Terpene Glossary | Healing Potential of Camphor

Camphor, a naturally occurring terpenoid, has been used in traditional medicine for centuries due to its diverse biological activities. This monograph aims to provide a comprehensive review of scientific studies related to the healing potential of camphor, covering its sources, chemical properties, pharmacological activities, and therapeutic potential in various disorders.


Camphor is a terpenoid with a characteristic pungent, penetrating odor. It has been recognized for its potential healing properties, including analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antispasmodic activities. This review discusses current scientific knowledge on camphor and its potential therapeutic applications.

Sources and Chemical Properties

Camphor is primarily derived from the wood of the camphor tree (Cinnamomum camphora) and can also be found in other plants, such as rosemary and sage. Its chemical structure features a bicyclic ring system with three chiral centers, distinguishing it from other terpenes.

Pharmacological Activities

A. Analgesic Activity

Camphor has been used as a topical analgesic for treating muscle pain, joint pain, and neuralgia. Its analgesic effects are thought to be mediated by its ability to activate the transient receptor potential (TRP) channels, particularly the TRPV1 and TRPM8 channels, which modulate pain perception (Xu et al., 2005).

B. Anti-Inflammatory Activity

Camphor has been studied for its anti-inflammatory properties. In vitro and in vivo studies have demonstrated its ability to inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory mediators, such as nitric oxide (NO), prostaglandins, and cytokines (Chen et al., 2016).

C. Antimicrobial Activity

The antimicrobial properties of camphor have been shown against a wide range of bacteria and fungi, including Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, and Candida albicans (Kalemba et al., 2003). Its mechanism of action is believed to involve the disruption of microbial cell membranes, leading to cell death.

D. Antispasmodic Activity

Camphor has demonstrated antispasmodic effects on smooth muscle, making it a potential treatment for asthma and gastrointestinal spasms. Its antispasmodic properties are thought to be mediated by its ability to modulate calcium channels (de Sousa et al., 2006).

Therapeutic Potential in Various Disorders

A. Pain Management

The analgesic activity of camphor has been widely utilized in topical formulations for managing various types of pain, including muscle pain, joint pain, and neuralgia. Its ability to modulate TRP channels and reduce pain perception makes it valuable in pain-relief products (Xu et al., 2005).

B. Respiratory Disorders

The antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties of camphor have been explored for the treatment of respiratory disorders, such as bronchitis, asthma, and sinusitis. Camphor has been shown to reduce airway inflammation and improve lung function in animal models of these conditions (de Sousa et al., 2006).

C. Skin Disorders

The antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties of camphor make it an attractive candidate for the treatment of skin disorders, such as acne, eczema and wound healing. Its soothing and regenerative effects on skin tissue have also been reported (Chen et al., 2016).

D. Gastrointestinal Disorders

The antispasmodic activity of camphor has been investigated for its potential use in the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other functional gastrointestinal disorders. Its ability to modulate calcium channels and relax smooth muscle may help alleviate symptoms such as abdominal pain, cramping, and spasms associated with these conditions (de Sousa et al., 2006).

E. Insect Repellent and Antiparasitic Applications

Camphor has been traditionally used as an insect repellent due to its strong odor, believed to deter insects. It has also shown antiparasitic activity against various parasites, including lice, mites, and ticks, making it a potential ingredient in insect-repellent and antiparasitic formulations (Koul et al., 2008).

In conclusion, camphor has demonstrated various pharmacological activities, including analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antispasmodic, and insect-repellent properties, contributing to its potential healing capabilities. These diverse activities highlight the potential therapeutic applications of camphor in various disorders, such as pain management, respiratory diseases, skin disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, and insect-repellent and antiparasitic applications.