Camphor comes from the Cinnamomum camphora tree, an evergreen that is native to the Orient. The white, crystalline camphor is used to make camphor water. Natural camphor producers extract oil from the trees medicinal and other uses. The roots, stems and leaves also are used for medicinal purposes. Camphor has a penetrating odor and, like menthol leaves, feels cold to the touch and has limited antiseptic properties. Most camphor used today is produced chemically using turpentine compounds in industrial settings, according to the University of Texas.
Upper Respiratory Treatments
Camphor water is mostly used to alleviate coughing, according to the University of Texas. When camphor is in contact with water, it forms a protective layer that covers the lining of your upper respiratory system. This lining reduces irritation and blocks your cough reflex. Camphor water vapors often are used in nebulizer treatments. The vapors are inhaled to treat upper respiratory conditions such as bronchitis or the common cold.
Topical Application Uses
If you have neurodermatitis, a skin condition that causes severe itching and scaling of the skin, use camphor water or camphor oil preparations to alleviate itching. An ointment containing between 3 and 11 percent camphor and applied three to four times daily can help reduce itching, according to MayoClinic.com. Camphor preparations are applied topically to improve capillary circulation, alleviate rheumatic pain and soothe the pain of sprains and inflammatory conditions.
Consuming Camphor Water
Camphor is toxic and flammable if not used as directed. The University of Texas reports that some people drink camphor teas or ingest camphor preparations for medicinal puposes, or for its supposed calming effects, but cautions against such use since a therapeutic dose of ingested camphor is dangerously close to a toxic dose.