Common Name: Camphor
Scientific Name: Cinnamomum camphora
Origin: Japan; Taiwan; China; India; Ceylon; Madagascar; Southern Europe and America
Synonyms: Laurus camphora, true camphora, hon-sho, laurel camphor, gum camphor, Japanese camphor, Formosa camphor
Essential Oil Properties and Characteristics
White camphor essential oil is the lightest fraction (lowest boiling). It is a colourless pale yellow liquid with a sharp, pungent camphoraceaous odour. Brown camphor is the the middle fraction and yellow camphor, a blue-green or yellowish liquid, is the heaviest.
Origin and History
Camhor is a tall, handsome, evergreen tree, up to 30 metres high, not unlike the linden. It has many branches bearing clusters of small white flowers followed by red berries. It produces a white crystalline substance, the crude camphor, from the wood of mature trees over fifty years old.
There are many species of camphor: the ho-sho variety produces ho leaf and ho wood oil; the Chinese variety produces apopin oil; the Japan and Taiwan type, known as hon-sho or true camphor, produces two chemotypes: camphor-safrol (Japan) and camphor-linalol (Taiwan). All these are to be distinguished from the Borneo camphor or borneol which is of different origin.
A long-standing traditional preventative of infectious disease; a lump of camphor would be worn around the neck as protection. In its crude form it is very poisonous in large doses, and has been removed from the British Pharmacopoeia.
Brown and yellow camphor are used as the starting material for the isolation of many perfumery chemicals, for example safrol and cineol. White camphor is used as a solvent in the paint and lacquer industry, and for the production of celluloid. Fractions of white oil are used as fragrance and masking agents in detergents, soaps, disinfectants and household products.
Method of Extraction
Crude camphor is collected from the trees in a crystalline form. The essential oil is produced by steam distillation from wood, root stumps and branches and then rectified under vacuum and filter pressed to produce three fractions, known as white, brown and yellow camphor.
Precautions During Use (Contraindications)
Brown and yellow camphor (containing safrol) are toxic and carcinogenic and 'should not be used in therapy, either internally or externally'. White camphor does not contain safrol and is relatively non-toxic, non-irritating and non-sensitising. It is however, an environmental hazard and marine pollutant.
Camphor essential oil has antiseptic properties.
Palmarosa essential oil blends particularly well with basil, cajuput, chamomile, lavender and melissa.