Molecules 2013, 18(5), 5434-5454; doi:10.3390/molecules18055434
Review

Camphor—A Fumigant during the Black Death and a Coveted Fragrant Wood in Ancient Egypt and Babylon—A Review

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Received: 15 March 2013; in revised form: 21 April 2013 / Accepted: 6 May 2013 / Published: 10 May 2013
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Flavors and Fragrances)
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Abstract: The fragrant camphor tree (Cinnamomum camphora) and its products, such as camphor oil, have been coveted since ancient times. Having a rich history of traditional use, it was particularly used as a fumigant during the era of the Black Death and considered as a valuable ingredient in both perfume and embalming fluid. Camphor has been widely used as a fragrance in cosmetics, as a food flavourant, as a common ingredient in household cleaners, as well as in topically applied analgesics and rubefacients for the treatment of minor muscle aches and pains. Camphor, traditionally obtained through the distillation of the wood of the camphor tree, is a major essential oil component of many aromatic plant species, as it is biosynthetically synthesised; it can also be chemically synthesised using mainly turpentine as a starting material. Camphor exhibits a number of biological properties such as insecticidal, antimicrobial, antiviral, anticoccidial, anti-nociceptive, anticancer and antitussive activities, in addition to its use as a skin penetration enhancer. However, camphor is a very toxic substance and numerous cases of camphor poisoning have been documented. This review briefly summarises the uses and synthesis of camphor and discusses the biological properties and toxicity of this valuable molecule.
Keywords: camphor; Cinnamomum camphora; biological activity; synthesis; toxicity
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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MDPI and ACS Style

Chen, W.; Vermaak, I.; Viljoen, A. Camphor—A Fumigant during the Black Death and a Coveted Fragrant Wood in Ancient Egypt and Babylon—A Review. Molecules 2013, 18, 5434-5454.

AMA Style

Chen W, Vermaak I, Viljoen A. Camphor—A Fumigant during the Black Death and a Coveted Fragrant Wood in Ancient Egypt and Babylon—A Review. Molecules. 2013; 18(5):5434-5454.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Chen, Weiyang; Vermaak, Ilze; Viljoen, Alvaro. 2013. "Camphor—A Fumigant during the Black Death and a Coveted Fragrant Wood in Ancient Egypt and Babylon—A Review." Molecules 18, no. 5: 5434-5454.


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