Beware: Camphor doesn’t help improve body’s oxygen level, it can be toxic

Camphor 'potli’ gets social media traction, but its ingredients aren’t proven to improve oxygen levels

There is no scientific research to suggest that ‘camphor potli’ helps improve oxygen levels in the body

In these difficult circumstances when the country is groaning under the COVID pandemic and oxygen supply crisis, a video clip — an unscientific usage of some home-grown ingredients — has gone viral. It says a camphor ‘potli’ (packet), if inhaled frequently, is said to improve the body’s oxygen supply.

The facts are otherwise — some experts even warn of camphor toxicity.

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“Camphor, lavang (clove), ajwain (carom seeds), a few drops of eucalyptus oil. Make a potli and keep smelling it throughout the day and night. Helps increase oxygen levels and congestion. This potli is also given to tourists in Ladakh when oxygen levels are low. Many ambulances are now keeping these too. It’s a home remedy. Kindly share,” says the message

The fact is there is no scientific study or research to suggest that ‘camphor potli’ helps improve oxygen levels in the body, though camphor is used in many traditional as well as pharmaceutical medicines for nasal congestion and other ailments.

Here are facts: Camphor (Cinnamomum camphora) is a terpene (organic compound) that’s commonly used in creams, ointments, and lotions. Its oil is extracted from the wood of camphor trees and processed by steam distillation. It has a strong odor and taste and is easily absorbed through the skin. Camphor has antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties.

Warning: It has potential side effects, especially if you use it in high doses. Never take camphor internally or apply it to broken skin, as it can be toxic.

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The Vicks VapoRub official website calls it a cough suppressant that uses 4.8 per cent of synthetic camphor. The American drug regulator says camphor concentration should not exceed 11 per cent in any product.

Clove vapour alone may be toxic, but there is no research to suggest it can increase blood oxygen or relieve respiratory distress. The same is true about ajwain (carom seeds) or eucalyptus oil. These are used in traditional medicines and some chemical drugs, but there is no study to suggest that they improve oxygen levels in the body.


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