camphor

camphor (kămˈfər) [key], C10H16O, white, crystalline solid ketone with a characteristic pungent odor and taste. It melts at 176°C and boils at 204°C. The natural variety, Japan camphor, is obtained by steam distillation of the wood of the camphor tree ( Cinnamomum camphora ) native to China, Japan, and Taiwan (its chief natural source). Since this source is inadequate, camphor is widely synthesized from α-pinene, which is obtained from oil of turpentine. Camphor is widely used as a plasticizer in the manufacture of celluloid and some lacquers. It is used in medicine as a stimulant, a diaphoretic, and an inhalant. Camphor ice is a mixture, containing principally camphor and wax, used for external application. Camphor is practically insoluble in water but soluble in alcohol, ether, chloroform, and other solvents. The alcoholic solution is known as spirits of camphor.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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