Copaiba Balsam (Copaifera Species) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects

Copaiba Balsam (Copaifera Species) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects

Copaiba Balsam (Copaifera Species) Overview

Copaiba Balsam (Copaifera Species) other names: Balsam, Bálsamo de Copaiba, Baume de Copahu, Copaiba, Copaiba Oleoresin, Copaïer, Copaifera langsdorffii, Copaifera officinalis, Copaifera reticulata, Copaiva, Copayer, Jesuit's Balsam, Oléorésine de Copahu.

Copaiba balsam is an oversized legume (a plant in the family Fabaceae or Leguminosae) native to the humid or tropical climatic regions of South America. This giant tree bearing edible seeds is found in abundance in Columbia, Brazil and Venezuela. Though it may appear incredible, this tropical legume grows to a height of 60 feet to 100 feet (20 meters to 30 meters). The copaiba balsam resins of this tree that collects in the cracks on the trunk are used for remedial purposes. The copaiba balsam tree is basically tapped in the same manner as the rubber tree. When the copaiba balsam resin from the tree is amassed, the liquid is refined to garner the essential oils from it. The thick, transparent exudates vary in color from light gold to dark brown, depending on the ratio of resin to essential oil.

Copaiba Balsam (Copaifera Species) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Copaiba Balsam (Copaifera Species) flower

The copaiba balsam trees bear numerous white, petite flowers that appear on extended panicles and small fruit pods each enclosing two to four seeds. In all, there are as many as 35 species of Copaifera species that are mostly found in different parts of the South American rain forests, especially in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Guyana, Peru, Bolivia and Venezuela. A number of different species of Copaifera are used in traditional herbal medications reciprocally. While C. langsdorffii is mainly found in the cerrados (a type of plains community distinguished by vegetation ranging from tropical broadleaf woodlands to scrublands) of central Brazil, C. reticulata is native to the Amazon region. Another species, C. officinalis grows extensively all over South America, including the Amazon. All these three species of Copaifera are used correspondently.

The oleoresin (resin) is the part of the tree that is generally used for medicinal purposes. The oleoresin gathers in the cavities in the trunk of the trees. This resin is collected by tapping or making holes into the timber of the trunk, while the resin that drips from the tree is collected in the same way as maple syrup is harvested. One copaiba balsam tree is usually capable to yielding around 40 liters of oleoresin every year and this makes harvesting of oleoresin an acceptable resource of the rain forest as it can be collected without wiping out the trees or the forest where they grow naturally. Initially, the oleoresin is oily, clear, dilute and transparent or colorless when tapped. As soon as this resin comes in contact with the atmosphere, it turns thick and transforms into a dark colored substance. The copaiba balsam resin that is sold on the market is a thick and translucent liquid and its color ranges from light yellow to golden pale brown. The quality of oleoresin collected from the copaiba balsam trees in Venezuela is comparatively thicker and has a darker color. Though the resins harvested from the copaiba balsam trees are usually mentioned as a balsam or oil, in reality it is simply an oleoresin.

Copaiba Balsam (Copaifera Species) Health Benefits

Copaiba balsam is a sap-like substance (oleoresin) collected from the trunk of trees that belong to the Copaifera species. Copaiba balsam is processed to make copaiba oil. Both copaiba balsam and copaiba oil are used to make medicine.

People take copaiba balsam for treating bronchitis, hemorrhoids, constipation, diarrhea, and bladder infections and other urinary tract infections (UTIs). They also take it as a stimulant.

Native tribes inhabiting Rio Solimoes in northwest Amazonia apply the oleoresin from the copaiba balsam trees externally to heal wounds, stop bleeding, and cure skin sores and psoriasis and also as a remedy for the sexually transmitted disease gonorrhea. Even to this day, therapist and folk healers in the Amazon region use the oleoresin from the copaiba balsam trees to treat all kinds of pain, skin problems and insect bites. They also use this resin to calm irritation or inflammation.

Copaiba Balsam (Copaifera Species) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Copaiba Balsam (Copaifera Species) plant

In Brazil, traditional herbal medicine practitioners use the resin of copaiba balsam as a potent antiseptic and expectorant (cough medicine) for the respiratory tract to cure conditions, such as bronchitis and sinusitis. They also utilize the copaiba balsam oleoresin as an anti-inflammatory and antiseptic medication to treat disorders of the urinary tract, such as cystitis, bladder and kidney contagions, and also as an external anti-inflammatory medicine to cure all kind of skin conditions. Pharmacies in Brazil sell the copaiba balsam resin in the form of gel capsules that is prescribed for different kinds of internal inflammation (tenderness and swelling), stomach ulcers as well as cancers. People in Brazil use this resin as an antiseptic gargle to treat aching throats and tonsillitis.

They also use the oleoresin to lessen inflammation as well as augment urination. In addition, the copaiba balsam resin finds its use as a remedy for incontinence (inability to hold back natural discharges or evacuations of urine or feces), urinary disorders, stomach ulcers, tetanus, sexually transmitted disease syphilis, bronchitis, herpes, pleurisy, tuberculosis, catarrh (inflammation of a mucous membrane accompanied by excessive secretions, specially of the respiratory tract), hemorrhages and leishmaniasis (any infection caused by a protozoan of the genus Leishmania) where it is applied as a plaster.

