Smell of the week: camphor

Why camphor? Mainly, I fondly remember camphor as the comedic lynchpin in Red Dwarf Series 3 Episode 2 (“Marooned”) wherein Lister and Rimmer have crash-landed on a planet and await rescue. To keep Lister warm, they burn as many things as they can. When they are left with a few prized possession, Lister tricks Rimmer into burning his wood soldiers by agreeing to burn his own much valued guitar but instead he has secretly cut a guitar-shaped piece of wood from Rimmer’s valuable camphor wood chest.

A lipid, the terpenoid camphor is found in Cinnamomum camphoraan Asian evergreen tree commonly called camphor laurel. Incidentally, the volatile eucalyptol is at a slightly higher concentration in extracts of camphor wood. Rosemary leaves have a large camphor component as did last week’s smell of the week (coriander). Camphor itself is used for it’s aromatic properties for cooking and incense but has medicinal uses as well, particularly as an antibiotic.


Published by Kara C. Hoover

I am a bioanthropologist living in Alaska studying human olfactory variation and prehistoric human health and diet.

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