Home >> Comptons-pictured-encyclopedia-vol-02-bro-edi-p3 >> A Folklore Tale Of to Thomas 1795 1881 Carlyle >> Camphor


gum and formosa

CAMPHOR. The familiar vegetable substance known as "gum" camphor—or in an alcohol solution as "spirits" of camphor—is the product of a tree native only to Formosa, Japan, and central China, called the camphor laurel tree (Cinnamomum camphora).

The Japanese government retains a monopoly of the production and refining of camphor in Formosa and Japan. Most of the world's supply of camphor comes from the Formosa forests.

Eighty-five per cent of the camphor imports to the United States are used in the manufacture of celluloid, and the remainder is used medicinally or to protect furs and woolens from moths. During the World War the United States government bought immense quan tities to be used largely in treating "trench feet," that is, the inflamed feet of soldiers in the trenches.

Camphor is obtained by distilling the leaves, bark, and chips of the camphor laurel with steam. This distillate is warmed and the water and volatile oils go off, leaving a residue of impure camphor. This gum is carefully sublimed. (A substance that will, when heated, pass into a vapor directly from a solid state is said to " sublime.") As the vapor cools, crystals of camphor are deposited.

Camphor gum will sublime, or, as one might say, evaporate at ordinary temperature, as anyone knows who has tried to keep camphor gum, even wrapped in paper. It dissolves readily in alcohol and ether.

Synthetic or artificial camphor, which was formerly prepared from turpentine, is no longer manufactured because of the high cost of turpentine.