- Side Effects
- Drug Interactions
- Pregnancy & Breastfeeding
- What Else to Know
Generic Name: camphor
Brand and Other Names: Cemphire, cinnamomum camphora
Drug Class: Herbals
What is camphor, and what is it used for?
Camphor is an aromatic flammable substance originally distilled from the bark and wood of the camphor tree, Cinnamomum camphora, but now produced primarily from turpentine oil.
Camphor is used as an active ingredient in ointments, camphorated oils and gels, which are topically applied on the skin to relieve local itching (pruritus) or pain, applied on the chest or throat to relieve cough and congestion, or added to steam inhalations to relieve cough.
Camphor works by counterirritation. Camphor initially irritates the nerve endings under the skin or mucous membranes, but continued exposure desensitizes the nerve endings and decreases their sensitivity to pain and itching, and reduces the urge to cough when inhaled.
Animal studies indicate that camphor desensitizes transient receptor potential vanilloid-1 (TRPV1) and transient receptor potential ankyrin (TRPA)1 ion channels on nerve cell (neuron) membranes. These ion channels on neuronal membranes detect environmental irritants and induce protective responses such as pain, heat or itching sensations, cough and tears.
Camphor has traditionally been used as an ingredient in many over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold remedies, for fragrance in cosmetics and perfumes, and as a flavoring agent in food. Camphor balls are used as insect repellents and camphor was used as a fumigant during the Black Death, a plague that spread through Europe in the 14th century. In India, camphor pellets are burnt in temples during religious rituals.
Suggested topical uses of camphor include:
- Minor pains and itching from insect bites, minor burns and scrapes, and itching and rash from poison ivy, poison oak or sumac.
- Warts and cold sores
- Muscle aches
- Joint aches
- Cough and congestion (also as steam inhalations)
Camphor is highly toxic when orally ingested or when products with high camphor content are applied for too long on the skin, particularly on infants. In 1983, the FDA evaluated the use of camphor because of many reports of camphor poisoning.
The FDA recognized camphor as a safe and effective topical antitussive, analgesic, anesthetic, and antipruritic agent, and set a product limit of 11% of camphor concentration. The FDA completely banned products labeled as camphorated oil, camphor oil, camphor liniment and camphorated liniment.
- Do not apply camphor products on infants.
- Do not ingest products containing camphor, it is toxic and can cause serious adverse effects including refractory seizure, respiratory depression and death. Children are at greater risk for seizure and serious reactions.
- Use inhalation products with caution in patients with chronic or persistent cough such as from smoking or lung diseases.
- Camphor is flammable. Handle with care and keep away from flame or fire.
What are the side effects of camphor?
Common side effects of topical camphor include:
- Skin irritation and redness
This is not a complete list of all side effects or adverse reactions that may occur from the use of this drug.
Call your doctor for medical advice about serious side effects or adverse reactions. You may also report side effects or health problems to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
What are the dosages of camphor?
- 3-11% ointment
- Itching and pain: 3-11% ointment applied three to four times daily
- Cough: Thick layer of 4.7-5.3% ointment applied to throat and chest
- Osteoarthritis: Topical combo product containing camphor (32 mg/g), glucosamine sulfate (30 mg/g), and chondroitin sulfate (50 mg/g) applied as needed for 8 weeks
- 1 tablespoon solution per quart of water in a steam vaporizer three times daily
- American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that topical camphor products not exceed 11% camphor AND
- Recommend that camphor not be used in treating children orally
- Ingestion of camphor can cause significant toxicity including death
- Overdose of topical camphor is rare, but can occur if products with high camphor concentration are applied on the skin for prolonged periods, particularly in children. Oral overdose mostly occurs because of accidental ingestion by children.
- Orally ingested camphor is rapidly absorbed and can result in serious symptoms including gastrointestinal irritation, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, refractory seizure and other central nervous system effects.
- Camphor use may have a risk for addiction, according to one study conducted in India.
- Camphor overdose is treated with symptomatic and supportive care and the patient may be monitored for 4 to 6 hours. Severe overdose with seizure will require hospitalization and treatment for seizure with antiepileptic drugs, until symptoms are completely resolved.
