Warning About Camphor Use

camphor tree and fruit
camphor tree and fruit
camphor cube
camphor cube
camphor balls
camphor balls

Camphor Warnings

The familiar camphor, with its strong smell, and long used as a moth repellant, is now showing up on the market in an adultered form. This form is toxic and particualry dangerous to children. Although similar in appearance, it is not at all the product used many years ago.

What is camphor?

Camphor is obtained from the tree, Cinnamomum camphora, and is a white crystaliine substance. Known as 'alcanfor' in Spanish, camphor is a common ingredient in cold products, as an air freshener, for warding off illnesses, and for pest control. It is sold as a balm, ointment, and in the familiar cube and mothball form. (see photos)

What's the problem now?

However, the name camphor has also been given to different concrete, odorous, volatile products from a variety of aromatic plants. In New York City, warnings have been issued against camphor products. These camphor products have been shown to be a danger, particularly for children.

What is the danger with children and camphor?

The Health Department in New York City has warned parents that camphor products can be very dangerous for children. If accidentally ingested or applied to the skin, camphor products can be toxic. In 2008, three cases of seizures associated with camphor have been confirmed and seven additional cases were investigated.

Aren't products with camphor legal?

The FDA does not approve the use of camphor for cold or cough medicine. Legal products containing camphor, such as chest rubs, should be used only as directed on the label.

What are the symptoms of camphor poisoning?

The main symptoms of camphor posioning can occur in 5 to 20 minutes. They include agitation, nausea, stomachache, vomiting, irritability and seizures.

New Warning - As of 11/24/10 - New Jersey has issued a safety warning about children eating lavender camphor products - because they look like candy.

What about camphorated oil?

The American Academy of Pediatrics warns that camphorated oil is the worst offender in the case of accidental ingestion. This is due to the fact that the oil is mistaken for several other over-the-counter (OTC) products. Even ingesting a small amount of the oil can be fatal. Also a transplacental transfer can take place and this may be toxic to the fetus.

What are the respiratory dangers?

Our respiratory tract is particularly sensitive to camphor. This is thought to be due to its stimulation of nerve endings. Camphor crosses the mucous membranes, the skin, the placental barrier and can cause hepatoneurotoxicity - damage to the liver and the nerves.

What is camphor's relationship to Reye's Syndrome?

Due to its hepatoneurotoxic effects (mentioned above), camphor toxicity may clinically mimic Reyes's Syndrome. In order to differentiate between the two, a histologic examination of liver tissue is necessary and this requires the need for a liver biopsy.

I would opt to avoid all camphor products, especially around children, or with pets in the home. There is no assurance of what you are actually purchasing. 

For more information about toxic products in our homes, see the links below:

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Comments 73 comments

Coolmon2009 profile image

Coolmon2009 5 years ago from Texas, USA

Good information on the health concerns of Camphor, thanks for sharing.


creativeone59 profile image

creativeone59 5 years ago from Gold Canyon, Arizona

Thank you for a great hub, we all need to know this information. Thank for sharing it. Godspeed. Have a happy holiday, you and yours. creativeone59


BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 5 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City Author

Thank you Coolmon2009. Yet another old product, our elders have used it for ages - now destroyed. We have to remember that in the US a product can be called by a familiar name even if it is not 100% that product.

Yes, creativeone59 - we no longer know what is in our products or its origins - nothing at all - but the name remains the same. Better to remove it from the home if children are there and not take a risk. And have a restful holiday!

Thanks for the comments!


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida

Never could stand the smell of the stuff. Thanks for the heads up. Lynda


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

We used moth balls to discourage certain insect when we lived in Missouri gut have not had them around for years. Interesting information.


BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 5 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City Author

It was such a familiar smell in my youth lmmartin. Of course them we had lots of real wool fabric which has been replaced by synthetics. Cedar works well and is a better choice now because we can identify the wood.

It's too bad dahoglund that such a product that is not genuine can retain the camphor name when in fact it is a seriously toxic substitute. Makes me think of all the supplements on the market touting the vitamin and mineral content - yet they are all synthetic versions. Hardly the real thing.

Thanks for the comments. I wrote this because it keeps popping up on the news - and children are seriously affected.


TheListLady profile image

TheListLady 5 years ago from New York City

So true - this was never a concern when I was a child - but now what is out there I wouldn't touch. Manufacturers have given us a product with a similarly strong smell and labeled it camphor - but it is not. Seems we insist upon being uneducated consumers. We'll buy anything. Thanks for the information. With the internet there is no reason for us not to be informed.

Rated up!


BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 5 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City Author

Agreed and a reminder that we cannot assume that what we are buying is the real thing. How sad that so many toxins and lead based items can reach our children.

Thanks for writing.


