English: Camphor

Chinese: 樟脑

Parts used: The white crystalline substance obtained from the tree

TCM category: Herbs that open the OrificesHerbs for external application

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): Pungent

Organ affinity: Heart

Scientific name: Cinnamomum camphora

Use of Zhang Nao (camphor) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitioner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Camphor is obtained through water distillation of wood and twigs of the camphor tree

Dosage: 0.05 - 0.15 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Moves the Blood and reduces inflammation. Opens the Orifices and awakens the spirit. Dispels Wind-Damp and kills parasites.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Zhang Nao may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Traumatic swelling Summer Heat Itching Sores Intestinal parasites

Contraindications*: This herb should not be used by pregnant women nor should it be used by those who are weak with Qi Deficiency or those with insomnia. This herb should be used with caution when taken internally.

Key TCM concepts behind Zhang Nao's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Zhang Nao belongs to the 'Herbs that open the Orifices' category. The functions of these herbs are much more platonic than the name implies. They're used to help treat conditions associated with central nervous system collapse, including strokes and coma.

Furthermore Zhang Nao is Warm in nature. This means that Zhang Nao tends to help people who have too much 'Cold' in their body, although with less effect than a plant that would be Hot in nature. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much Cold in their body are said to either have a Yin Excess (because Yin is Cold in nature) or a Yang Deficiency (Yang is Hot in Nature). Depending on your condition Zhang Nao can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Zhang Nao also tastes Pungent. The so-called 'Five Phases' theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Pungent ingredients like Zhang Nao tends to promote the circulations of Qi and Body Fluids. That's why for instance someone tends to sweat a lot when they eat spicy/pungent food.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such Zhang Nao is thought to target the Heart. In addition to regulating Blood flow, in TCM the Heart is believed to be the store of the 'Mind' which basically refers to someone's vitality.

Research on Zhang Nao

Camphor exhibits a number of biological properties such as insecticidal, antimicrobial, antiviral, anticoccidial, anti-nociceptive, anticancer and antitussive activities, in addition to its use as a skin penetration enhancer.1


1. Chen W, Vermaak I, Viljoen A. Camphor—A Fumigant during the Black Death and a Coveted Fragrant Wood in Ancient Egypt and Babylon—A Review. Molecules. 2013; 18(5):5434-5454.