The camphor tree is a large evergreen that grows in Florida, California, South America and Asia and is widely known for its turpentine-like smell, traditionally used in making mothballs. Camphor oils and herbs must be used topically and can be toxic when ingested. Camphor, once used in liquor and taken internally as a nutritional supplement, was banned by the FDA in 1980 after it was found to cause liver damage. Always consult with your personal health care provider before you begin self-treatment with camphor.
Camphor creams applied to the chest and neck can help relieve congestion and ease coughing. Inhaling camphor fumes relieves airway congestion and loosens mucus. When camphor cream is rubbed into the chest and throat, your body heat helps to release the camphor vapors that act as a decongestant. Camphor oil can be added to a room humidifier for a similar effect.
Rosacea is a skin condition with inflammation and redness on the checks, forehead and nose. Diluted camphor oil is an effective treatment for rosacea, although too concentrated a solution can irritate the skin and make the problem worse. Camphor can also be used to soothe chapped lips and treat eczema.
Camphor oil is a local anesthetic and can be used to relieve joint and muscle pain. It is a counter-irritant that reduces the pain signals that reach the brain by stimulating nerve endings when applied as an ointment or salve. In Central America, the sap from the camphor tree is used to relieve aches and pains and can be mixed with olive oil to heal bruises faster.
Camphor herbs, made from the leaves rather than the bark of the camphor tree, can be used to aid digestion and kill parasites in the intestine.
Traditionally used as a moth repellent, camphor can be used both as an insecticide and insect bite treatment, relieving the itch or sting and inflammation, as well as healing the skin.
Camphor is an antispasmodic and is used in Ayurvedic medicine for the treatment of epilepsy. However, overdosing on camphor oil can result in convulsions, so consult an Ayurvedic practitioner before using camphor this way.
In aromatherapy, camphor oil can be used to treat depression, calm the nerves and decrease apathy. It isn't used as a massage oil, because the oil can be toxic in large quantities, but it can be used with a diffuser for vapor therapy or with a compress.