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Camphor (Molecule of the Month for December 2004)

2-camphanone, bornan-2-one, caladryl, 2-bornanone

Camphor is a white transparent waxy crystalline solid with a strong penetrating pungent aromatic odor. It is found in wood of the camphor laurel, Cinnamonum camphora, which is a large evergreen tree found in Asia (particularly in Borneo, hence its alternate name); it can also be synthetically produced from oil of turpentine. It is used for its scent, as an embalming fluid and for medicinal purposes. It has calming properties.

Modern uses include as a plasticizer for cellulose nitrate, as a moth repellent, in embalming, and in fireworks. A form of anti-itch gel currently on the market uses camphor as its active ingredient. Historically it has been used in medicine.

Camphor is readily absorbed through the skin and produces a feeling of cooling similar to that of menthol and acts as slight local anesthetic; however, it is poisonous when ingested and can cause seizures, mental confusion, irritability, and neuromuscular hyperactivity.

Formal Chemical Name (IUPAC)



Picture of Camphor 3D model

click on the picture of  Camphor above to interact
with the 3D model of the
Camphor structure
(this will open a new browser window)

Picture of Camphor


Update by Karl Harrison
(Molecule of the Month for December 2004 )

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