Camphor can be a natural or synthetic product or a mixture of both. The natural product comes from the wood of the camphor tree, Cinnamomum camphora, which is typically found in Asia. Camphor has been used as a flavoring agent in Asian cuisine and in religious ceremonies.
Camphor and camphor-containing products are generally applied to the skin. Ingestion of such camphor-containing products may result in poisoning and cause a number of adverse and potentially fatal side effects. However, Germany's Commission E has approved camphor for internal and external use for hypotonic circulatory regulation disorders, mucus discharge in the respiratory tract, muscular rheumatism (a painful muscle condition), or cardiac symptoms.
Several combination products containing camphor and other supplements, such as glucosamine sulfate, chondroitin sulfate, peppermint oil, and hawthorn berries, have been shown to reduce osteoarthritis pain and to benefit patients with a type of low blood pressure called orthostatic hypotension.
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Studies in humans have shown that a German combination product of camphor and hawthorn berry extract (Korodin® Herz-Kreislauf-Tropfen) may improve blood pressure in patients with orthostatic hypotension. These findings represent good evidence for this use; however, additional studies are needed.
Human studies have shown that a combination product including camphor, glucosamine sulfate, and chondroitin sulfate (JointFlex®Pain Relieving Cream) may reduce the pain of knee osteoarthritis. These findings represent good evidence for this use; however, additional studies are needed.
Early evidence suggests that a German combination product of camphor and extract of hawthorn berries (Korodin® Herz-Kreislauf-Tropfen) may reduce overall symptoms in patients with functional heart disease. While these early findings are promising, additional research is required before any conclusion may be made.
* Key to grades
A: Strong scientific evidence for this use B: Good scientific evidence for this use C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use D: Fair scientific evidence for this use (it may not work) F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likley does not work)
Tradition / Theory
The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.
Abortifacient (induces abortion), analgesic (pain reliever), anesthetic, anthelmintic (expels parasitic worms), anticonvulsant, anti-inflammatory, anti-itch, antiperspirant, antiseptic, aphrodisiac (increases sexual desire), aromatherapy, asthma, birth control, bronchitis, bubonic plague (prevention), burns, carminative (expels gas), chilblains (inflammation of the toes, fingers, ears, or face upon exposure to cold), childbirth (burning of umbilical cord), cholera, circulatory stimulant, common cold, cough, cough suppressant, decongestant, dental hygiene, diarrhea, expectorant (releases mucus), eye disorders, fever, fever blisters, food flavoring, hemorrhoids, herpes simplex virus, high blood pressure, hypnotic, hysteria, indigestion, irregular heartbeat (adjunct), jaundice, lactation suppression (suppression of breast milk flow), leg ulcers, menstrual flow stimulant, nervousness, nerve pain, onychomycosis (fungal nail infection), pain, parasites, pneumonia, preservative, respiratory stimulant, rheumatism (pain in joints, muscles, and connective tissues), rosacea, scabies, seasickness, sedative, sprains, stimulant (cardiac, central nervous system), swelling, warts.
There is no proven safe or effective dose of camphor in adults. The German Commission E recommends a general dose of 30-300 milligrams taken by mouth as the average daily dosage of liquid or solid preparations of camphor. For application to the skin, Commission E recommends a general dose of 10-20% in semisolid preparations of camphor, or 1-10% in camphor spirits.
Children (under 18 years old)
There is no proven safe or effective dose of camphor in children.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.
Avoid in individuals with a known allergy or sensitivity to camphor or any of its components. Contact dermatitis has been reported.
Side Effects and Warnings
Camphor and camphor-containing products are generally applied to the skin. Such preparations may be potentially poisonous if taken by mouth and may induce a number of adverse and potentially fatal side effects. Caution is advised when using any internal preparations of camphor, due to their potential toxicity.
Side effects may include dermatitis, eczema, fatigue, or gallstones.
Avoid in children, as poisoning and liver toxicity have been reported after external use. Symptoms of poisoning may include nausea and vomiting, an abnormally rapid heart rate, peripheral circulatory shock, increases in liver enzymes, muscle spasms or tremors, seizures, agitation, coma, headache, fatigue, drowsiness, damage to the central nervous system, blurry vision, inflammation of the cornea and conjunctivae of the eye, apnea, respiratory depression, lesions on the mouth, kidney damage, cyanosis (blue color) of the lips, and lethargy.
