Autumn has come! Here is sunny Durban that means a welcome relief from the humid heat of summer. It also means that as the season changes, some people are prone to colds and flu and it is with this in mind that our focus turns to various essential oils and herbs that can help us to support our bodies naturally rather than turning to chemicals for relief.
Our focus this week turns to Cinnamomum camphora (Camphor, white)
Write ups of this oil often start off with a warning which can put people off using it. But, it is a valuable essential oil when used with care and caution. (We will put the warning at the end of the blog, but this does not make it any less important and noteworthy. It just means we want to focus on the awesomeness of this essential oil first).
The first bit of interesting information is that, depending on where the trees are harvested, the chemical variants (chemotypes) will be different. For example, Cinnamomum camphora which is grown in Taiwan and Japan is usually high in linalool (between 80 and 85%). In India, the high camphor chemotype is dominant. In Madagascar though, Cinnamomum camphora is high in 1,8 cineole (between 40-50%). The oil from these trees is sold commercially as Ravintsara.
The second bit of interesting information is that there are three fractions that are collected during distillation: white, yellow and brown. Only the white is used in aromatherapy as the other two types are very high in safrole (yellow 20% and brown 80%) which is considered toxic and carcinogenic.
White camphor is used with great effect in vapour therapy to clear the lungs. Its most important use, for me, is as a stimulant. It stimulates the heart and therefore can be used to help raise low blood pressure. It also stimulates the lungs and therefore helps to clear them of mucous congestion.
So, how can this oil be used please? Some practical advice?
To stimulate the heart or help clear the lungs, burners or vaporisers work really well. This is also used to good effect with people who are convalescing and to help calm people with nervous disorders.
Camphor can be used in a cold compress to relieve the pain of a bruise or sprain.
When added to a cream, in small amounts, it is very helpful in relieving inflamed conditions such as acne or chapped hands and heels.
Now here come the very important warnings:
- Fumes should not be inhaled in large quantities.
- It can be a skin irritant.
- Keep separately and away from homoeopathic remedies as it could be an antidote.
- Overdosing can cause convulsions and vomiting.
- Pregnant women, as well as people prone to epilepsy and asthma should not use it.