What Is Camphor Oil?
Camphor oil extracted from the wood of camphor laurel trees (Cinnamomum camphora) with steam distillation. The extracts are used in a range of body products, including lotions and ointments.
It’s used similarly to capsaicin and menthol, two agents that are commonly added to lotions and ointments for pain relief.
Camphor is a waxy, white or clear solid that has a strong aromatic odor. Its terpene constituents are often used on the skin for their therapeutic effects.
Eucalyptol and limonene are two terpenes found in camphor extracts that are widely researched for their cough-suppressing and antiseptic properties.
Camphor oil is also valued for its antifungal, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s only used topically, as internal use can be toxic.
1. Promotes Healing
Camphor has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, making it a natural agent for fighting skin infections. It’s often used optically to soothe skin irritations and itchiness and speed up wound healing.
Studies show that Cinnamomum camphora has antibacterial effects and possesses antimicrobial activity. This makes skin care products containing it natural agents for fighting infections and promoting healing.
Creams and body products containing C. camphora are also used to increase skin elastin and collagen production, promoting healthy aging and a younger appearance.
2. Relieves Pain
Camphor is often used in sprays, ointments, balms and creams for relieving pain. It’s able to reduce swelling and pain that affect muscles and joints, and studies show that it’s used to alleviate back pain and may stimulate nerve endings.
It has both warming and cooling properties, allowing it to relieve stiffness and ease discomfort.
It’s also a natural anti-inflammatory agent, so it’s used to ease muscle and joint pain that’s caused by inflammation and swelling. It’s also known to stimulate circulation and has been shown to interact with sensory nerve receptors.
3. Reduces Inflammation
A 2019 study published in Toxicological Research indicates that camphor extract is able to alleviate allergic skin inflammatory responses. For the study, mice were treated with C. camphor leaves on atopic dermatitis.
Researchers found that the treatment method improved symptoms by reducing immunoglobulin E levels, reducing lymph node inflammation and decreased ear swelling. These changes suggest that camphor oil is able to alleviate inflammatory chemokine production.
4. Fights Fungal Infections
Research indicates that pure camphor is an effective antifungal agent. A clinical case series found that Vicks VaborRub, a product that’s made with camphor, menthol and eucalyptus, is a safe and cost-effective alternative for treating toenail fungus.
Another study concluded that camphor, menthol, thymol and oil of eucalyptus were the most effective components against fungal pathogens.
5. Eases Coughs
C. camphora is often used in chest rubs to help ease coughs in both children and adults. It works as an antitussive, helping reduce congestion and alleviating consistent coughing.
Because of its dual warm and cool effects, it can be rubbed into the chest to ease cold symptoms.
A study in Pediatrics compared the efficacy of vapor rub containing camphor, petrolatum and no treatment for children with nighttime cough and cold symptoms.
The study survey included 138 children aged 2–11 who experienced cough and cold symptoms, leading to difficulty sleeping. Comparisons demonstrated superiority of the camphor-containing vapor rub over no treatment and petrolatum.
6. Relaxes Muscles
Camphor has antispasmodic effects, so it can be used to relieve muscle spasms and issues like restless leg syndrome, leg stiffness and stomach cramping. Animal studies show that camphor oil works as a relaxant and can reduce smooth muscle contractility.