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Camphor essential oil

Camphor essential oil information

Camphor essential oil information

General Information

Common Name: Camphor

Scientific Name: Cinnamomum camphora

Family: Lauraceae

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.

Therapeutic properties

Camphor essential oil has antiseptic properties.

Palmarosa essential oil blends particularly well with basilcajuputchamomilelavender and melissa.