Yesterday I went to one of my friend’s house and found that she was poisoning herself and her family with her new camphor air freshener. These air fresheners are really good, the tea-light candle heats the camphor crystals and the crystals slowly sublime releasing the aromatic molecules found in the camphor creating a freshness in the environment. But my friend was not burning real camphor, she was burning an artificial substitute of camphor and with a paraffin wax tea light. Both pollutants of the worst degree. This post will be on camphor and the next on wax. It was such a facepalm moment, a well-educated person doing this extreme silliness!
Pure camphor costs about Rs 1500-2000 /kg and synthetic camphor substitutes sold as “camphor” cost about Rs 100/kg.
So about camphor, karpur. In most Indian households who perform daily puja, we burn a piece of camphor with a “Karpur Arti”. This burning camphor piece is waved over the Gods and taken around the house and everyone bows to it. I think now most households are using this same artificial substitute of camphor in their daily Artis. Its horrifying.
Camphor is the resin of the camphor laurel, Cinnamomum camphora. It is a natural product of a tree. When you burn it, it burns cleanly and has a very distinctive fresh smell. It is highly medicinal and is edible. Some south Indian dishes have a tiny bit of camphor put in it for the taste, delicious! Now whenever you buy camphor it should be clearly marked, “edible camphor”. It can be further marked as bhimseni camphor, baras camphor, Patri camphor, Nagi camphor, Malay camphor, Sumatran camphor, Borneo camphor, etc but it should be “edible” written on the pack. That will ensure that you are buying the real natural camphor. It is available as irregular crystals which are flat and somewhat transparent.
Now to why burn it in front of your puja ghar. Camphor when burns emits quite a huge chunk of energy. This energy is absorbed by your palm chakras when you wave your hands over the arti and it helps speed up your chakra system. Natural camphor pieces have a white gold aura. Then again genuine natural camphor has really a lot of medicinal properties, listed below are a just few of them.
- purifies the surrounding air by destroying harmful bacteria and viruses and improves the air quality.
- keeps insects and mosquitoes away
- has a medicinal effect on the respiratory system and is good for the lungs.
- has a medicinal effect on the skin too, stops skin from itching.
- added to massage oils to release pain from arthritis and muscle aches etc.
- added to hair oils to get rid of dandruff etc.
So as you can see our ancestors were quite smart when they added “karpur arti” in our daily routine. This ensured that we got our daily dose of camphor goodness and lived a better quality of life in a better quality of environment.
But now we have those businessmen who have developed artificial camphor. The raw material is oleo pine resin, extracted from pine trees. From this comes turpentine, and from this comes alpha pinene which is used to make synthetic camphor. This product has no place in our daily lives. This product is opaque and you will get it in the markets in neatly packed and embossed cubes like the photo below. Burning this will not give you the benefits but just add problems. When you burn this you get a liquid residue which further burns. Now our businessmen went one step ahead and added the following and more to this synthetic camphor chemical.
- Hexamine – is a carcinogen and releases formaldehyde on burning, is a skin irritant causes dermatitis. Leaves no residue on burning.
- Hexamethylenetetramine – can cause nausea, vomiting, gastrointestinal disturbances and even kidney damage in the long run.
- Wax – it is a petroleum product, and that says it all.
So finally, if you do want to use camphor for your artis or as a room freshener, spend a more money and buy it from a reliable supplier to get a guaranteed natural product. The artificial substitute will just damage your bodies and poison your home’s environment.