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Copaifera officinalis - L.

Common Name Copaiba Balsam, Medicinal Copaiba
Family Fabaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards None known
Habitats A canopy tree of the rainforests, usually found in well-drained sandy loams[ 362 ].
Range Northern S. America - Brazil, Venezuela and Guyana.
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (4 of 5)
Care
Tender Well drained soil Moist Soil Full shade Semi-shade
Copaifera officinalis Copaiba Balsam, Medicinal Copaiba


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Copaifera officinalis Copaiba Balsam, Medicinal Copaiba
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Summary

Copaiba Balsam, Copaifera officinalis, is a well-branched tree with a short bole and wide canopy. It can grow up to 30 m in height or taller. It is grown in Northern South America particularly in Brazil, Venezuela, and Guyana. Like other species in the Copaifera genus, it is a source of an oily oleo-resin known as copaiba-balsam. The resin is used as a food additive and as flavouring agents in food and beverages. It is also used in perfumery, cosmetics, varnishes and lacquers, and as substitute to diesel oil. Medicinally, it is used to treat various conditions in the skin, urinary tract, respiratory system, and reproductive systems. It can also be used for pain relief, headache, sore throat and mouth sores. The bark also yields tannin. The wood is used in general carpentry and construction, and as material in making furniture. Found In: Northern S. America - Brazil, Venezuela and Guyana.


Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of cone
Copaifera officinalis is an evergreen Tree growing to 22 m (72ft) by 22 m (72ft) at a slow rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 10.
It can fix Nitrogen.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) or semi-shade (light woodland). It prefers dry or moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map

Synonyms

Copaiba officinalis (L.) Kuntze Copaiva officinalis (L.) Jacq.

Habitats

Edible Uses

Like other species in the Copaifera genus, it is a source of an oily oleo-resin known as copaiba-balsam. The resin is used as a food additive and as flavouring agents in food and beverages.

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.


Copaiba-balsam, an oily oleo-resin obtained from the trunk of the tree, has a very long history of use medicinally. It was widely used by the native peoples prior to the Europeans reaching S. America and these uses were soon taken up by the Europeans[ 317 ]. The resin is especially valued for its ability to counter mucous in the chest and genito-urinary system[ 254 ]. The resin is an aromatic, stimulant herb with a bitter, burning taste[ 238 ]. Both it and the bark are anodyne, antacid, antibacterial, antifungal, antiinflammatory, antimicrobial, astringent, cytostatic, demulcent, digestive, disinfectant, diuretic, expectorant, mildly laxative, vermifuge and vulnerary[ 318 ]. The resin obtained from the trunk contains a number of medically active constituents including 30 - 90% essential oils and unusual condensed tannins[ 238 ]. The essential oil contains alpha- and beta-caryophyllene, sesquiterpenes, resins and terpenic acids[ 254 ]. It improves the digestion, has diuretic and expectorant effects, and controls bacterial infections[ 238 ]. Much of the clinical research performed to date has verified the traditional uses of copaiba. It has, for instance, been shown to be highly effective as a topical wound healer and anti-inflammatory agent[ 318 ]. The anti-inflammatory effect is mainly due to the sesquiterpenes, particularly caryophyllene which has also demonstrated effective pain-relieving properties, antifungal properties against nail fungus and gastroprotective properties[ 318 ]. The resin as a whole (and, particularly, two of its diterpenes - copalic acid and kaurenic acid) has demonstrated significant antimicrobial activity against gram-positive bacteria. One of copaiba?s other chemicals, kaurenoic acid, has also demonstrated selective antibacterial activity against Gram-positive bacteria in other recent studies[318. Other constituents of the resin have demonstrated significant antitumor activity[ 318 ]. The resin is taken internally in the treatment of a range of respiratory problems such as tuberculosis, bronchitis and sinusitis; urinary tract and reproductive system conditions such as cystitis, kidney and bladder infections, vaginal discharge and gonorrhoea[ 238 , 254 ]. Stomach ulcers, tetanus, herpes, pleurisy and haemorrhages are just some of the other conditions treated with the resin[ 318 ]. Externally, it is used in the treatment of a range of skin problems including insect bites, eczema, chilblains, sores and psoriasis[ 238 , 254. It is also used to treat wounds and stop bleeding[ 318 ]. As an antiseptic gargle, it is used to treat sore throats and tonsillitis[ 318 ]. The resin should be used with care, see notes above on toxicity[ 238 ]. The resin is tapped at intervals from the tree and the holes filled in afterwards[ 238 ]. It is used in infusions or distilled for its essential oil[ 238 ].