Veronica Allen profile image

Veronica Allen 5 years ago from Georgia

Wow! This is down right scary! It just goes to show you that you really have to inform yourself about what is going in your body and the body of your children. Thanks for this vital information BkCreative.


BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 5 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City Author

Too bad we are forever told 'let the buyer beware' instead of - not allowing us to be victimized by dangerous products in the first place. Real camphor has been around forever with amazing benefits. This should not even be called camphor - but the strong smell makes us think it is the real thing.

Thanks so much for writing VA!


Darlene Sabella profile image

Darlene Sabella 5 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

fantastic hub, I emailed to some friends plus added it to twitter. This is the kind of research about, items in homes to harm us, our children and our pets. I do pray you will read and comment on my hubs when you can. Also I vote this up and am thrilled to learn this. Love darski


BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 5 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City Author

Thank you Darlene Sabella. I'm glad you shared it with others. It never ceases to amaze me the amount of toxic garbage allowed in our markets. Fortunately, we can now spread the word.

Thanks for the up vote too!


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 5 years ago from TEXAS

sigh. Seems that the more 'convenience' we expect or demand, the more we are exposed to new and ever-more dangerous things. Even fresh produce is not without its dangers. Yikes! I've clicked quite a few of your links here and am so amazed at these findings! Thanks for sharing your information!


BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 5 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City Author

You're welcome Nellieanna. I'm glad you came and read. And yes, produce can be genetically altered or drenched in pesticides. Ah, but we can speak with our dollars.

Thanks for writing.


shygirl2 5 years ago

Good to know, although I never knew of its other uses. Only that of Camphor Phenic...or cold sore jel? Thanks for the warning, B.K. Creative. :)


BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 5 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City Author

You're welcome shygirl - Thanks for the comment!


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 5 years ago from TEXAS

Yes, we can express our approval with our dollars and our disapproval by withholding them. Wish I still had the garden I helped my green-thumbed late George keep going for so many years. It was good to know exactly what it had been exposed to. He knew how to plant other plants to deter the pests. It was one of his own designs - a "metro-garden" invention of his. We had more fresh veggies than we could hardly use! I depend on fresh produce for a large % of my diet, which I credit for keeping me active and healthy at the ripe age I am. So I must buy it at the store now. But I am careful and certainly fastidious about washing carefully, even fruits to be peeled.

I buy organic when I can but I can't always. One thing I find is that emphasizing "in season" produce is more likely to be more home-grown, which needs less preservative, with less distance to cover. I love farmer's markets but can't always get to one. Anyway - fresh is better than pills. LOL.


BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 5 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City Author

So true Nellieanna, when I was a mere child over 50 years ago, my mother stressed in season as did all the elders. They were appalled to see us going to the new supermarkets and buying whatever fruit was offered. Also fruit grown locally must be good for the local people - it all goes together.

I no longer have my lovely garden which I tended when my children were growing because I wanted them to have fresh food - even though food was less industrialized say 30-40 years ago.

But it's my goal now to give up the city condo and buy a space in the country where I have land to work once again. It's all I think about so that must be where I belong.

I'm glad you came back. Always good to hear from you! Yay!


akirchner profile image

akirchner 5 years ago from Central Oregon

Great information and how pertinent!! Thanks for bringing that to our attention.


BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 5 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City Author

You're welcome akirchner. Thanks for commenting!


theherbivorehippi profile image

theherbivorehippi 5 years ago from Holly, MI

Wow this is scary. I though the only cause of Reye's syndrome was taking aspirin with a fever (shows how much I know). Thanks for the useful information!


BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 5 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City Author

Imagine theherbivorehippi,a cheap product like this mimicking Reye's Syndrome - which is fatal. Surely all children deserve to be safe from this.

Thanks for writing!


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 5 years ago from TEXAS

I popped back over again, still thinking about camphor. There was a time when rubbing a camphorated balm on a congested chest helped. In fact, in my first husband's family, Rawleigh's medicated ointment was used. It was medicated with camphor, Eucalyptus, Menthol, and had lanolin, paraffin other emollients to hasten the penetration. I see it is still made. Their description says that camphor is an evergreen tree of Asia & Australia. Its aromatic leaves are the source of the "good" camphor. (It smells nothing like moth balls!)

His mother would heat some of the ointment in the metal lid of the container, & rub it onto the congested chest, then wrap it in a soft cloth (old-fashioned cloth diapers were great for this!), fasten it with a safety pin (remember those?) and one slept in this. By morning, one's chest would have loosened up and one would feel so much better.

Just out of curiosity I found this description of moth balls:

Mothballs are made of white crystals of two very dangerous chemicals, para-dichlorobenzene (1,4-dichlorobenzene) and/or naphthalene. Both chemicals are solid at room temperature but produce very strong vapors. Mothballs are sold as flakes or pressed into cakes.

