Camphor is an ingredient that we almost use everyday in our prayers, hair care, skin care, remedies and also around our home. Camphor is not a completely safe ingredient, before using camphor should get to know its side effects especially before using it on a regular basis. This applies to applying camphor externally, consuming it internally and also inhaling the vapors when we burn camphor.
Types Of Camphor:
We use two varieties of camphor. We use the steam distilled camphor called edible camphor in both cooking (in very very tiny amounts in certain traditional sweets) and in remedies. We use synthetic camphor that we get in pellet form in prayers. Finally we also use camphor essential oil and camphor oil in both hair care and skin care.
Camphor Side Effects:
1. Camphor Allergy
Camphor allergy especially when using synthetic camphor for skin care is very common. Camphor allergy can lead to development of rashes, redness and extreme dryness of the skin. Never use synthetic camphor for skin care and even if you are using edible camphor make sure to use it in the proper dosage.
2. Toxic In Large Doses:
Though edible camphor is consumed in very small quantities from ancient times in certain sweets, we should remember that it is extremely toxic above certain levels. Over dosage can lead to abdominal pain, nausea, headache, heart palpitations and in extreme cases seizures. It is best to immediately consult a physician if you have ingested camphor.
3. Should Not Be Used On Open Wounds:
Camphor enters into our bloodstream very very quickly so never use camphor on broken capillaries. The same applies when we use camphor essential oil mixed with a base oil for our scalp too. If we use it on the scalp with wounds, it can lead to camphor poisoning very easily. You can read the toxicity report here.
4. Not For Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers:
Both pregnant women and lactating mothers should avoid consuming camphor completely as it can induce abortion. In our village we use camphor oil for treating leg cramps in pregnant women that they normally face during the last trimester. But if there are open wounds, avoid external application of camphor completely. This is especially important for pregnant women as it can lead to toxicity in the unborn child.
5. Can Cause Respiratory Problems:
Like me, many of you would have experienced slight respiratory irritation when we inhale synthetic camphor fumes. Nowadays I have completely stopped burning synthetic camphor during prayers and I would suggest the same to you too if you are facing respiratory problems. Even if you are burning synthetic camphor, don’t burn more than a pellet at a time.
6. Keep Away From Children
Camphor is one ingredient that is commonly found in many Indian homes. We should be very careful and keep it safely away if there are small children around as it can cause severe side effects if ingested. Even while applying externally, make sure not to go above 3 to 5%.
If children accidentally consume camphor, take them immediately to the doctor. Also applying camphor based products in the nostrils of babies should also be avoided. We never use camphor for babies and I would suggest the same to you too. Also it should be avoided completely in children who have a history of convulsions.
7. Fire Hazard:
We all know how flammable camphor is so we should be very careful while handling camphor. There have been reported accidents while making camphor oil at home. While making camphor oil, we heat camphor with coconut oil but if heated above certain temperatures it can catch fire very easily so be very very careful while heating camphor.
Lethal Dosage of Camphor In Adults and Children
Approximately 4 grams is the lethal dosage for adults. For children it is .5 to 1 gram. For babies it is 70 mg. Another important things we should remember is that camphor is very rapidly absorbed from the skin, intestine and also through respiratory tract so overdosing of camphor in the form of inhaling vapors, external application and internal consumption should be strictly avoided.
Symptoms Of Camphor Ingestion:
Camphor in large doses mainly affects the central nervous system and the kidneys. It can lead to convulsions, depression, gastric irritation, colic, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, anxiety, excitement, delirium and in extreme cases death.
Some Facts About Camphor
- Camphor is not a carcinogen and has been used in medicines from ancient times but the dosage is very very important and internal consumption except for the tiny amount we add in sweets should be done strictly done only under expert guidance.
- Camphor has been used to induce abortion by internal consumption and it does cause abortion in most cases. Since camphor enters bloodstream very very rapidly, within 15 minutes after ingesting camphor it can be detected in the blood.
- Applying camphor oil externally for treating cramps in pregnant women is a common traditional remedy and it has been proven to be safe and does not affect the fetus in anyway. Just make sure not to apply on open wounds. But camphor ingestion even in small quantities by pregnant women will lead to abortion.
- Inhaling camphor vapors above a certain percentage irritates the nose and throat. Very large exposure to camphor vapors will cause the same side effects as camphor ingestion.
- Ingesting synthetic camphor tablets by young children has been reported many times. Also vaporub ingestion by young children have also been reported. Usually after ingestion the children vomit and within few minutes they become unresponsive and depending on the dosage many experience seizures too. So always keep camphor based products away from babies.
- Another common practice that we see is regularly applying camphor based products like vaporub on the skin very often. Some people get so accustomed to using camphor based vaporubs that they start using them very often. It is best to use camphor once in a while and not regularly and especially not for babies on a regular basis.
External application of camphor is ok for skin and hair care but camphor should never be used on open wounds. Internal consumption especially in dosages more than the suggested amount should be taken only under expert guidance.
Don’t use camphor even for external application in babies. Even in adults it is best not to use camphor every single day for long duration’s of time. Camphor vapor also can lead to toxicity if inhaled in large amounts.
Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers should never consume camphor as camphor induces abortion in pregnant women. Always try to use edible camphor and camphor essential oil over synthetic camphor in remedies. In fact it is best to stop using synthetic camphor altogether completely.