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Camphor Poisoning

Regine Aronow, MD
JAMA. 1976;235(12):1260. doi:10.1001/jama.1976.03260380054031.
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Extensively used in ancient Chinese medicine, considered the "balsam of disease" in the 16th century, and highly regarded as a "circulatory and heart stimulant" in the late 19th and early 20th century,1 camphor is listed in the US Pharmacopoeia (ed 19 [revised], 1975) as a topical rubefacient to provide local analgesia and antipruritic effects. Few published studies, however, define camphor's precise pharmacologic activity or justify its inclusion in the Pharmacopeia. Because of its supposed mild expectorant and carminative effects, camphor remains a component of paregoric. Camphorated parachlorophenol is used in dentistry as an anti-infective for the treatment of root canals. Camphor is also used in flexible collodion. Apart from tradition, it is hard to justify the inclusion of camphor in these products. Spirits of camphor and camphorated oil (cotton-seed oil containing 20% camphor) are readily available without prescription or limitation for either purchaser or use.

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