Camphor essential oil is a plant oil extracted from the roots and branches of the camphor tree. It is used in skin lotions as an anti-inflammatory for sprains and bruises and can also be added to a vaporizer to combat bronchitis and respiratory problems resulting from colds and flu. Camphor essential oil is thought by some herbalists and holistic health practitioners to alleviate depression and calm nerves, especially when combined with other essential oils like chamomile and lavender.
When the camphor essential oil is distilled through a steam process after extraction, it produces three products called white, yellow and brown camphor. Only the white camphor, a clear liquid, is used. Brown and yellow camphor are thought too toxic even in small amounts. White camphor oil has been used historically to combat the bubonic plague in ancient Persia and also used for centuries as an embalming fluid in China. In India, the oil has been mixed with coconut oil as a skin cleanser and dandruff cure.
Its antibacterial properties make camphor essential oil a common ingredient in many natural household cleaning products. To make a homemade disinfectant, a few drops of the oil are combined with a mixture of liquid castile soap and hot water. Its scent is also known to deter insects. Cotton balls soaked in camphor essential oil and placed in closets or drawers may repel moths, and an open bottle can keep mosquitoes away from a camping site or picnic.
Camphor essential oil is the active ingredient in many commercial chest rub creams for congestion and coughs. A few drops of the oil can be added to any lotion for a homemade version. It is also thought to be an effective analgesic, or pain reliever, for sore muscles, back pain and arthritis. Essential oils are concentrated, so only a small amount is needed to be effective. The typical dilution rate for essential oils is 3%, or 10 drops of essential oil to every ounce (about 28ml) of carrier oil, lotion or cream.
Camphor essential oil is considered toxic in large amounts and is meant for external use only. It is not meant to be applied to the skin on its own and should not be used as a massage oil. Camphor essential oil taken in large doses may cause convulsions and vomiting. Pregnant women and those suffering from asthma or epilepsy are advised against using it.