What Is White Camphor Oil?
White camphor oil (Cinnamomum camphora) is a potent essential oil with a number of health benefits. This essential oil comes from the camphor tree, which is native to Asia, specifically in Japan, Taiwan (Formosa) and China. It was initially widely cultivated only in China, but is now also grown in Sri Lanka and India.
Camphor oil produces three distinct fractions: white, brown and yellow. Among all fractions, only white camphor oil is used for medicinal and aromatic purposes. The other two fractions contain high levels of the substance called safrole (brown has 80 percent safrole while yellow has 20 percent), which are considered carcinogenic and toxic. White camphor, meanwhile, contains safrole but only in very small amounts, which is not a cause for concern.
Uses of White Camphor Oil
Ironically, white camphor oil is not widely recognized in the aromatherapy field even though it's a common ingredient in mentholated products or ointments to help ease skin diseases and fungal infections. This essential oil emits an intense penetrating scent, which makes it an effective insect repellent, especially for moths and flies. White camphor oil is a popular ingredient for moth balls, which is used in clothes and linens.
Composition of White Camphor Oil
The major components of white camphor oil are alcohol, borneol, pinene, camphene, camphor, terpene and small traces of safrole.1
Benefits of White Camphor Oil
White camphor oil can be an essential part of your first-aid kit as it offers a wide range of health benefits. It is known usually added to massage oils to relieve muscle stiffness and cramps. This oil is also excellent in helping calm the nerves, clear the lungs and dispel apathy. White camphor oil also offers other benefits:
• Decongestant — A popular ingredient in decongestant balms and cold rubs, it provides respiratory relief by reducing the blockage in the bronchi, larynx, pharynx, nasal tracts and lungs.2
• Antispasmodic — This essential oil may help relieve muscle spasms.
• Anesthetic — White camphor oil can also be used as a mild local anesthesia. It produces a cool sensation, which blocks the sensory level on the skin and reduces the brain's ability to feel pain.3
How to Make White Camphor Oil
A camphor tree has to be matured enough, at least 50 years old, to withstand necessary mutilation for steam distillation.5 The essential oil is extracted through steam from chipped wood, root stumps and branches. It is then rectified under vacuum and filter pressed.
During the process of distillation, the three fractions are separated. These are known as white, brown and yellow camphor. White is the first fraction with the lowest boiling point, followed by brown in the middle range, and then yellow with the highest. Warning: Veer away from yellow and brown camphor. They can be toxic and carcinogenic due to their high safrole content.
How Does White Camphor Oil Work?
White camphor oil blends particularly well with basil, cajeput, chamomile, lavender and melissa oils. To use this essential oil therapeutically:
• Aromatherapy. You can add two to three drops of white camphor oil to your bath and soak in it for 10 minutes.
• Decongestant. To help relieve colds and coughs, add two to three drops of white camphor oil in a diffuser. When using it as a decongestant, dilute white camphor oil with lavender oil or olive oil, and rub it on your chest. 6
This essential oil also serves as an effective insect repellent. Just soak a piece of cloth with white camphor oil, place it outside your house, and let its camphoraceous aroma do the work.
Is White Camphor Oil Safe?
I do not advise the administration of white camphor oil to children due to potential skin sensitization. White camphor oil must always be used with a mild carrier oil. Before using topically, I also suggest that you conduct a skin patch test to see if you are allergic to it.
Keep in mind that white camphor oil, or any product containing this oil, should not be applied on open wounds or burns. I also do not recommend using white camphor oil at night as it may interrupt your sleep. People with asthma or epilepsy, as well as children and pregnant women, should not use this, so as to avoid any adverse effects. Be sure to consult with a health professional before using this essential oil.
Side Effects of White Camphor Oil
Take note that high crude extracts of camphor may be toxic like the yellow and brown variants. I'm strongly against taking white camphor oil internally, because it can cause serious side effects and can be fatal at times. The common signs of white camphor oil toxicity are:
White camphor oil is also known to cause liver damage, another reason why I don't recommend taking it orally.