The Crystallization of Camphor.

Botanical name: 


The peculiar predilection of camphor for the crystalline form, is one of the petty annoyances inherent to the dispensing department.

Insignificant as the objection may seem, it is nevertheless one for which the dispensing pharmaceutist is but too willing to accept a remedy. This difficulty is chiefly experienced with powdered camphor, but the objection, likewise, though in a less obvious degree, applies to the aqueous solution. The most perfect means of pulverizing camphor, although not the most practicable, is undoubtedly the method by precipitation. The trituration with small quantities of chloroform, ether, benzine, and naphtha, has been proposed; but none of these substances possess any advantages over alcohol, which even still is preferable to all. There is no difficulty whatever in pulverizing camphor; the object is to retain it so.

For this purpose it has been suggested to triturate the camphor with small quantities of magnesium carbonate. If this management insured the pulverulent state indefinitely, the magnesium would often be objectionable. The writer has not tested the process, but was informed by good authority that it is not satisfactory; a similar result is experienced by precipitating the camphor with water from an alcoholic solution, holding the magnesium carbonate in suspension. Other dry substances, as starch, for instance, have been used with equally indifferent success. The writer, feeling the necessity of some alternative, and basing his theory of this crystallization upon the volatility of camphor, applied an etherial solution of resin with a view of coating the particles with a deposit of resin. The experiment, however, yielded a negative result. The writer, assuming then that a nonvolatile solvent might retard the crystallization, employed a small proportion of fixed oil—preferably castor oil. This addition is entirely unobjectionable, and although it does not strictly meet the most sanguine expectation of preventing crystallization, it yet modifies this tendency to such a degree that after a long trial the writer is so thoroughly satisfied with its peculiar advantages that the complete success of the experiment would have been scarcely hailed with more delight. The proportion of castor oil employed is about one part in thirty of camphor, or even less. It is added, together with the alcohol, to the camphor, and the whole triturated to the proper degree of fineness. The great advantage rests in the fact that the crystals of camphor subsequently formed are exceedingly minute, and the oil entirely removes the very disagreeable adhesiveness and tenacity of the camphor, which becomes so troublesome during the trituration of pure camphor. Camphor containing the oil can be triturated inlarge or small quantities, without in the least clogging the mortar or pestle. The powder, after keeping even a long time, mixes perfectly and with facility with all the ordinary ingredients with which it is usually combined in prescriptions. The peculiar gumminess has been perfectly removed by the intervention of the oil.

The aqueous solution of camphor is another point at issue. It has been supposed that during cold weather camphor water drops part of its camphor. However, this phenomenon is only apparent. The writer has often been struck by the extraordinary solvent power of very cold water upon camphor, so that during the coldest winter' weather the cold water drawn fresh from the hydrant, and having a very low temperature, always yielded the strongest camphor water, which, when subjected to the warm temperature of the room, deposited camphor abundantly and in weighable quantities, not upon the glass above the liquid, but floating in beautiful crystals in the liquid itself; so much so that the water was often filtered again before use.

To verify the above conclusion, the writer employed lukewarm water. The camphor was first finely triturated with the aid of alcohol, then with the magnesium carbonate, first rubbed through a coarse sieve, then with a portion of the water, and poured into a capacious bottle; the remainder of the water was then gradually added, and the mixture violently shaken during the intervals, and finally filtered. (This is essentially the writer's manipulation for the aromatic waters.) The bottle containing the filtrate was securely corked and allowed to cool. After six hours a very thin film of crystalline camphor had deposited on the walls of the bottle above the liquid, the latter containing no visible trace, not even floating upon the surface, The liquid was again filtered and exposed to intense cold for a long time, but no more camphor separated, although the liquid possessed the taste of camphor in a marked degree. Therefore, to make camphor water, free from separated camphor, use lukewarm water, or use water of the ordinary temperature, let it become equalized to the temperature of the room, and after a repose of twenty-four hours, filter. But to make a supersaturated camphor water, employ water having a very low temperature.—The Pharmacist, April, 1871.

The American Journal of Pharmacy, Vol. XLIII, 1871, was edited by William Procter, Jr. (Issues 1-4) and John M. Maisch (Issues 5-12).