Camphor in Topical Products

Camphor used to be made by distilling the bark and wood of the camphor tree. Today, camphor is chemically manufactured from turpentine oil.

While there haven’t been extensive studies on human subjects, the American Academy of Pediatrics reports that camphor has been shown to cross the placenta, and therefore presents a potential danger to the fetus.

Camphor is rapidly absorbed into the body from the skin, gastrointestinal tract, and respiratory tract. It comes for use as an insect or moth repellent but in other forms, it’s applied for itching and inhalation for upper respiratory congestion. It is an ingredient of anti-itch products applied to the skin, balms for muscle pain and cold medicines. Its strong aromatic odor can repel insects and moths, for which camphor is used as a repellent.

Some camphor is sold in blocks for these purposes.

Poisonings associated with camphor sold as small white cubes packaged in clear plastic, such as straight camphor, are still available in bodegas, botanicas, discount stores, as well as from some pharmacies or on-line.


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