Camphor is considered a rare herb that is derived from the wood of the Cinnamomum camphora plant. It is used in culinary dishes not just for its unique flavour, but for religious ceremonies as well as for its many medicinal qualities.
In Ayurveda, camphor is prized for its cooling properties and for its ability to balance kapha dosha. Edible camphor is recommended in Ayurveda to ease congestion and help in expectoration of mucus from the lungs. It is considered excellent in the treatment of a weak digestive system, reducing cholesterol levels, regulating blood pressure, preventing obesity and is therefore considered good for the heart. It is also effective in fighting bad breath as well as relieving toothache. Camphor also improves vision and boosts intelligence.
Camphor can also be used as an essential oil and is also found in many OTC as well as skin care products like inhalants, bath products, makeup and personal hygiene products, insect repellents etc. When applied to the skin topically, camphor relieves pain, itching, and congestion in chest. It is also effective in treating acne, burn, joint pain and muscle spasm, toenail fungus and for inflammatory conditions.
While the FDA has approved camphor for topical use in concentrations less than 11%, consumption of camphor by mouth is not considered safe during pregnancy. It has mild levels of toxicity and can adversely affect the central nervous system and kidneys of a pregnant woman. Camphor can also cross the placenta and cause birth defects in an infant or result in stillbirth. Also, more research is required to determine the safety of camphor in topical use during pregnancy. Therefore it is best to avoid consuming camphor or using products that contain camphor during pregnancy. Always consult your doctor about herbs safe to use during pregnancy.