What drugs interact with camphor?
Inform your doctor of all medications you are currently taking, who can advise you on any possible drug interactions. Never begin taking, suddenly discontinue, or change the dosage of any medication without your doctor’s recommendation.
- Camphor has no known severe, serious, moderate, or mild interactions with other drugs.
The drug interactions listed above are not all of the possible interactions or adverse effects. For more information on drug interactions, visit the RxList Drug Interaction Checker.
It is important to always tell your doctor, pharmacist, or health care provider of all prescription and over-the-counter medications you use, as well as the dosage for each, and keep a list of the information. Check with your doctor or health care provider if you have any questions about the medication.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
What else should I know about camphor?
- Camphor products are only for external use, never take orally.
- Store safely out of reach of children. Most cases of camphor poisoning are because of accidental ingestion by children.
- In case of oral ingestion or overdose, seek medical help immediately or contact Poison Control.
- Do not apply camphor on wounds, damaged or broken skin, and avoid contact with eyes and mucous membranes.
- If you use OTC camphor products for cough, seek medical help if cough lasts more than 7 days, recurs, or is accompanied by a fever, rash, or persistent headache.
- The FDA has evaluated camphor and has set a limit of 11% concentration in camphor topical products. Check labels and choose only products from reliable manufacturers.
- The FDA has completely banned products labeled as camphorated oil, camphor oil, camphor liniment and camphorated liniment, because of safety concerns.
Camphor is an aromatic flammable substance originally distilled from the bark and wood of the camphor tree, Cinnamomum camphora, used as an active ingredient in ointments, camphorated oils and gels, which are topically applied on the skin to relieve local itching (pruritus) or pain, applied on the chest or throat to relieve cough and congestion, or added to steam inhalations to relieve cough. Handle with care and keep away from flame or fire. Consult with your doctor if pregnant or breastfeeding.
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Warts are a common skin problem that can happen in both kids and adults. Warts are not caused by being dirty, but by viruses in the HPV family.
Are Warts Contagious?
Human papillomaviruses cause warts, which are small growths with a rough texture. Warts may cause symptoms and signs such as pain, itching, bleeding, and discomfort depending upon their location. Salicylic acide may effectively treat some warts.
How Serious Is Whooping Cough in Adults?
What is whooping cough (pertussis) and how serious is it for adults? Learn causes, symptoms and treatments.
Is Whooping Cough (Pertussis) Contagious?
Whooping cough (pertussis) is a highly contagious respiratory infection caused by Bordetella pertussis. Whooping cough symptoms include severe coughing fits and whooping sound produced during inhalation. The bacteria spreads via airborne droplets produced during sneezing or coughing. There is a whooping cough vaccine that is typically administered during childhood vaccinations.
What Happens When a Horse Fly Bites You?
Horseflies, also called the green-headed monsters, are small flying insects. Female horseflies feed on blood to reproduce. Like mosquitoes, female horseflies require a protein meal to produce eggs.
How Do You Know if Bites Are From Bed Bugs?
How can you tell if you have bed bug bites? Learn what makes bed bug bites unique and how to treat them.
When Should You Worry About an Insect Bite?
Treatment depends on the type of reaction to the bite or sting. A small or mild reaction such as redness and pain may require a local application of ice. Clean the area with soap and water to remove foreign particles.
What Can Trigger a Cold Sore?
After you get infected with HSV, it lies inactively in the nerve cells inside your skin and may appear as another cold sore at the same place as before.
What Spider Bite Can Kill a Human?
The Brazilian wandering spider, or banana spider, can cause painful bites that may result in death, especially in very young children and elderly adults.
How Do I Treat Chigger Bites?
Learn what medical treatments can ease your chigger bite symptoms and help you manage this condition.
What to Know About Spider Bites: Identification and Symptoms
There are many species of spiders around the world such as the jumping spider, wolf spider, brown recluse, black widow, hobo spider, tarantulas, false black widow, camel spider, etc. Most spiders don’t bite unless they are threatened. If you are bitten, take a photo of the spider or take the spider (even dead) to the doctor to help identify it and correlate it with your symptoms.
