Camphor is obtained from the Camphor-tree which is found especially in Japan, including Formosa. The root, trunk and branches of the tree are cut in small pieces and these, with a small amount of water, are heated and the vapor of camphor condensed on straws placed at the top of the vessel.
This is refined and one part of this gum camphor is dissolved in nine parts of 87alcohol to make our tincture, which is, strictly speaking, the 1st.
Camphor is very slightly soluble in water, 1-500. The alcoholic solution combined with tepid water in the proportion of 1-400, but it must be well shaken to do so (from Mat. Medorrhinum Pura). If you put out tincture in cold water, the camphor will separate and appear as flakes. This will not harm it as a medicine, but it will be remarked upon by your patient.
Camphor Rubini, which is sometimes referred to in our literature, is so-called after the Italian physician Dr. Rubini, who introduced Cactus into our materia medica, and is simply a stronger solution than our tincture. It is, I believe, a saturated solution.
Camphor was first proved by Hahnemann, who says : “The rapid exhaustion of its action and the quick change of its symptoms render it incapable of curing most chronic diseases” (Mat. Medorrhinum Pura). As its action is short it must be repeated at frequent intervals. Hahnemann tells us that he “can testify from experience” that Camphor “removes the too violent action of very many drugs, whether unsuitably employed or given in too large doses.”
While in such cases its antidotal powers are of benefit to us, be on your guard that from its universal use it does not cause our undoing by destroying the effects of our medicines. The only safe method that I know of is to throw the camphor bottle out of the window on our first visit and to forbid the use of oil that is camphorated.
Camphor may be used as an antidote to irritant poisons and Allen cites as examples, the effects of poisonous insects (122), tobacco and mushrooms.
Camphor produces violent convulsions, hysterical and epileptiform, and various phases of nervous excitement. It also produces great coldness of the body, perhaps with a feeling as if a cold wind were blowing against the various parts, and profound collapse (34), with feeble pulse.
As a rule, in cases of collapse requiring Camphor the prostration occurs suddenly and increases rapidly and there is amelioration of the symptoms from profuse sweat.
There is restlessness (160) and often subsultus tendinum (183), and frequently in cases calling for the remedy there is a feeling of general soreness, as if one had been beaten (166).
Camphor is to be thought of in the new-born who are asphyxiated (19) and have spasms in consequence, and for convulsions or collapse the result of suppressed eruptions, in scarlet fever (35) and especially in measles (35), with blueness and general coldness, and dryness of the skin. It may be indicated in the collapsed state due to shock from injuries, etc., with coldness of the surface of the body and weak intermittent pulse (110).
The mental condition is collapsed states is either one of extreme anxiety, restlessness and perhaps delirium, or we have a state of great lethargy, from which they can scarcely be aroused, or a complete loss of consciousness.
It is useful after sunstroke (98), provided there is the general coldness so characteristic of the remedy, and usually with headache, a constrictive pain (105) as if the head were knotted up, and with throbbing (102) in the cerebellum.
The Camphor patient is sensitive to cold and to cold air (5) and takes cold easily (5) and as a remedy it is useful in the first stage of coryza, with chilliness, soreness or aching of the muscles, with, in both instances, a feeling as if cold air were passing over the mucous membrane when breathing.
It acts as a palliative in hay-fever (89) and Hahnemann speaks of it as such in the grip, for he says: “When the influenza endemic in Siberia comes among us, camphor is of service, only as a palliative certainly, but an invaluable palliative, seeing that the disease is one of short duration. It should be given in frequent but ever increasing doses, dissolved in water” (Mat. Medorrhinum Pura). This statement of Hahnemann’s was made before Gelsemium was proved.
I may be prejudiced against Camphor, but I feel that as it is employed it does more harm than it accomplishes good and, with the exception of cholera, I consider that we can use other remedies in any given case that will prove greater value and afford more permanent benefit than Camphor.
It is not so much the use of the drug by physicians that I object to, for as a usual thing it is only occasionally used by them, as it is its constant employment by the laity.
The camphor bottle and the kerosene-oil can are to be found in every American family, and while the latter holds the record of being able to remove one from this scene of trouble by the shortest and most direct route, still Camphor by its antidotal powers and especially by reason of its action as a heart depressant, causes many a condition of ill-health that we are often at a loss to account for.
In acute colds and coryzas, for which Camphor is so often self-administered, there are many remedies for us to think of that will act other than as mere palliatives.
The face is Camphor is sunken and pale, and collapsed expression, the lips blue (207), the face, nose, mouth, tongue and breath cold (24).
We have vomiting, with great prostration and cold sweat (208) and we may have internal burning in the abdomen and external coldness.
In cholera infantum, Camphor would be indicated by the suddenness of the attack and the rapidity of the exhaustion (34), vomiting, involuntary movements and coldness of the body.
In true, or Asiatic cholera (31) it is of great value. In the early stage it is indicated when the stools are loose and watery, or still contain faecal matter, and associated with vomiting and great exhaustion; in a later stage there is increased and icy-coldness, usually with dryness of the surface of the body and may be, sudden suppression of all discharges, including vomiting and diarrhoea, and collapse. The remedy should be discontinued when the patient perspires.
It may be of interest to know that in 1831, cholera first invaded Europe. Its approach was known and caused great anxiety among physicians as to the proper treatment of the disease. Hahnemann, who had only seen the printed description of the symptoms of the disease, gave notice that from the provings Camphor was the remedy to be used in the early stage, and clinical experience in each subsequent epidemic has demonstrated the truth of his statement (from Hughes).
Camphor is to be thought of in haematuria (85), especially after irritating drugs, and in excessive strangury (194) and retention or suppression of urine (200) in Asiatic cholera or in poisoning by Cantharis.
In the male sexual sphere it is useful in chordee (31), the result of sudden suppression of a gonorrhoeal discharge, with coldness, strangury, etc., and for prostration following sexual excesses (167).
In the female it is to be Hahnemann says, “it acts only in a palliative recent origin, although Hahnemann says, “it acts only in a palliative manner” and to the subsequent harm of the patient. In puerperal mania (129) it would be indicated when the discharges were suppressed, with dryness of the surface of the body and coldness.
It has been used in asthmatic attacks (19) and is emphysema (66), with suffocation and for a dry cough in measles, with suppressed eruptions.
Camphor is a remedy having cramps in the calves (52), especially in conditions of collapse, and it is of value in congestive chill (31), with icy-coldness over the whole surface of the body.
Hydrocy. acid is to be thought of for collapse when caused by Camphor, with sudden cessation of all discharges.
Opium is an antidote to Camphor.
Hahnemann tells us that he has “not found Camphor suitable as an antidote to the violent effects of Ignatia,” though it may antidote some of the minor effects.
I use Camphor in the tincture.