Ancient Ingredient: Copaiba and Its Many Uses

September 29, 2019
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Where Does It Come From?

Copaiba comes from a variety of different plant species all belonging to the genus Copaifera that can be found throughout South America. The species referred to as “copaiba” in Brazil is often called Copaifera langsdorfii or officinalis. These trees are often referred to as diesel trees because their oleoresin (a combination of a plant’s essential oils and resin) can be used to power diesel engines. The ingredient known as copaiba is this oleoresin. This mix of essential oils and resin is extracted from the trunk of the diesel tree through a six-month process. This process involves making a small incision in the tree then plugging the hole, allowing fluid to gather before removing the plug at the end of the six months and collecting.

When Was It Discovered?

The first record of this process came from a 1625 report to England. While this is the first recorded use of the ingredient, it may have been discovered earlier by South American natives who would later demonstrate copaiba’s value to European missionaries. Due to how widespread diesel trees are it’s safe to say that copaiba was first used well before the 17th century.

Who Used It?

Ancient people living in the area that is now made up of Brazil and Peru were most likely the first to realize the medicinal benefits of copaiba. In Peruvian medicine, it was mixed with honey to ease sore throats. In Brazil, it was used to clear up a person’s respiratory system. In more recent times, indigenous tribes living near the Solimões River, located near the upper Amazon River in Northwest Brazil, have continued to use the resin topically in order to treat afflictions like bites and rashes.

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