What Is the Difference Between Poison Ivy and Poison Oak?
Learn the differences between poison ivy and poison oak and how to treat your exposure to them.
How Do You Know If Your Child Has Whooping Cough?
Whooping cough is a common issue that affects many children. Learn the signs of whooping cough, what causes it, how doctors diagnose it, and what you can do to treat it.
What Are Warts Caused By?
What are warts caused by?
What Can I Do for My Baby’s Cough?
Cough can cause significant discomfort to a baby. The baby may also have difficulty relaxing and sleeping. Numerous illnesses can cause cough as a primary symptom. Coughing is the result of the baby’s airway being affected or irritated.
How Do I Get Rid of My Toddler's Cough?
Cough is one of the common complaints in toddlers. Get rid of your toddler's cough by making sure your child rests, stays hydrated, takes over-the-counter pain medication, uses nasal spray and uses a humidifier or steam to provide relief.
Pain Management: Neuropathic Pain
Neuropathic pain is chronic pain resulting from injury to the nervous system. The injury can be to the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) or the peripheral nervous system (nerves outside the brain and spinal cord).
How Do You Stop Mosquito Bites From Itching?
Mosquito bites can be irritating. Learn what causes the itch and how to stop it.
How Do You Get Rid of Warts?
Learn what medical treatments can help you get rid of warts.
Burn: First-Degree Burn
A first-degree burn is the most minor form of burn and it usually heals within a week. It happens when the source of heat has come into contact with your skin for just a fraction of a second. A first-degree burn can usually be self-treated at home.
How Can You Tell if It's Poison Ivy?
Several phrases have evolved to help remember how to identify poison ivy. Learn those phrases below.
Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac: Plants and Rashes
Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac are plants that can cause a rash if you come in contact with the urushiol oil found in them. Even when dried-up, their leaves and stems can cause a rash.
How Do You Get a Cold Sore on Your Lip?
Cold sores, also called fever blisters or oral herpes, are a viral infection that leaves small blisters around your mouth. You get a cold sore on your lip due to viral infection from herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1).
How to Get Rid of Poison Ivy Rash
The oil urushiol present in the leaves, roots, and leaves of the poison ivy plant is responsible for the rash that comes after touching it. To get rid of the rash caused by touching poison ivy, you have to also get rid of the oil.
Treatment & Diagnosis
- Muscle Pain (Myalgia)
- Chronic Cough
- Oral Herpes (Cold Sores)
- Spider Bite
- Bug Bites and Stings
- Bedbug Bites
- Common Wart
- Whooping Cough (Pertussis)
- Chigger Bite
- Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac
- Pain Management
- Common Warts
- Tick Bite
- Mind-Body-Pain Connection: How Does It Work?
- Pain Management: Routes to Relief
- Whooping Cough: On the Rise
- Pain Awareness and Management
- Insect bites: The Buzz on Summer Stings and Bites
- Summer Skin Hazards Pictures FAQs
- 8 Myths and Truths About Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac
- Cough, Cold, Weight Loss Drug Dangerous - Warning
- Warts--A Common Infectious Disease
- Poison Ivy - Potion Protection
- Myositis Muscle (Pain and Inflammation) Serious Drug Interactions
- What Can You Give a Toddler for Severe Cough?
- How Long Does Bronchitis Cough Last?
- What Causes a Chronic Cough in Winter?
- How Long Does It Take Strep to Go Away?
- How Do You Treat Whooping Cough in Adults?
- Rabies: What to Do For a Dog, Cat, or Ferret Bite?
- What Does It Mean When Children Cough up Sulfur Granules?
- What Is a Cadaver Wart?
- Can You Cough to Give Yourself CPR?
- Prevention of Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac Rash
- Whooping Cough Symptoms
- Cold Sore Treatment
- OTC Cold and Cough Medications
- Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac: Symptoms and Signs
- How to Identify Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac
- Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac Treatment and Complications
- When to Call the Doctor for Fever, Nausea, Diarrhea, Colds, and Coughs
- Bug Bite Treatment
Medications & Supplements
Prevention & Wellness
Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration
You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.