Monday, January 9, 2012

Essential oils: Camphor

Camphor is a component in essential oils (for instance, lavender can have a camphorous odour in some species). It's used a lot in the food industry to flavour sweets and cough products, and it's used in embalming, fireworks, and rust prevention. Solid camphor balls are used as a moth repellant.

In cosmetics, it's considered a plasticizer - it's used in nail polish to allow it to dry well but remain flexible - and it's added to topical pain relieving products as it is a vasodilatory substance (meaning it "refers to the widening of blood vessels"), and it offers that sensation of cooling we've been reading about with  menthol and 1,8-cineole. It's often found in combination with peppermint/menthol and eucalyptus in cold treatment products, but it is not considered a cough suppressant.

Please note: There is camphor (the ketone) and camphor (the essential oil). The information above is about the ketone found in essential oils. I'll put the words "essential oil" after camphor when I'm talking about that. 

Camphor is found in all manner of plants, including lavender, sage, Mexican oregon, rosemary, sweet basil, and cinnamon, to name a few.

Be careful with this essential oil! The FDA allows it at a maximum of 11% because it is poisonous. For a child, eating 2 grams could be toxic and 4 grams could be fatal! (Reference: Wikipedia, Medscape news.)

As an aside, I am so sick and tired of people telling me that propylene glycol is bad for you because it can be found anti-freeze. Being in anti-freeze doesn't make something toxic! Do you think you should avoid camphor because it's used to make dead people look nice before the funeral, repel moths, make things explode? No. Don't make something bad by association. (Although having said that, the glycols are in anti-freeze because it lowers the freezing temperature of water, which is a good thing!) Upon further thought, though, this argument isn't a great one because camphor is, in fact, toxic at relatively low doses...

Join me tomorrow for more fun with camphor - this time, the essential oil!

6 comments:

Sara @Osmosis said...

I've been meaning to ask you what the difference is for Polypropylene glycol(aka Miralax). Would that be also useful in products? Hope that's not a dumb question.

Diane@Peaceful Acres Farm said...

Susan, I am new to your site and just bought 2 of your e-books through Lotion Crafters! I love your simplicity in explaining what to me is a VERY complex concept...science!

I am a small farmer and herbalist and began with making my own herbal infused salves that have been very popular. As I began playing around with hard lotion bars I got very brave and whipped up a oil & water lotion!! YIKES didn't know what I was getting into but we loved my flops. I've been researching why different things failed and finally have a small understanding of it. I'm hoping that by reading through your books I'll get a better grasp of things and eventually have a marketable product. I truly appreciate all that you are making available! Thanks!

p said...

I've been wondering about that, too, Sara! I wonder why polypropylene glycol works as a laxative.

Blue Feather Soaps and Body Care said...

Actually Ethylene Glycol used in anti-freeze is toxic when swallowed. It's sweet and attractive to animals. Some companies have changed their formulas to use the safer Propylene Glycol in an effort to be more environmentally conscious... so wouldn't that make PG a good thing, even if it does lower the freezing point of water?

~ Gillian

Sara @Osmosis said...

I do believe I understand how it works as a laxative. I was told the molecules are too large to be absorbed in the colon and hydroscopic so it keeps everything moist in the colon.

Helena said...

Just love this idea. I finally feel I can have a personal teacher that I trust, who will guide me to making a good product. Very excited to be part of a group making the same product, at the same time. very encouraging, and conparing results will be great.Thanks so much for your dedication, you are special.