I suspect it's all out of test tubes, not off trees!


De Greek profile image

De Greek 5 years ago from UK

Man, you did your homework here. Well done :-)


BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 5 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City Author

Thanks for sharing all that information Nellieanna. I too am of that generation where our mother's treated our ailments with natural ingredients handed down from their mothers and camphor products were used. Real camphor is from that evergreen tree from Asia (in the photo) and the real products are still on the market. The tricky part is that the word 'camphor' can be used on synthetic products like those balls and flakes which have the toxic chemicals that are so easy to solidify.

Thanks for all the information!

Thanks De Greek - your comment is appreciated!


sameerk profile image

sameerk 5 years ago from India

nice hub , very well written


BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 5 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City Author

Thank you for commenting sameerk!


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

Gosh, I never knew enything about this. Thank you for good research and information.


BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 5 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City Author

You're welcome Hello, hello. Glad you found the information useful. Thanks for commenting!


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 5 years ago from malang-indonesia

Nice information. I never heard about this before. Because I never find this plant in my area. I learn much from you about this camphor. Thank you very much. ~prasetio


BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 5 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City Author

You're very welcome prasetio. Thank you very much for commenting!


bettpnash@Yahoo.com 5 years ago

Carolyn,please send me information now to bettypnash@g-mail.com.Thanks for the information.


HealthyHanna profile image

HealthyHanna 5 years ago from Utah

This is something I am unfamiliar with as well. Thanks for sharing. Your other hubs listed here are interesting as well.


BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 5 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City Author

You're welcome bettypnash. I'll forward the information.

Things change so much HealthyHanna. It's almost as if toxic producers are anxious to say "Gotcha!"

Thanks for the comments!


anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 5 years ago

Wow, didn't realize camphor can be harmful until now. Thanks for pointing out the facts. Nicely done.


BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 5 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City Author

We have to be so vigilant anglnwu. Is it camphor - or is it 'camphor' - we just aren't told although the camphor label is showing up on so many toxic products. Too bad. It was a useful natural product.

Thanks for commenting!


Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 5 years ago

Keep us aware my Dear!


BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 5 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City Author

There is so much Micky Dee. Thanks for writing!


prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 5 years ago from US

Useful hub, I remember my mother used to put those balls in our dresser. How are you Carolyn, I am back to read your hubs. Happy holidays, miss you, Maita


BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 5 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City Author

Soooooooo glad to see you again Maita!

I remember the balls too - but they have changed - to a super toxic product with a strong odor. But not what our moms used. Now I'm more aware of it and I see this product is sold everywhere - especially like at 99 cent stores. Yikes.


gr82bme profile image

gr82bme 5 years ago from USA

Well done. I use to use it on cold soars. Thanks for the info


BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 5 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City Author

You're welcome gr82bme. Thanks for commenting!


fastfreta profile image

fastfreta 5 years ago from Southern California

I can't believe this, camphor dangerous! Just think we used to use it and even ingest it as children. But you did say it's not the same as before. I'll have to remember this hub and not just blindly recommend it to my children for their children. I guess modern medicine really want us to depend on them, being that a lot of the things that we used to make up and use has been altered, and rendered harmful. Thanks for the research. Bk.


BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 5 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City Author

You're welcome fastfreta - and just as you point out-the name is the same but the product is not. This seems to be common across the board - with substitutions everywhere.

How well I remember camphor and it never made us sick.

Thanks for writing!


LORD BRYAN 5 years ago

This is perfectly timed. I have been using moth balls here for a long time. I started when my wonderful blue blazer was attacked by the little buggers. Now I am wondering if I'm using the wrong type. Or what can I use that is natural? Natural is what I'd rather use anyway. Thanks for this.

Lord Bryan


BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 5 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City Author

We do want to preserve our quality wools. Cedar wood seems to work very well. Perhaps you can find true camphor oil and put it on cotton balls.

So interesting - you just don't see the moths - but yet they somehow get to the wool.

Thanks for writing Lord Bryan!


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

Thanks very much for this warning! Know anything about growing camphor?


BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 5 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City Author

I can grow it here in New York because I am in one of just two zones where I think it will do well. It can even be purchased in seed form. I don't have a personal experience to share. Right now I am looking for native plants because I think they may be easier to grow - and even ignore if I do the correct companion planting.

If you grow one, RTalloni - I hope you write a hub!


Lady_E profile image

Lady_E 5 years ago from London, UK

Thanks for raising awareness - sometimes I use Camphor round the house but will be cautions when friends kids are about.

Regards, E.


BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 5 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City Author

You're welcome Lady_E. Glad the hub is useful.


Debby Bruck profile image

Debby Bruck 5 years ago

Thumbs up. Awesome info. Well constructed Hub. Appreciate it very much. Hugs, Debby


BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 5 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City Author

Thanks for the wonderful comment Debby Bruck. Glad you found the hub useful!


