detail of classical cooking stove image by Tomo Jesenicnik from Fotolia.com

Camphor is the white, crystalline product of the Cinnamonum camphora tree. It is used in ointments for its cooling, numbing effect; it is an active ingredient in lip balms meant to treat cold sores. Its strong fragrance is often used in soaps and other scented products.

If you have camphor oil, it can readily be used in homemade ointments and soaps. However, if you have a block of crystalline camphor, you’ll need to melt it into a base in order to use it.

Fill the bottom pan of a double boiler half full with water.

Place a wax and oil base into the top pan of the double boiler, such as beeswax or almond oil.

Rest the top of the double boiler onto the bottom of the double boiler, cover it with a lid, and place the whole thing on a stove on medium heat.

Wait for the water to get hot and transfer heat to the top of the double boiler to melt the base.

In the meantime, grate off camphor from its waxy block using a cheese grater. You should get a powdery substance.

Add this powder to the melted waxy or oily base and stir.


Camphor melts at 355 degrees F. It boils at 408 degrees F. Camphor is not water soluble.


Camphor (unless it is labeled “edible camphor”) is poisonous; a gram is enough to be toxic to a child, and 20 grams is enough to be toxic to an adult. Keep this is mind when selecting a pot and utensils for melting the camphor.