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Guide to Camphene, the Terpene That Offers Multiple Medical Benefits

closeup camphor tree's fruits and leaves

If you’ve ever wandered through evergreen trees, you’ve likely encountered one of cannabis’ rarer terpenes: camphene. It’s lesser-known than pinene or myrcene, but camphene is one of the most pervasive terpenes found in nature. 

Camphene is a naturally occurring terpene found in conifer trees, nutmeg, camphor oil, cypress oil, and of course, in the cannabis plant. It smells strongly of camphor oil and mothballs, and its researched properties show promising usefulness for a variety of health concerns, including pain relief and anti-viral effects.

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What Is Camphene?

Camphene is one of the most commonly found terpenes in nature, appearing as a colorless crystal with the distinct, pungent smell of camphor oil. It is frequently found in the essential oils of many plants, such as cypress trees, valerian, holy basil, nutmeg, sage, ginger, neroli, and rosemary.  

Historically, camphene (found in camphor oil) was one of the 19th century’s most popular fuel sources for lamps, given its flammable nature and less expensive than whale oil. However, the volatility of camphene’s flammability saw its use discontinue as kerosene became a more familiar and safer fuel source.

Today, camphene still retains a variety of uses in everyday household products. Citronella oil candles and bug repellent often contain camphene, as do many skin-care products such as lotions or ointments. Controversially, some bark collars for dogs use camphene-containing citronella oil to calm dogs and discourage barking. However, many veterinarians warn that citronella oil may be toxic to dogs.

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Health Benefits and Uses

While camphene is less well-known than other cannabis-found terpenes, the existing research represents an impressive body of evidence pointing to camphene as useful for multiple health concerns.

A 2010 study that explored the essential oil of several plants with camphene and camphor found that camphene could combat three different types of bacteria in combination with other compounds. Another study showed that camphene has antifungal potential against certain fungi when combined with sage oil. These findings suggest that camphene in cannabis products may be a valuable topical aid against dermatitis, athlete’s foot, and other skin infections, though more research is needed.

Additional research found that when combined with Vitamin C and citrus oils, camphene is a potentially potent antioxidant that can help naturally soothe stress. This knowledge is part of the Ayurveda healing system, which often taps into the camphene-containing juniper berry as one of its natural remedies.

As a component of tulsi essential oil, studies have found that camphene may be helpful as an anti-congestive tool, cough suppressant, and in battling respiratory illnesses like bronchitis. Other animal studies have found, too, that camphene can help lower lipid count in cells, which points to the potential usefulness of camphene in treating cardiovascular disease via lowering low-density lipoproteins, aka “bad” cholesterol.

Finally, rat studies have revealed that camphene, with other terpenes, plays a significant role in reducing inflammation and soothing an individual’s experience with pain. As such, cannabis strains/cultivars with camphene may be most beneficial for those seeking relief from pain.

Potential Risks and Side Effects

Camphene is non-toxic to humans and safe for both ingestion and topical use. However, its presence in citronella oil can be toxic to cats and dogs and should be kept away for inquisitive animals. Camphene crystal can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat in higher quantities.

Camphene is also highly flammable and should be kept away from open flame to avoid combustion risk and the inhalation of acrid smoke.

Cannabis Strains High in Camphene

To take advantage of camphene’s host of potential medical benefits, seek out the following strains (cultivars) which may contain higher levels of the terpene:

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is camphene the same as camphor?

Camphene and camphor are similar in smell and uses but not quite the same. They are both terpenes: camphor is a terpenoid often used as a fragrance additive, camphene is a monoterpene often used to make synthetic camphor. Camphor derives from the camphor tree, though it is usually made from turpentine today. Camphene is found elsewhere in nature, such as in nutmeg and sage.

To give more technical information, camphor is considered a terpenoid, while camphene is a terpene. Terpenoids are similar to terpenes but have some changes in chemical structure (e.g., an oxidized methyl group moved or removed at various positions).

A terpene and terpenoid can have many similar properties, but these slight chemical changes can impact how a compound works with the body. For example, a terpenoid may have a slightly different duration of effect or be processed faster by the human body than a terpene or may interact with pathogens like viruses and bacteria in different ways.

Where can camphene be found?

Camphene is one of nature’s most prevalent monoterpenes and can be found naturally in many plants, including cypress trees, valerian, holy basil, nutmeg, sage, ginger, neroli, and rosemary.

What is camphene made of?

Camphene is a bicyclic monoterpene that chemically appears as a water-insoluble, colorless crystal. Plants such as nutmeg, ginger, sage, valerian, and more generally are part of their essential oils.