The earliest mention of the remedial use of copaiba balsam oleoresin was made in the European medicine way back in 1625. This was first introduced in Europe by the Jesuits who carried it from the new European settlements in South America and hence, was initially also known as Jesuit's balsam. Since then, the oleoresin of the copaiba balsam tree has been used to heal chronic cystitis, chronic diarrhea, and bronchitis as well as applied externally for hemorrhoids. During the period between 1820 and 1910, the copaiba balsam oleoresin was an official drug in the United States in the U.S. Pharmacopeia.

It has been found that the copaiba balsam oleoresin provides quick relief from skin inflammation and irritation. Shampoos containing the copaiba balsam oleoresin are effective in eradicating dandruff. In addition, this herb has been utilized to cure basal cell carcinoma - the most widespread type of skin cancer. Copaiba balsam oleoresin is also said to have a beneficial influence on mucous membranes.

Copaiba balsam is useful for treating conditions like arthritis, gonorrhea, eczema, herpes, psoriasis and the sexually transmitted disease syphilis. It has been found that copaiba balsam oleoresin alleviates the symptoms of an assortment of ailments that result in inflammation of soft tissue or the mucus membranes in the body. Trials conducted in laboratories have demonstrated that this oleoresin works by diminishing the accessibility of the walls of the blood vessels to histamine - the chemical that causes painful swelling in all such conditions. Copaiba balsam oleoresin is a volatile oil that possesses antimicrobial properties and puts off secondary contagions in conditions, such as herpes, eczema and psoriasis.

All the traditional herbal medicines that make use of the copaiba balsam oleoresin use this substance in small doses when recommended for internal usage. The normal dosage of copaiba balsam oleoresin for internal use varies from five to 15 drops (around 0.5 ml to 1 ml) taken once to three times every day. When medications prepared with this herb is taken in large doses it results in vomiting, nausea, as well as fever and skin rash akin to measles. According to a French dermatologist, such adverse aftereffects may also occur in sensitive persons when copaiba balsam oleoresin is absorbed through the skin. Nevertheless, health authorities in the United States have approved the use of copaiba balsam as a food additive as well as a flavoring agent in foods and beverages, albeit in small measures. In addition, the perfume industry uses copaiba balsam oleoresin as a fixative in preparing scents.

Presently, copaiba balsam oleoresin is mainly used in the United States as an aroma constituent in preparing perfumes and in cosmetics, including bubble baths, soaps, creams, lotions and detergents owing to the herb's anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and emollient or soothing and softening features. Presently, the natural health practitioners are just starting to learn about the numerous ways that this significant rain forest supply is used in the different herbal medicine systems in South America and are also just commencing to include them in their medical practice in the United States and elsewhere. When the copaiba balsam oleoresin is used carefully and in small measures, the copaiba balsam oleoresin is a fantastic natural therapy for treating stomach ulcers, all types of inflammation, nail fungus (applied externally) and for its proven properties, such as healing wounds, antimicrobial and anti-cancer.

In foods and beverages, copaiba balsam is used as an ingredient.

In manufacturing, copaiba balsam and copaiba oil are used in soaps, cosmetics, and perfumes.

In pharmaceutical preparations, both copaiba balsam and copaiba oil are used in cough medicines and diuretics.

Copaiba Balsam (Copaifera Species) Side effects

Copaiba balsam is safe for most people in normal food amounts. However, copaiba balsam seems unsafe for use as a medicine. Copaiba balsam can cause side effects such as stomach pains, vomiting, diarrhea, rash, tremor, groin pain, and sleeplessness (insomnia). When used on the skin, copaiba balsam can cause redness, itching, and a rash that might leave brown spots after healing.

Although copaiba balsam oleoresin possesses several therapeutic properties, its use may also result in some adverse side effects and, hence, people using the herb need to exercise some precautions. While using medications prepared with or containing copaiba balsam oleoresin, you need to avoid its contact with eyes and mucous membranes as the herb may function as an aggravation. In addition, individuals susceptible to copaiba balsam oleoresin may endure rash along with irritation, prickling and/ or stinging - something akin to having measles, when they use the herbal preparation externally or consume it. In case such side effects occur, it is advisable to stop using medications prepared with copaiba balsam oleoresin.

It is advisable never to take large doses, in excess of 5 ml, when taking medications prepared with or containing copaiba balsam oleoresin. People taking large dosages of this herb have often complained of vomiting, nausea, rashes and fever. When such side effects occur after taking copaiba balsam oleoresin medication, it is advisable to either lower the dosage of the medication or discontinue with it. Consult your healthcare provider when such adverse aftereffects occur, persist or worsen.

It may be noted that scientific studies have recognized one compound present in copaiba balsam oleoresin to result in the breaking down of red blood cells with liberation of hemoglobin or hemolysis in humans as well as rodents in vitro. Since this action of copaiba balsam oleoresin has not been researched in vitro, it is advisable to steer clear of prolonged oral usage of medications prepared with or containing the herb unless you are directly being supervised by a physician who is able to keep an eye on this potential consequence.

Copaiba Balsam (Copaifera Species) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Copaiba Balsam (Copaifera Species) image

For those who desire to use this herb, copaiba balsam oleoresin is marketed in the form of oil as well as shampoo for external usage. On the other hand, a tincture prepared with copaiba balsam oleoresin is also available with pharmacies and drug stores for internal use. It may be mentioned here that several useful healthcare products are also available in a combination of copaiba balsam oleoresin and the balsam of Tolu. In case you have allergic reactions to balsam of Tolu or any preparations containing it, you ought to ensure that you always use pure copaiba balsam oil or copaiba balsam oleoresin.

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Copaiba balsam is safe when eaten as food, but copaiba balsam seems unsafe in medicinal amounts, which are typically higher. Stick with normal food amounts if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.