Camphor vs. Naphthalene

What's the Difference?

Camphor and naphthalene are both organic compounds commonly used for their distinct properties. Camphor, derived from the camphor tree, is a white crystalline substance with a strong, aromatic odor. It is widely used in traditional medicine, as well as in the production of mothballs and as an ingredient in various cosmetic and skincare products. On the other hand, naphthalene is a solid, white crystalline compound with a strong, pungent odor. It is primarily used as a moth repellent and as a raw material in the production of dyes, resins, and plastics. While both substances have distinct smells and are used in similar applications, camphor is more commonly associated with medicinal and cosmetic uses, while naphthalene is primarily used for its insect-repellent properties.


Chemical FormulaC10H16OC10H8
Molecular Weight152.23 g/mol128.17 g/mol
Physical StateSolidSolid
OdorStrong, aromaticStrong, mothball-like
SolubilityInsoluble in water, soluble in organic solventsInsoluble in water, soluble in organic solvents
Boiling Point209 °C (408 °F)218 °C (424 °F)
Melting Point175 °C (347 °F)80 °C (176 °F)
UsesMedicinal, insect repellent, flavoring agentMoth repellent, pesticide, manufacturing of dyes

Further Detail


Camphor and naphthalene are two commonly used organic compounds with distinct properties and applications. While both substances are derived from natural sources, they have different chemical structures and physical characteristics. In this article, we will explore and compare the attributes of camphor and naphthalene, including their origins, chemical compositions, uses, and potential health effects.

Origins and Chemical Compositions

Camphor, also known as Cinnamomum camphora, is a waxy, white or transparent solid that is obtained from the wood of the camphor tree. It has a strong, aromatic odor and a characteristic cooling sensation when applied to the skin. Chemically, camphor is a terpenoid compound, specifically a bicyclic ketone, with the molecular formula C10H16O.

Naphthalene, on the other hand, is a crystalline solid that is derived from coal tar or petroleum. It is composed of two fused benzene rings, giving it a distinctive structure. Naphthalene has a strong, mothball-like odor and is commonly used as a pesticide and deodorizer. Its chemical formula is C10H8.

Physical Characteristics

When it comes to physical characteristics, camphor and naphthalene exhibit notable differences. Camphor has a melting point of around 175°C (347°F) and boils at approximately 204°C (399°F). It is insoluble in water but readily dissolves in organic solvents such as ethanol and acetone. In its solid form, camphor is brittle and can be easily crushed into a powder.

On the other hand, naphthalene has a melting point of 80°C (176°F) and a boiling point of 218°C (424°F). It is also insoluble in water but dissolves in organic solvents like benzene and toluene. Naphthalene forms white crystals that are volatile and sublimate at room temperature, meaning they transition directly from a solid to a gas without passing through a liquid phase.


Both camphor and naphthalene have a wide range of applications, although they are used in different industries and contexts. Camphor is commonly used in traditional medicine, particularly in topical ointments and creams for its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. It is also used as a fragrance in soaps, perfumes, and air fresheners. Additionally, camphor is utilized in the production of celluloid, a type of plastic, and as an insect repellent.

Naphthalene, on the other hand, is primarily used as a moth repellent due to its strong odor and insecticidal properties. It is often found in mothballs and moth flakes, which are placed in closets or storage areas to protect clothing and fabrics from moth damage. Naphthalene is also used in the production of dyes, resins, and as a precursor for the synthesis of various chemicals, including phthalic anhydride.

Health Effects

While camphor and naphthalene have their respective uses, it is important to consider their potential health effects. Camphor, when used in appropriate amounts, is generally considered safe. However, excessive ingestion or inhalation of camphor can lead to toxicity, causing symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, seizures, and even liver damage. It is crucial to follow recommended guidelines and avoid using camphor products on broken or irritated skin.

Naphthalene, on the other hand, poses health risks primarily through inhalation or ingestion. Prolonged exposure to high levels of naphthalene vapor can cause respiratory issues, such as irritation of the nose, throat, and lungs. In extreme cases, it may lead to hemolytic anemia, a condition where red blood cells are destroyed. It is important to handle naphthalene products with caution and ensure proper ventilation in areas where they are used or stored.


In conclusion, camphor and naphthalene are distinct organic compounds with different origins, chemical compositions, physical characteristics, uses, and potential health effects. Camphor, derived from the camphor tree, is a terpenoid compound with a cooling sensation and finds applications in traditional medicine, fragrances, and insect repellents. Naphthalene, obtained from coal tar or petroleum, is composed of fused benzene rings and is primarily used as a moth repellent and in the production of dyes and resins.

While both substances have their benefits, it is crucial to handle them with care and follow recommended guidelines to minimize potential health risks. Whether it is using camphor for its medicinal properties or naphthalene to protect clothing from moths, understanding their attributes allows us to make informed decisions and utilize these compounds effectively.

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