Camphor, when used as part of the combination product Korodin® Herz-Kreislauf-Tropfen, may increase blood pressure. Caution is advised in patients with high blood pressure or in those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that regulate blood pressure.
Avoid use on injured or broken skin.
Avoid in patients with intermittent acute porphyria, which is a rare disorder in which heme, an important part of hemoglobin (the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen), is not made properly.
Avoid taking by mouth preparations of camphor intended for use on the outside of the body, due to reports of toxicity.
Avoid in patients with a known allergy or sensitivity to camphor or any of its components.
Avoid in patients with infectious or inflammatory gastrointestinal conditions.
Avoid using near the nose in children or infants.
Avoid use in pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Avoid in pregnant or breastfeeding women, due to a lack of available scientific evidence.
Camphor, when used as part of the combination product Korodin® Herz-Kreislauf-Tropfen, may increase blood pressure. Caution is advised in patients taking drugs that affect blood pressure.
Camphor may interact with agents that affect the nerves, antibiotics, antifungals, anti-inflammatory agents, drugs that are toxic to the liver or kidneys, iron salts, and pain relievers.
Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements
Camphor, when used as part of the combination product Korodin® Herz-Kreislauf-Tropfen, may increase blood pressure. Caution is advised in patients taking herbs or supplements that affect blood pressure.
Camphor may interact with antibacterials, antifungals, anti-inflammatory agents, antioxidants, capsaicin, iron, herbs and supplements that affect the nerves, herbs and supplements that are toxic to the liver or kidneys, and pain relievers.
Cohen M, Wolfe R, Mai T, et al. A randomized, double blind, placebo controlled trial of a topical cream containing glucosamine sulfate, chondroitin sulfate, and camphor for osteoarthritis of the knee. J Rheumatol 2003;30(3):523-528.
Cold, cough, allergy, bronchodilator, and antiasthmatic drug products for over-the-counter human use; amendment of final monograph for OTC antitussive drug products. Food and Drug Administration, HHS. Final rule. Fed Regist 2000;65(148):46864-46868.
El Shazly AM, Hassan AA, Soliman M, et al. Treatment of human by camphor oil and metronidazole. J Egypt Soc Parasitol 2004;34(1):107-116.
Hempel B, Kroll M, Schneider, B. [Efficacy and safety of a herbal drug containing hawthorn berries and D-camphor in hypotension and orthostatic circulatory disorders/results of a retrospective epidemiologic cohort study]. Arzneimittelforschung 2005;55(8):443-450.
Janjua NR, Mogensen B, Andersson AM, et al. Systemic absorption of the sunscreens benzophenone-3, octyl-methoxycinnamate, and 3-(4-methyl-benzylidene) camphor after whole-body topical application and reproductive hormone levels in humans. J Invest Dermatol 2004;123(1):57-61.
Kroll M, Ring C, Gaus W, et al. A randomized trial of Korodin Herz-Kreislauf-Tropfen as add-on treatment in older patients with orthostatic hypotension. Phytomedicine 2005;12(6-7):395-402.
Lee HJ, Hyun EA, Yoon WJ, et al. anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative effects of extracts. J Ethnopharmacol 2006;103(2):208-216.
Lim GC, Chen YF, Liu L, et al. Camphor-related self-inflicted keratoconjunctivitis complicating delusions of parasitosis. Cornea 2006;25(10):1254-1256.
Martin D, Valdez J, Boren J, et al. Dermal absorption of camphor, menthol, and methyl salicylate in humans. J Clin Pharmacol 2004;44(10):1151-1157.
Morsy TA, Morsy, GH, Sanad EM. Eucalyptus globulus (camphor oil) in the treatment of human demodicidosis. J Egypt Soc Parasitol 2002;32(3):797-803.
Naukkarinen H, Raassina R, Penttinen J, et al. Deramciclane in the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder: a placebo-controlled, double-blind, dose-finding study. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol 2005;15(6):617-623.
Prabuseenivasan S, Jayakumar M, Ignacimuthu S. antibacterial activity of some plant essential oils. BMC Complement Altern Med 2006;6:39.
Wu J. Treatment of rosacea with herbal ingredients. J Drugs Dermatol 2006;5(1):29-32.
Xu H, Blair NT, Clapham DE. Camphor activates and strongly desensitizes the transient receptor potential vanilloid subtype 1 channel in a vanilloid-independent mechanism. J Neurosci 2005;25(39):8924-8937.
The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.