. Even psychological tensions are relieved with the correct use of Camphor.

Treating diseases/health problems using Camphor

Here is a detailed description of the treatments on scientific and ayurvedic levels using Camphor.

  1. Camphor on Skin

Scientific

Ayurveda

A study in 2015 has revealed that Camphor effectively treats wounds on the skin and the marks left by it. Camphor's chemical structure allows it to be antiseptic and has a rubefacient action when applied to the damaged skin.

For use on skin, Camphor is available as a lotion or cream. Being antibacterial and antifungal, Camphor has been used to cure skin problems like acne, warts, and even insect bites. It has a quick effect and visible action on the skin.

  1. Camphor in Body Pain

Scientific

Ayurveda

Approved by the FDA, Camphor is used in painkillers to a 3% concentration to 11%. A study published in 1980 also shows Camphor as a treatment to joint pain, sprains, inflammation, and even chest pains.

Camphor has been used to cure body pain, both external and internal, since ancient times. It has been wrapped in aching parts to give a warm and cooling effect to relieve pain.

  1. Camphor for arthritis

Scientific

Ayurveda

With anti-inflammatory properties, Camphor reduces the symptoms of arthritis by about half. It gradually reduces the pain and swelling caused.

Balancing the Kapha Dosha, Camphor has been used to cure pain and swelling caused due to arthritis. There are creams containing Camphor to apply to the affected area, which gives the above result.

  1. Camphor for the Heart

Scientific

Ayurveda

Camphor acts as a blood-thinning agent and removes clots in the veins. This has a positive effect on the working of your heart and reduces cholesterol and fat.

The balancing properties of Chendana and Lekhana for Kapha is incredible. It keeps you safe from heart disease and maintains your cholesterol. 

  1. Camphor for Oral Hygiene

Scientific

Ayurveda

The composition of Camphor is anti-toxic and basic in nature. This is why it can cure problems related to oral hygiene.

Camphor has been used to cure mukhashoshahara (dry mouth), mukha virasyahara (bad breath), and kanta doshahara (clearing throat). For the same reason, it has been a main ingredient in the traditional Pan. 

  1. Camphor for Fungal Infection

Scientific

Ayurveda

It is proven that Camphor's components are antifungal and are used in the lulican creams used to treat such infections.

Due to the Dahahara property, Camphor can cool down the inflamed area and cures the burning caused due to the fungal infection.

  1. Camphor in Aromatherapy

Scientific

Ayurveda

There have been several scientific experiments to check the effectiveness of aromatherapy. It has also been seen that the fumes from the essential oils have worked just about right in the claims they do. 

It is said that most of the work by organic medicine is done by the proper usage of the smell of the same. Continuing from ages, aromatherapy is one of the best ways to cure problems. Inhaling the smell of Camphor is also one of the best ways to use it.

 

The smell, when spread to your house, helps in getting rid of the Kapha Dosha.

Other Uses of Camphor Includes:

1.      Curing hair loss

2.      Ear aches

3.      Cold

4.      Cough

5.      Low libido

6.      Depression

7.      Anxiety

Forms of Camphor in Ayurveda with Recommended Dosage

Over the years, Camphor is seen to be used as cream, powder, and granules. It is even available as a solution to inhale.

●       Camphor Powder – One pinch of the powder is recommended to use once or twice a day after your meals

●       Granules – The camphor granules are advised to take only with the doctor's recommendation with the same dosage mentioned by him/ her.

●       Cream – The cream is directly applied to the skin once or twice a day. It is for external usage only.

 Types of Ayurveda Care with Camphor

  1. Camphor mixture

You can make a delicious edible mixture with edible Camphor. All you need to do is add a little jaggery to one pinch of camphor powder and eat the mixture twice a day after meals.

  1. Camphor oil

Camphor oil can be applied directly to the painful areas. Mix a drop or two of camphor oil with your regular oil, mustard, or coconut and apply it directly to the inflammation or the painful areas. It is for external use only.

  1. Camphor powder

Add a pinch of camphor powder to sesame oil and apply it directly to your skin.

Note that all the different ways to use Camphor are for different purposes. For proper effectiveness, it should therefore be used correctly and with the proper dosage.

Possible Side Effects and Safety

Not everything suits everyone. Camphor has been safe to apply to most adults and has shown negligible side effects. This does not mean that it cannot have any side effects. There are guidelines on how to use it in every form. Often people forget actually to use the guidelines, or underdose, or overdose. All these can have side effects on the person.

Using undiluted Camphor can be called as forbidden. Any product with camphor content of more than 11% is irritable and unsafe. It is also unsafe to use more than 1 teaspoon of the product while taking vapor.

Microwaving products containing Camphor can result in exploding of the same, causing severe burns to the skin.

Once the product enters the internal body parts, it is proven to be toxic. Using camphor products on an open wound and broken skin will result in the Camphor seeping into your body and acting as a toxic substance.

Eating Camphor is very dangerous to be eaten. While there is edible Camphor available in the market, eating normal Camphor can be poisonous to health. In such cases, the symptoms include:

●       Burning of the mouth and throat

●       Nausea

●        Vomiting

●       Nervous seizure

●       Confusion

●       Muscle contraction

●       Blurred vision

The above mentioned are the reasons always to follow the instructions given to you by the doctors or the ayurvedic experts while using any product, including Camphor. If any of the above situations take place or you experience any of the symptoms, immediately reach for a doctor. It is not advised to wait and see what happens next.

