Herb: Camphor

Latin name: Cinnamomum camphora

Synonyms: Laurus camphora

Family: Lauraceae (Laurel Family)

Medicinal use of Camphor:

Camphor has a long history of herbal use in the Orient with a wide range of uses. It has occasionally been used internally in the treatment of hysteria, but in modern day herbalism it is mainly used as the essential oil and internal use is not advised. The wood and leaves are analgesic, antispasmodic, odontalgic, rubefacient, stimulant. An infusion is used as an inhalant in the treatment of colds and diseases of the lungs. The plant is more commonly used in the form of the essential oil which can be obtained by distillation of the chipped branches, trunk and wood of the tree, or from the leaves and twigs. Wood 24 - 40 years old is normally used. The essential oil is anthelmintic, antirheumatic, antispasmodic, cardiotonic, carminative, diaphoretic, sedative and tonic. It is used externally in liniments for treating joint and muscle pains, balms for chilblains, chapped lips, cold sores, skin diseases etc and as an inhalant for bronchial congestion. Some caution is advised, excessive use causes vomiting, palpitations, convulsions and death. It is possible that the oil can be absorbed through the skin, causing systemic poisoning. The essential oil is used in aromatherapy. Its keyword is "Piercing". It is used in the treatment of digestive complaints and depression.

Description of the plant:


6 m
(20 feet)

to June


Habitat of the herb:

Banks of streams in China, to elevations of 750 metres.

Edible parts of Camphor:

Young shoots and leaves - cooked. Some caution is suggested because there is a report that the plant is poisonous in large quantities. The old leaves are dried and used as a spice.

Other uses of the herb:

The essential oil "camphor" is obtained from the leaves and twigs. It is extracted commercially by passing a current of steam through the wood chips, 30 kilos of wood yielding 1 kilo of camphor. Camphor is used medicinally, in perfumes, as an insecticide and also to make celluloid and as a wood preservative. It can also be put in shoes to cure perspiring feet (probably by acting as a deodorant rather than preventing perspiration). The wood has been burnt as a fumigant during epidemics. Wood - beautifully grained, light brownish, takes a good polish. It is used for making furniture, cabinets, the interior finish of buildings etc.

Propagation of Camphor:

Seed - the seed has a short viability and is best sown as soon as it is ripe in a greenhouse. Remove the fruit pulp since this can inhibit germination. Germination can take 1 - 6 months at 20C. Stored seed should be sown as soon as possible in a warm greenhouse. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in a greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Consider giving them some protection from the cold for at least their first two winters outdoors. Cuttings of semi-ripe side shoots, 7cm with a heel, June/July in a frame with bottom heat.

Cultivation of the herb:

Banks of streams in China, to elevations of 750 metres.

Known hazards of Cinnamomum camphora:

The plant is poisonous in large quantities. Large doses can cause respiratory failure in children. See the report below on medicinal uses for more information.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.