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July 24, 2019 3 min read

Oil of the Week - Camphor


This piercing oil, known for its strongly refreshing scent and ability to clear chestiness and blocked noses, has a long and interesting history. Extracted from the bark and leaves of the Camphor tree native to the forests of Japan and Taiwan, camphor has been used by many civilizations including the Chinese, Indians, Persians and medieval Europeans.

In Ayurvedic medicine, camphor is a treatment for coughs, colds, vomiting, diarrhea, eczema, gastritis and even speech impediments and psychological issues. The Chinese and Indians used camphor for medicinal and spiritual practice as the vapors were believed to have healing effects on the mind and body. The Chinese also used the sturdy wood of the camphor trees in shipbuilding. In 14th century Europe, camphor was a powerful disinfectant used during the Plague, while the Persians used it in embalming practices.

Camphor’s cooling properties make it useful in treating pain and inflammation, sprains, joint and muscular pain, as well as skin irritation, redness, rashes and itchy insect bites. It boosts circulation and the metabolism, and can help reduce the intensity of nervousness, anxiety, convulsions and spasms.

With a clean, powerful scent similar to menthol, camphor has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and stimulating properties that can help increase blood flow, reduce headaches and clear sinuses. It is commonly used in vapor rubs and homemade ‘tiger balm’ to help ease symptoms of bronchitis and pneumonia, and assists in easier and deeper breathing. It is also useful in calming those with anxiety and hysteria, helping them to breathe and relax.

In hair shampoos, a tiny amount of camphor can help clear lice, and also boost hair growth by stimulating the scalp and follicles.


Add camphor to a humidifier or burner as a decongestant and air purifier. Try out some of these oil blends:

Essential Oil Inhaler Blend For Breathing

10 drops camphor

6 drops ravensara

4 drops eucalyptus

3 drops German chamomile

Blend everything together in a glass bottle and use this as a diffusing blend in a burner or diffuser. Add 7 drops to your burner, and burn for a few hours every day to clear up phlegm and mucus.



Air Purity Blend

15 drops camphor

15 drops pine

Add to a glass bottle and shake to combine. Then diffuse 5-10 drops for 20 minutes in a room to clear the air of bacteria and germs.



Strengthening and Immunity Blend

8 drops camphor

6 drops lime

5 drops basil

4 drops frankincense

Add to a bottle and shake well. Diffuse in a room to promote recovery from illness, boost immunity and overcome feelings of fatigue and stress.



You can also blend camphor into massage oils for muscles and joints, or make it into a balm similar to Vicks.

Massage Blend for Joints and Pain

3T almond oil

8 drops camphor

7 drops birch or wintergreen

50ml amber bottle

Combine everything in the bottle and shake well. Then massage generously into affected areas.



Camphor Vapor Rub

30ml olive oil or jojoba oil

1.5T beeswax pellets

3-5 drops camphor oil

Melt the beeswax gently over a water bath and add in the carrier oil. Stir through the camphor then pour the mixture into a tin and leave to set. Use the balm whenever necessary by applying to the chest, back or soles of the feet.


Camphor blends well with basil, cajeput, chamomile, eucalyptus, lavender, melissa, or rosemary essential oils for a pleasing scent. You can add any of these oils to your oil blends or balm to enhance effectiveness.


Camphor is useful for deterring mosquitoes and other insects, hence its use in mothballs. You can make a simple insect repellent spray by adding a few drops of camphor essential oil to some water in a spray bottle. Shake well and spray around the braai place to deter flies and mosquitoes.


Caution: While camphor is safe for topical use, please do not ingest as it can be toxic. Do not apply to broken skin. Keep away from pets and children.


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