What is Camphor Essential Oil?

Alyssa Simon

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.

Camphor essential oil.
Camphor essential oil.

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.

Camphor essential oil may be useful in treating dandruff.
Camphor essential oil may be useful in treating dandruff.

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.

Camphor essential oil may be mixed with coconut oil as a skin cleanser.
Camphor essential oil may be mixed with coconut oil as a skin cleanser.

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Discussion Comments


@bluedolphin-- I'm sure it will help because camphor oil is also a natural pain reliever. Just make sure to dilute it as the article described before applying it on your skin. This oil should not be used without diluting. In fact, when using any essential oil for the first time, it's a good idea to take a very small diluted amount and test it on the arm. Some people can be allergic to essential oils.

I use camphor essential oil to repel insects. I also put a few drop in my foot soak to relieve, tired and sore feet. If you're up for it, you can even make a homemade salve with additional ingredients like coconut oil and beeswax to use for aches and pains.


Has anyone here used camphor essential oil topically? I plan on using it for arthritis pain. Will it help?


Whenever I have congestion and a cough from a cold or infection, I use camphor essential. I put a tiny amount (just a few drops) in the humidifier in my room at night. The steam along with the essential oil relieves the congestion and helps me breathe. It's really great for this, I recommend it to people who experience these symptoms often. Just don't use too much because a little goes a long way.

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