KARPURA (Cinnamomum camphora)
Karpura (camphor) is not only related with Indian medicine, but is a part of traditional, cultural and religious fabric of Indian life. It is burned as incense during puja or devotional worship to purify the atmosphere and promote meditation. In Western herbalist it is used only externally as oil, whereas in Ayurveda, since centuries, it is also taken internally in small dosages in the form of infused or powdered camphor crystals. Camphor is perhaps the main herb used in medicated oils throughout the world. Bhavaprakasa has mentioned it as fragrant, cooling agent, aphrodisiac, deodorant and an alleviator of burning sensation and the thirst. Maharsi Caraka has cited it as one of the ingredients of tambula – pana (a post-meal digestive stimulant composition, wrapped in beetle leaf, eaten by Indians after food). Vagbhata has mentioned it as chedana – which wards off doshas like kapha from the body.
Karpura has several synonyms in Ayurvedic texts, which are infact the synonyms of moon, as karpura is cool in the potency. Three varieties of karpura have been mentioned in the texts viz. Bhimaseni, Cini and Bharatiya, meaning its source like Formosa, China and India respectively.
Karpura tree inhabits Japan, Formosa, Central China and India. It is a large, evergreen tree, growing 15-20 meters in height, with long terete branches spreading horizontally. The bark is smooth, green and shining on the younger branches. The leaves are simple, alternate, oblong, shiny, aromatic and 5-10 cm long. The flowers are very small, yellowish white in axillary panicles. The fruit ovoid, the size of a large pea, smooth, usually purplish. Seed solitary. The camphor is formed in the oil cells distributed in all parts of the tree, but is obtained mainly from leaves and stems by distillation. The plant flowers in June and July and the fruit is ripe in November and December.
The botanical name of karpura is Cinnamomum camphora and it belongs to family Lauraceae. The new lignans kusunokinin, cinnamonol and kusunokinol have been isolated and characterized from leaves.
Karpura is bitter, pungent and sweet in taste, pungent in the post digestive effect and has cold potency. It alleviates all the three doshas. It possesses light and sharp attributes. It is beneficial to the eyes, aphrodisiac and fragrant. It is useful in the diseases like obesity, burning sensation, thirst and distaste etc (Kaiyadeva Nighantu)
The resin or gum of karpura that is, the deposits in the oil cells is used for the medicinal purpose. It is useful both, internally as well as externally. Externally, the karpura oil is used for massage in rheumatic disorders, arthritis, myalgia and vitiated conditions of vata. The swab dipped in its oil, is placed topically, to relieve the dental pain. The cloth soaked in milk with karpura is kept on the forehead to alleviated fever and headache. Karpura is used in many market preparations of various balms, dental and ophthalmic preparations. The oil is massaged in cough, bronchitis, pneumonia, chest-pain and backache, with great benefit. Internally, karpura is used in various diseases. As it is diaphoretic, emollient, thermogenic, skin and cardiac stimulant, antiseptic, anodyne, calmative, expectorant and aphrodisiac, it is used in vast range of diseases, in small quantities. It is extremely beneficial in innumerable maladies like sore throat, foul smell to the oral cavity, asthma, cough, obesity, fever thirst, flatulence, diarrhea, sexual debility etc. It combines well with laxative, to expel the worms. It is also useful in urinary disorders like urinary calculi.
Classical Ayurvedic Preparations
- Karpura sundara vatika
- Karpura rasa
- Karpuradi vati
- Lavangadi curna etc.