World-Traveler profile image

World-Traveler 5 years ago from USA

Voted Up as useful. There is much I have to learn. Thanks for the information.


BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 5 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City Author

You're welcome World-Traveler. I so enjoy your articles. Thanks for commenting!


Tarah_ 5 years ago

I agree with you about camphor. I managed to find some moth balls that have camphor in them and then checked Google on any problems in using it. In addition to camphor being a problem for children, it is also toxic to cats. I haven’t used moth balls since I found out about this.


BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 5 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City Author

Thanks Tarah_ for sharing that information about it being toxic to cats too. Even if we were to put it up and away a cat can still get into it, even roll it around as if it is a ball.

Thanks for writing!


RunAbstract profile image

RunAbstract 5 years ago from USA

Great article! Love the info!


BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 5 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City Author

Thanks for the compliment RunAbstract - and thanks for commenting!


AustralianNappies profile image

AustralianNappies 5 years ago from Australia

Really good information here, I'm having trouble getting the smell of Camphor out of a cupboard in my baby daughter's room. Put there years before she was born.


BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 5 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City Author

Wow - I wonder what would work - vinegar maybe. You know what I use to neutralize odor when my cat uses the litter box? And old tip - strike a match - something about the flint and the flame. What ever it is, it instantly neutralizes the odor so it doesn't linger.

Thanks for commenting!


AustralianNappies profile image

AustralianNappies 5 years ago from Australia

Thanks so much for your reply to my comment, I will definitely try vinegar. Great idea! I didn't want to use more chemicals on it so I tried rubbing it with a cloth soaked in Lux Flakes and it's made the scent worse.


BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 5 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City Author

Ooooh let us know AustralianNappies - because it is one of those powerful lingering odors!


Romano Arnesto profile image

Romano Arnesto 5 years ago from Philippines

I used camphor ball to ward off 'roaches from my cabinets. Thanks for sharing!


BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 5 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City Author

Goo suggestion Romano Arnesto. Thanks for sharing that!


toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 5 years ago

Thanks for the alert. You have done a good service by writing this article to create awareness. Much gratitude for the info.


BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 5 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City Author

I'm so glad you found the info useful toknowinfo. Thanks for writing!


Loli 4 years ago

Wow great article on Camphor...I just started using it this wk(recommended by a friend) she gave me a few pieces to try. She suggested putting pieces in a cup of water & placing it in different parts of the house. I chose my kitchen over the sink 2 repel bugs. Keeps the kitchen smelling clean & actually repels the bugs(just moved to the country) But after reading this article Im wondering if it's the real thing. She buys it @ her local 99cent store.Comes in a long bar wrapped kin plastic when you open it., it's actually single cubes wrapped together...could this be the real thing? If not where can I get the real thing? B/c I actually like what it does for the house. Not familiar with the product. Didn't grow up on it...by the way the product doesn't say camphor. It has a polar bear on it & says white bear...any suggestion would be appreciated.


Aussie Marg. 4 years ago

I stumbled across your page whilst trying to access information on the differences in Camphor. Thankyou very much for the input. My elderly neighbours have been trying to purchase the 'real' Camphor here in Australia, but there only appears to be synthetic. Are you aware of any sellers in the USA who sell the genuine product? Amazon appears to sell it, with the words 'not synthetic' but I'm not 100% convinced!

Many thanks for all your information, it is appreciated.


aromaoilstore 3 years ago

I am used camphor oil for skin treatment and eyebrow. Natural essential oils are best....visit website aromaoilstore


BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 3 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City Author

Loli - great tips! Thanks so much for taking the time ti write and share that. I am not too sure about anything from the 99cent store - especially if it does not specifically says camphor. The main concern however seems to be warnings if you have children.

Aussie Marg. we never know for sure if we are buying the real thing. However, I'd feel safer purchasing camphor through Amazon rather than a random, unknown source.

aromaoilstore - you're right - natural essential oils are always best.


FullOfLoveSites profile image

FullOfLoveSites 3 years ago from United States

As far as I know, Vicks has camphor and I have one in my medicine cabinet. This is really scary, but it's good that this hub presents a caution against using products with camphor, now I'd be careful with it. It will serve as a guide especially in buying cold and cough remedies. Up and useful.


BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 3 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City Author

Hello FullOfLoveSites - seems we have to be forever vigilant with absolutely everything we buy and consume. What bothers me is when products change but there is no new labeling to inform us - like when so many companies began using high fructose corn syrup instead of sugar - we were never told - so we just kept picking up the same item.


connerie 2 years ago

'medicinal use of camphor is discouraged by the FDA, except for skin-related uses'

fda allow concentration from 3 to 11% of camphor.

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