Precautions while using Camphor

The use of Camphor comes with a set of precautions and measures to be followed before the use of the same.

●       During Pregnancy

The use of Camphor during pregnancy is not advised. Taking even edible Camphor by mouth is unsafe for the child that you bear. Camphor's skin application for a pregnant woman is not tested, and hence it is not advisable.

●       During Breastfeeding

Applying Camphor to the skin while you are in the period of breastfeeding is also not tested and hence should not be tested at home. It is also not safe to consume Camphor during this time. The effect of Camphor can be drastic on a baby.

●       Effect on children

Children tend to have soft and sensitive skin, which is yet in a growing stage. Doctors have recommended not to use camphor products on children's skin. It is even more hazardous if a child consumes it. It is advised to keep your children away from products that contain Camphor.

●       Effect on Liver

Consumption of Camphor, as already discussed, or applying it to the skin has potential been a reason for liver damage. It is definitely not advised to use any camphor product if you are suffering from liver disease. It can make your health conditions go for a toss.

●       Blood Pressure

You must not apply or use Camphor without your doctor's recommendation if you suffer from blood pressure issues. It can increase your problem and, in turn, lead to a cardiac arrest.

White, Brown, Yellow Camphor as oil

For safety, only the white camphor oil can be used. Brown and yellow camphor oil have proven to be produced with a large amount of safrole, which is a carcinogen, cancer-causing element.

All products with pure Camphor used only the white camphor oil. If you come across a product with brown and yellow camphor oil, do not use it.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is Camphor edible?

-          No, Camphor is not edible and, if consumed, affects the body as a poison. However, there is edible Camphor available to mix with sweeteners, etc. many Indian dishes are seen to use Pachha Karpooram (green Camphor) as a flavoring agent.

  • What are the everyday products that we use that contain Camphor?

-          Camphor is generally used in ointments and balms. Beauty products like face wash, nail polish, and ChapStick also contain Camphor. Some of the products found in every home which contains Camphor are:

1.      Tiger Balm

2.      Vicks VapoRub

3.      Bengay

  • What are the different types of Camphor?

-          According to Ayurveda, there are three types of Camphor, namely, Ishavasa, Him Camphor, and Pitashrya. Nowadays, Camphor is also synthetically produced, giving another classification as "natural" and "artificial."

  • What are the components of camphor oil?

-          Camphor oil is made up of cineole, Limonene, Sabinene, P-cymene, Camphene, B-mycerene, and each of its constituents responsible for some specific therapeutic benefits bronchodilator, anti-inflammatory, relaxant, antidepressant, antimicrobial and antioxidant.

  • What are camphor balls?

-          Commonly known as moth balls, these balls are used to keep moths and insects away from stored clothes for a long time.

  • What is camphor water, and what does it do?

-          Camphor water is used to wash up the areas with a skin infection or acne. It prevents bacterial and fungal growth.

  • Does Camphor help with hair quality?

-          Camphor has proven to be a great cure to hair loss and hair thinning. It also helps in getting rid of dandruff.

  • Does camphor help in reducing body fat?

-          Body fat and obesity are related to Kapha Dosha in Ayurveda, and Camphor has been diluted in regular oil and applied to reduce this. It is also scientifically proven that Camphor, along with baby oil, is used to reduce belly fat.

  • How does Camphor prevent you from getting swine flu?

-          There has not been enough scientific information to support Camphor as a cure to the swine flu. Burning camphor oil purifies the air and reduces the risk of various airborne diseases.

  • Does Camphor repel insects?

-          Camphor has been used as an insect repellent from the ancient times and till today, is burnt at home and other places to keep the insects and flies away. Its strong odor can repel several species of mosquitoes.

  • How to use Camphor as a mosquito repellent?

-          The use of Camphor is one of the easiest ways to keep the insects away. All you need to do is:

1. Place 1-2 tablets of Camphor at different corners of the room.

2. Once it starts evaporating, the odor purifies the air and keeps insects or mosquitoes away.

  • What happens when Camphor is burnt?

-          When camphor is burnt, it releases fumes and gives out the fine fragrance. These fumes are said to infuse positive energy and healing properties.

  • Are there camphor essential oils available?

-          Camphor has been an active ingredient in essential oils. There are pure as well as a diluted form of oil extracts directly available as camphor essential oil. However, to use the pure extract, you will have to mix it with other, regular oils.

  • Is Camphor harmful to the plants?

-          It is not advisable to use Camphor while gardening. It is true that it prevents the growth of weeds in the garden but also causes significant damage to you if you burn the wood without any protection.

  • Does camphor cause grey hair?

-          No, Camphor does not cause grey hair. As a matter of fact, Camphor prevents the whitening of hair if you have been suffering from premature greying of the same.

  • Does Camphor kill lice?

-          Camphor can prevent lice if used properly. A mixture of coconut oil and Camphor kills lice and also smoothens them to remove them easily. It has anti-parasitic properties.

You can mix two tablespoons of coconut oil and one tablespoon of crushed Camphor and apply this paste on your scalp. Leave it overnight and wash it off the next morning. Use this hair mask about thrice a week to get rid of head lice.

  • Is it safe to garden Camphor at home?

-          According to Toxic Plants of North America (Burrows & Tyrl, 2013), growing Camphor is not safe. The plant has toxic properties. It must be handled by experts in the industry and not be grown at home.

( Disclaimer : The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or ayurvedic doctor. )

NS Desk

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