Cyprus Mail

Plant of the week: Common moth repellent was used by nobles to repel poor

Name: Camphor (Cinnamomum camphora)

Otherwise known as: Camphor Laurel

Habitat: A tree member of the Lauracea growing to about 30m in tropical areas of Asia. It is a highly aromatic evergreen producing early red leaves, which become green on maturing and has sprays of small, yellow flowers. The whole tree provides camphor oil, which causes convulsions in mammals.

What does it do: Camphor was the classical treatment for cholera and was also used by the ancients to suppress sexual excitability, namely priapism and nymphomania. It was once worn around the neck in muslin bags by the nobility to ward off harmful miasmas arising from the peasantry. The most common use of Camphor is as a moth repellent.

In bygone years, a lump of camphor would be kept in a bottle of brandy to revive the spirits of those exposed to freezing temperatures, and in warmer climates a liniment made from a few drops of camphor oil in a cup of olive oil would be used to massage those suffering from lumbago, fibrocitis, neuralgia and chest and muscle pain. One drop of camphor in honey rapidly restores vigour and energy, and is said to reinvigorate the heart muscle without any ill effect. This was a common folk treatment for those exposed to shock following injury.

Aromatherapists use camphor to treat skin disorders such as acne and juvenile spots, arthritis, rheumatics, sprains and muscular strains, infections of the respiratory system and for boosting the immune system.

The ancients used the incense in their religious ceremonies and in the embalming process. Today it is used in perfumery and as a solvent in the paint industry and in the production of celluloid.

The plant must not be taken by anyone prone to epilepsy.

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