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Other Uses

Other Uses: An oleoresin is obtained from the tree[ 46 ]. It is an important fixative in perfumes - especially those with violet, woody or spicy notes[ 238 , 318 ]. Today in the United States, copaiba resin is used mostly as a fragrance component in perfumes and in cosmetic preparations (including soaps, bubble baths, detergents, creams, and lotions) for its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and emollient (soothing and softening) properties[ 318 ]. The resin is also used in varnishes and lacquers[ 238 ]. The resin can be used, direct from the tree, as a substitute for diesel oil[ 238 ]. Tannin is obtained from the bark[ 46 ]. The wood is used locally for turnery, carriages, furniture and ship building[ 46 ]. We do not have any more specific information for the wood of this species, but a general description of the wood from this genus is as follows:- The heartwood is a reddish-brown, it is somewhat variable, often with a coppery hue, and sometimes streaked; it is not very sharply demarcated from the pinkish-gray or nearly white sapwood. The texture is medium; the grain usually straight; lustre rather silky and golden; oily exudations are sometimes present, the woods of all species contain gum or oil canals. Dry material is without any distinctive odour or taste. The wood is not very durable, being susceptible to fungi, insects and drywood termites. It is easy to work and finishes very smoothly, though a small amount of material showed fuzzy grain after planing. It is used in general carpentry, construction, interior trim, furniture, turnery; it has been suggested for particleboard and excelsior cement board[ 316 ].

Special Uses

Carbon Farming

Cultivation details

Industrial Crop: Hydrocarbon  Industrial Crop: Medicinal  Management: Standard  Regional Crop

A plant of the moister tropics, it requires a high humidity and a minimum temperature that does not fall much below 13°c[ 238 ]. Prefers a well-drained sandy soil and a position in shade[ 238 ]. A single copaiba tree can provide about 40 litres of oleoresin annually, making it a sustainable rainforest resource that can be harvested without destroying the tree or the forest in which it grows[ 318 ]. The resin accumulates in cavities within the tree trunk and is harvested by tapping or drilling holes into the wood of the trunk and collecting the resin that drips out, much in the same manner as harvesting maple syrup[ 318 ]. When tapped, the initial oily resin is clear, thin, and colourless; it thickens and darkens upon contact with air[ 318 ]. Commercially sold resins are a thick, clear liquid, with a colour that varies from pale yellow to golden light brown[ 318 ].

Carbon Farming

  • Industrial Crop: Hydrocarbon  Materials, chemicals and energy include bioplastics, rubber, biomass products gasoline, jet fuel, diesel, butane, propane, biogas. Plants are usually resprouting plants and saps.
  • Industrial Crop: Medicinal  Most pharmaceuticals are synthesized from petroleum but 25% of modern medicines are based on plants.
  • Management: Standard  Plants grow to their standard height. Harvest fruit, seeds, or other products. Non-Destructive management systems.
  • Regional Crop  These crops have been domesticated and cultivated regionally but have not been adopted elsewhere and are typically not traded globally, Examples in this broad category include perennial cottons and many nuts and staple fruits.

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Propagation

Seed

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Copaiba Balsam, Copaifera officinalis. Other Names: Balsam Copaiba, Copahu Balsam, Copaiba Balsam, Jesuit's Balsam, Maracaibo Balsam, Para Balsam. Spanish: amacey; b‡lsamo de copaiba; copaiba; copaiva; palo de aceite; tacamaca. French: copaier officinal. Brazil: b‡lsamo; capa’ba; capaœba; copa’; copa’ba. Dominican Republic: abey hembra; amacey. Germany: Kopaivabaum. Venezuela: copayero.

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Found In: Northern S. America - Brazil, Venezuela and Guyana.

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

None Known

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Copaifera coriaceaSapucaia treeTree20.0 10-12 SLMHSNM242
Copaifera guyanensisHoepel, Guyanense CopaibaTree30.0 10-12 SLMHSNM243
Copaifera langsdorffiiCopaiba, Langsdorf's copaiferaTree18.0 10-12 SLMHFSM143
Copaifera multijugaHayne oil, Copaiba,Tree20.0 10-12 SLMFSDM143
Copaifera reticulataCopaiba, Reticulated Copaiba, Copaiba BalsamTree30.0 10-12 SLMFSDM043

 

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A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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