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DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.

aka Balsam Copaiba, Copaiba, Copaiva, Copaiba officinalis
(Copaifera langsdorffii syn C. nitida and C. sallowi)

CAUTION! Excess is purgative and causes rashes and kidney damage. Symptoms are nausea, vomiting, strangury, bloody urine and fever.

Part of a genus consisting of 35 to 40 species of tender, evergreen trees, reaching a height of up to 60 feet and native to tropical America and Africa. The Copaifera comes from the native American Tupi word 'copai' meaning the tree and its resin. The bark is aromatic. The leaves are pinnate, up to 5" long, and have 3 to 5 pairs of ovate leaflets. It produces small yellow flowers which are followed by yellow-brown to dark red fruits with black seeds. It is found mainly in the Brazilian rainforests.
The balsam is obtained by drilling holes in the trunk with each yielding up to 12 gallons. The first yield is colorless and very thin, being the consistency of olive oil, pale yellow, and with a peculiar odor and a bitter taste described as hot and nauseaus. It is said to resemble turpentine. But once in contact with air, its consistency becomes thicker and yellower. Although, the product varies in color, viscosity and odor according to the source with some having an unpleasant odor and taste (ie. C. reticula) and others having a pleasant coumarin-like odor (ie C. multijuga). Since it contains no benzoic acid, it cannot properly be called a resin.
In 1625 a Portuguese monk (Manuel Tristaon) learned of copaiba from Brazilian Indians, recording that it was valued by them for its use with healing wounds with minimal scarring. Copaiba balsam is an oleoresin which is commonly used in perfumery. Besides C. lansdorffi, it is also taken from a number of different species including C. guyanensis, C. martii, C. multijuga, C. officinalis and C. reticula.
At one time large quantities were exported from Para and Maranhao in Brazil, then transported in casks and barrels. Other areas of export were Maracaibo in Venezuala, Angostura, Cayenne, Rio de Janeiro and some West Indian islands. The Venezualan product was more viscid and darker in color.
It was listed in the USP from 1820-1942 and the NF 1942-1955. Copaiba oil was listed USP 1851-1916 and Copaiba resin in the USP 1882-1905.

PROPAGATION: By firm, softwood cuttings in spring.
NEEDS: Well-drained, sandy soil in shade with high humidity and a minimum temperature of 55ºF.
HARVEST: The resin is tapped from trees at intervals with the hole or incision being sealed afterward. The resin is used in infusions or distilled for oil.


Astringent, genitourinary disinfectant, diuretic, stimulant, expectorant, antiseptic, aromatic, vulnery, carminative and laxative.
Has been used for chronic catarrh and bronchitis.
Has also been used for leucorrhea, chronic cystitis, diarrhea and hemorrhoids.
Formerly, it was used for gonorrhea, although not used for chronic cases. It was often combined for this purpose with Buchu, Cubebs and Sandalwood.
It is said to improve the digestion.
At one time it was also used externally for cases of chilblains.
When expelled in the urine, the volatile oil and resin are altered, and when precipitated by nitric acid can be mistaken for albumen.
Copaiba irritates the whole mucous membrane and gives a peculiar odor to urine and the breath, as well as causing a measles or nettle-like rash which is irritating and said to tingle.
Has been used to control bacterial infections.
It was considered a valuable hydragogue diuretic in cases of unresponsive dropsy; it is the 'RESIN' and not the oleoresin which is used as a diuretic.

!All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully!
Usually taken in pill or capsule form (5 to 15 minims) or in the form of an emulsion.
OIL B.P. = 5 to 20 drops
For UNRESPONSIVE DROPSY = 15 to 20 grains 3 times daily.

Used for colds, catarrhs, headache with excessive sensitivity to sharp sounds accompanied by dull frontal pain and sensitive scalp; for rawness and soreness of the nostrils with stopped-up feeling and with thick discharge running into throat at night; for gastric problems during menstruation, flatulence, difficulty with urination, mucousy stools, sensitive or swollen testicles, vulvar itching, coughing, bronchial catarrh, and hives.
DOSE= first to the third attenuation.

Important fixative in perfumery and especially those with woodsy, spicy and violet notes.
A main source of copal (a resin used in lacquers and varnishes).
Also able to be used direct from the tree as a substitute for diesel oil.

©2000 by Ernestina Parziale, CH