Camphor wood comes from the camphor tree (Cinnamomum camphora) that also goes by the name camphor laurel or camphor wood. This is an evergreen tree that can be found in Western Texas, Florida, and Georgia. Camphor tree is also native to tropical Eastern Asia. If you happen to chop this tree for firewood, you’re probably asking, is camphor wood safe to burn?
In this post, I will answer this question to ensure your safety, especially when burning wood indoors.
Can I burn camphor wood in my fireplace?
When it comes to firewood, I don’t recommend camphor. Many subspecies of this wood contain high levels of safrole, a known carcinogen. This will put your family’s life at risk, especially if you’re burning many logs for extended periods.
Aside from that, you also stand the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning if you pair the camphor wood with store-bought firewood.
Moreover, the smell of camphor isn’t the most appealing, at least for me. It will waft all over your home and stick to your chimney for quite a while.
Also, camphor wood burns fast and hot, which can ignite creosote deposits in your chimney. This can turn catastrophic, especially if you’re not monitoring your fireplace.
In addition, inhaling the fumes coming from burning camphor wood is dangerous. I’d rather err on the side of caution instead of being exposed to potential poisoning.
Can you smoke meat with camphor wood?
In China, camphor wood is a famous choice in smoking game birds, duck, and poultry. However, the aroma is pungent and exotic, which doesn’t appeal to many people, especially Westerners.
Aside from that, your barbecue or meat will potentially absorb the safrole or carcinogenic substance from camphor. Besides, camphor ingestion is life-threatening, so you should never, in any way, consume anything that comes from its wood.
Also, the fact that camphor wood burns fast makes it unsuitable for smoking meat. As a result, your food will get burned on the outside and raw on the inside.
Can you cook with camphor wood?
Many people, especially in Asia, use camphor wood as fuel for wood stoves. Unlike using them in barbecue or smoking, camphor wood could be less dangerous when burned this way. Still, you should only burn this for cooking outdoors to avoid the buildup of carbon monoxide.
Aside from that, you should keep your cooking ware covered at all times to prevent the camphor fumes from getting into the food.
But as much as possible, you should not use camphor wood in cooking. There are other ways to utilize spare camphor wood, which I discussed below.
What can you use camphor wood for?
While it has toxic properties, camphor wood has a lot of uses. Here are a few ideas that you can add to your project’s list:
- Furniture. Camphor wood is a topnotch choice when making tables, chairs, and boards. It has a pale brown color with streaks of red or brown. You can also stain this wood to highlight its grain even more.
- Insect repellent. Due to its strong smell, camphor wood is a natural insect repellent. You can put a few slabs indoors to keep pesky bugs and moths away. However, make sure that you store it in a well-ventilated area and away from your firewood stack.
- Chopping board. Since camphor wood has antibacterial properties, you can use it to create stunning chopping boards. It’s hardwood, so it will last longer and can endure wear and tear.
- Shelves. Do you need more storage for your home? If so, you can turn spare camphor wood into shelving material. They have a decorative look, which will be enhanced with the right choice of stain.
- Wood-turning projects. Camphor wood is a favorite material of those who are into woodturning. You can turn them into bowls, goblets, vases, and so on.
What does camphor wood smell like?
Camphor has a strong menthol odor, which is quite similar to Vicks Vaporub, which also contains the extracts of the tree. When burned, the wood will emit an overwhelming odor, which can cause respiratory irritation aside from potential poisoning.
Aside from that, the twigs and leaves of the camphor tree will produce the same odor when crushed. This makes the tree quite easy to identify in the wild.
Is camphor wood food-safe?
While camphor wood should never be used to cook food, it’s considered safe to turn into platters and chopping boards. There’s no solid evidence that contact with the wood can lead to serious side effects. However, make sure that the wood is clean and processed to avoid irritations. You should also seal the wood to prevent food from seeping through the grains.
How can you tell camphor wood?
To ensure that you won’t be burning any camphor wood indoors, it’s important to know how to identify it on the stack.
Camphor wood can have interlocked, straight, or wavy grain. Still, all grain appearances have a slightly greasy feel and natural luster. The texture is medium, and the odor is undeniable.
Aside from that, camphor wood can come in various colors. It’s usually light brown, but with shades of olive, gray, red, and green. It depends on where the camphor tree was harvested.
What wood should you not burn?
Many unknowing individuals don’t realize that some wood types can be poisonous when burned. Here are some of the wood types you should never put in your fireplace:
- Painted wood. Any type of painted wood should never be tossed into the fireplace. Paint is packed with toxic compounds that can emit carbon monoxide. When burned in a fireplace, this will expose your family to poisoning. It’s best to strip off the paint first before burning.
- Softwood. While most softwoods aren’t toxic, they also contain high levels of moisture. They also burn fast and will leave soot on your chimney and very few coals on your fireplace. Aside from that, softwood will produce thick smoke.
- Oleander. Some campers make the mistake of using oleander branches to toast their marshmallows. Take note that this wood is highly toxic, including all parts. Never burn any part of this shrub for your safety.
- Pressure-treated wood. Burning plywood, MDF, particleboard, and the likes are highly discouraged. These materials have glue, which will release toxic fumes. In fact, many states prohibit the burning of pressure-treated wood even outdoors because of the pollution it brings.
Is camphor wood safe to burn? Mostly no, since several subspecies of this wood could contain carcinogenic substances. Also, its strong odor makes it an awful choice for firewood. Aside from that, you should never use this as fuel for cooking or as wood for smoking meat. Instead, you’re better off turning this versatile wood into furniture and other useful items at home.