Camphor tree - Cinnamomum camphora
Cinnamomum camphora (commonly known as Camphor tree, Camphorwood or camphor
laurel) is a large evergreen tree that grows up to 20–30 metres tall. The leaves have a
glossy, waxy appearance and smell of camphor when crushed. In spring it produces bright green foliage with masses of small white
flowers. It produces clusters of black berry-like fruit around one centimetre in
diameter. It has a pale bark that is very rough and fissured vertically.
Cinnamomum camphora is native to China south of the Yangtze River, Taiwan,
Japan, Korea, and Vietnam, and has been introduced many other countries.
C. camphora occurs throughout much of Southeast Asia, but its exact distribution and abundance are not known with any
certainty. Large areas of wild trees once grew in Japan and Taiwan, but these largely disappeared through overexploitation for camphor production in the years up to World War
It is in leaf 12-Jan It is in flower from Mar to June. The flowers are hermaphrodite
(have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Diptera.
The fruit turns black when ripe. In China and India it flowers in April-May, and
the fruit ripens in October- November. In Nepal fruiting occurs September-November.
In Vietnam flowering is in April-May and fruiting in November - January.
Collection can normally start when the tree is 15 years old.
The etymology of Cinnamomum camphora is derived from the Greek word ‘kinnamomon’
(meaning spice). The Greeks borrowed the word from the Phoenicians, indicating that they traded with the East from early
Cinnamon is recorded in Sanskrit, the Old Testament, and in Greek medicinal
works, and was used by Egyptians as early 1485 BC for embalming purposes.
Camphor is a white crystalline substance, obtained from the tree Cinnamomum
camphora. Camphor has been used for many centuries as a culinary spice, a component of
incense, and as a medicine. Camphor is also an insect repellent and a flea-killing
Cinnamomum camphora is native to Taiwan, southern Japan, southeast China and
Indochina, where it is also cultivated for camphor and timber production. The production and shipment of
camphor, in a solid, waxy form, was a major industry in Taiwan prior to and during the Japanese colonial era (1895–1945). It was used medicinally and was also an important ingredient in the production of smokeless gunpowder and
celluloid. Primitive stills were set up in the mountainous areas in which the tree is usually
found. The wood was chipped; these chips were steamed in a retort, allowing the camphor to crystallize on the inside of a crystallization
box, after the vapour had passed through a cooling chamber. It was then scraped off and packed out to
government-run factories for processing and sale. Camphor was one of the most lucrative of several important government monopolies under the
Camphor laurel contains volatile chemical compounds in all plant parts, and the wood and leaves are steam distilled for the essential oils. Camphor laurel has six different chemical variants called chemotypes, which are camphor, linalool, 1,8-cineole, nerolidol, safrole, or borneol. In China field workers avoid mixing chemotypes when harvesting by their odour. The cineole fraction of camphor laurel is used in China to manufacture fake
The chemical variants (or chemotypes) seem dependent upon the country of origin of the tree. The tree is native to China, Japan, and Taiwan. It has been introduced to the other countries where it has been found, and the chemical variants are identifiable by country. e.g., Cinnamomum camphora grown in Taiwan and Japan, (often commonly called "Ho Wood") is normally very high in Linalool, often between 80 and 85%. In India and Sri Lanka the high camphor variety/chemotype remains dominant. Cinnamomum camphora grown in Madagascar, on the other hand, is high in 1,8 Cineole (averaging between 40 and 50%). The essential oil from the Madagascar trees is commercially known as
The essential oil 'camphor' is obtained from the leaves and
twigs. It is extracted commercially by passing a current of steam through the wood
chips, 30 kilos of wood yielding 1 kilo of camphor. Camphor is used medicinally, in
perfumes, as an insecticide and also to make celluloid and as a wood
preservative. It can also be put in shoes to cure perspiring feet (probably by acting as a deodorant rather than preventing
perspiration). The wood has been burnt as a fumigant during epidemics. Wood - beautifully
grained, light brownish, takes a good polish. It is used for making furniture,
cabinets, the interior finish of buildings etc. A large proportion of the world’s camphor is now produced synthetically from
pinene, a turpentine derivative, or from coal tar.
Camphor has a long history of herbal use in the Orient with a wide range of
uses. It has occasionally been used internally in the treatment of hysteria, but in modern day herbalism it is mainly used as the essential oil and internal use is not
advised. The wood and leaves are analgesic, antispasmodic, odontalgic,
rubefacient, stimulant. An infusion is used as an inhalant in the treatment of colds and diseases of the
lungs. The plant is more commonly used in the form of the essential oil which can be obtained by distillation of the chipped
branches, trunk and wood of the tree, or from the leaves and twigs. Wood 24 - 40 years old is normally
used. The essential oil is anthelmintic, antirheumatic, antispasmodic,
cardiotonic, carminative, diaphoretic, sedative and tonic. It is used externally in liniments for treating joint and muscle
pains, balms for chilblains, chapped lips, cold sores, skin diseases etc and as an inhalant for bronchial congestion. Some caution is
advised, excessive use causes vomiting, palpitations, convulsions and death. It is possible that the oil can be absorbed through the
skin, causing systemic poisoning. The essential oil is used in aromatherapy. Its keyword is
'Piercing'. It is used in the treatment of digestive complaints and depression. The German Commission E
Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Cinnamomum camphora for
Arrhythmia, Cough/bronchitis, Hypotension, Nervous heart complaints, Rheumatism.
Young shoots and leaves - cooked. Some caution is suggested because there is a report that the plant is poisonous in large
quantities. The old leaves are dried and used as a spice.
In some countries such as Nepal, the tree is not planted for camphor
production, but is mainly planted in gardens and at the entrances of houses for religious
reasons, and as an ornamental tree, though the wood is valuable.
Intercropping: In China, intercropping with agricultural crops is practised at the seedling
Cinnamomum camphora was introduced to Australia in 1822 as an ornamental tree for use in gardens and public
parks, where it is commonly called Camphor laurel. It has become a weed throughout Queensland and central to northern New South Wales where it is suited to the
wet, subtropical climate. However, the tree provides hollows quickly in younger
trees, whereas natives can take hundreds of years to develop hollows.
Introduced to the contiguous United States around 1875, Cinnamomum camphora has become naturalized in portions of the states of
Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, North
Carolina, Texas, and South Carolina. It has been declared a category I invasive species in