Description: Natural straw-colored, semi-translucent crystals are collected from fissures in the trunk of the magnificent evergreen camphor trees which grow to over 130 feet (40-50m). These trees are considered holy by the Chinese and provide us with the gift of its crystalline resin. Some crystals are later refined to the white color pictured.
The crystals are found inside some old trees, whereas other trees produce only oil. The crystals result from the oxidation and solidification of camphor oil (Janse 1909). As the formation of camphor only occurs in some trees, it is quite difficult to find.
Camphor seems to have been produced in a sustainable way for over 10 centuries. Accounts from the beginning of the 20th century mention that, in Malaysia, shamans were in charge of finding camphor-containing trees through divination; only a secret language could be used when cutting the tree (Skeat 1900). Only the very old trees were cut and small quantities were traded at a very high price for medicinal use.
Marco Polo mentioned the great Camphor trees being exported from Sumatra and Johore to the Middle East since at least the 6th Century AD. It's wood is highly valued for its resistance to termites.
There is also a synthetic Borneol Camphor, Borneolum syntheticum, that is widely distributed. It's the result of the synthetic processing of turpentine oil and camphor. This type we do not use for incense, it has an off, turpentine aromatic note.
Threatened Species Alert: The 2007 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species now lists Dryobalanops aromatica as "Critically Endangered." See IUCN.
Synonyms: Dryobalanops sumatrensis, Borneo camphor, Barus camphor, Kapur barus, dragon's brain, Bing Pian
Origin: Malaysia, Sumatra, Borneo
Parts Used: natural crystals
Aroma Description: camphoraceous notes
Cosmetic Uses: Perfumery, aromatherapy
Culinary Uses: NONE! Warning: Do not ingest, can be fatal if swallowed
Medicinal Attributes: A long history of use in Eastern medicine for treatment of convulsions due to high fever, cholera, pneumonia. It's been used externally for pain relief, rheumatism, abscesses, boils, cold sores, sore throat, chest infections and chest infections, etc. *Warning: Do not ingest, can be fatal if swallowed
Element Association: Water
Astrological Association: Pisces
Planetary Association: Moon
Aromatic Note: Base to Middle note
Essential Oil: Yes, a natural oil is produced by tapping young trees. Steam distilled oils are also available. Threatened Species Alert: The 2007 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species now lists Dryobalanops aromatica as "Critically Endangered." See IUCN.
Mixes Well With: aloeswood, calamus, cassia, catnip, cinnamon, clove, dammar, elemi, frankincense, galangal, iris root, juniper, lemongrass, patchouli, rhubarb, rosemary, sandalwood, star anise, thyme, turmeric, etc.
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