What are the REAL benefits of copaiba oil? If you're searching the internet to find out, you're probably finding a lot of different answers. That's why I created this post, which explains the benefits of copaiba oil according to science. Click the image to read more!

Copaiba Oil – Just the Facts 3


After my recent experience with the power of copaiba oil as a painless wart remover, I wanted to explore more of the scientifically proven benefits and properties of the oil. So for the third entry in the Just the Facts series, I bring you everything we know about copaiba oil.What are the REAL benefits of copaiba oil? If you're searching the internet to find out, you're probably finding a lot of different answers. That's why I created this post, which explains the benefits of copaiba oil according to science. Click the image to read more!

Summary

  • Origin and History
  • Components of Copaiba Oil
  • Acne
  • Skin Cancer and Tumors
  • Anti-Inflammatory
  • Antimicrobial
  • Wound Healing
  • Cautions

 

 

Wanna skip straight to the science-verified uses? Download my free uses and recipe cheat sheet by clicking below! 

Free Uses and Recipe Sheet

Origin and History

While most people are pretty familiar with the plants that oils such as lavender or peppermint oil are derived from, most people have never heard of a copaiba plant. That’s probably because it’s a tree that grows in South America, particularly the Amazon. It is of the genus Copaifera (now you see where the name comes from). Copaiba oil is distilled from the resin of the tree, rather than the leaves as in the case of peppermint and lavender. Aside from being used to make essential oil, the resin is widely used to make lacquers and varnishes. (1)

Historically, copaiba is cited as a treatment for dermatosis, eczema, and gonorrhea (2), as well as a stimulant, diuretic, carminative, and laxative. Although in large doses it is cited as causing nausea, vomiting, strangury, bloody urine, and fever. (3)

Copaiba oil has been used medicinally in Brazil, where it grows, for hundreds of years. Originally, it was used as an anti-blenorragic agent ( i.e. a medicine used to treat vaginal mucus discharge). These days in Brazil, its main topical use is anti-inflammatory, and its internal uses are a diuretic, expectorant, and antimicrobial agent. It also commonly included in cosmetics as a base. (4)

Components of Copaiba Oil

For Copaifera langsdorffii, the major components are: leaf and fruit oils: β-caryophyllene (16.6% and 14.8%) and γ-muurolene (25.2% and 29.8%); fruit peel oil: caryophyllene oxide (47.3%); root wood oil: caryophyllene oxide (40.5%) and 4-α-copaenol (17.6%); root bark oil: caryophyllene oxide (30.7%) and kaurene (8.2%); trunk wood oil: γ-muurolene (8.3%), caryophyllene oxide (31.0%) and kaurene (30.2%); trunk bark oil: β-bisabolol (30.5%), kaurene (16.7%) and kaurenal (31.9%); copaiba balsam oil: β-caryophyllene (53.3%), with the balsam oil being the most used. (5)

This seems to be the most widely studied variation, although it should be noted that the variation sold by Young Living and many other companies is Copaifera Officialis. The difference? It’s like the difference between different breeds of house cats. They are all cats, but each breed has some unique qualities. That being said, it is likely that copaiba oil from either source would behave similarly, as is mentioned in source 10.

It is proposed that the medicinal properties of copaiba oil are due to the diterpines it contains. These are hydrocarbons considered to be the tree’s biological defense against predators, damage, and disease.

Acne

In a double-blind clinical trial, it was found that copaiba oil (as part of a natrozol gel) significantly reduced the surface area of skin covered by acne (acne vulgaris specifically, which is mild acne) when applied twice a day for 21 days. The mechanism is believed to be β-caryophyllene, which has been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect. (4)

If you want to try this yourself, my personal suggestion would be to try using copaiba oil with the oil cleansing method. The oil cleansing method is currently my go-to method for cleansing my face, and after almost two years now I’m still quite satisfied with it. Comment if you’re interested in more details about the method or how I use it.

Bottom line: Probably effective

Skin Cancer and Tumors

Studies have been done to explore the effectiveness of copaiba oil in treating skin cancer and tumors using several methods.

In a study done by Sylvia R. M. Lima et. al. in 2003, it was found that oral administration of copaiba oil resin to mice decreased lung tumor size and number of nodules. The resin was administered every two days after the mice were induced with tumors. The mechanism of this is thought to be the cytotoxicity of the resin to the cancer cells (it was shown to reduce cell viability of melanoma cells when incubated together in the lab).  Note: Copaifera multijuga was used. (6)

Venturing et. al. just published a study this month (Nov 2015) proposing copaiba oil as a lipid capsule for imiquimod (a drug approved for the treatment of basal cell carcinoma).  It was found that this was more effective than the drug by itself. This method of encapsulation is already a fairly widely used form of drug delivery, however copaiba oil as the capsule is not. In this case, it was proposed that the effectiveness of copaiba oil as the capsule stems from the fact that the oil tends to trap the drug in the basal layer of the skin. Since the drug is most effective when in this area, it makes sense that retaining it there will increase its effectiveness. (7)

Bottom line: Somewhat effective, but not recommended without consulting with a doctor.

Anti-Inflammatory

 
One of the most talked about benefits of copaiba oil is its anti-inflammatory effect, and the studies exist to back up this claim. In a 2014 publication in Molecules, a group reports that copaiba oil (Copaifera Officialis) inhibits certain proteins and complexes involved in the inflammation response. In doing so, it can effectively modulate the acute (as opposed to chronic) inflammatory response. Copaiba oil was also found to inhibit cytokines (basically signaling proteins) which play an essential role in autoimmune disorders. The proposed mechanism is the β-caryophyllene, one of the main components of copaiba oil. Simply put, this component binds to sites where inflammatory signal proteins would otherwise bind to initiate an inflammatory response. In doing so, it effectively blocks the signaling cascade and thus the inflammatory response. (8)
 
 
A different study published in 2012 claims that copaiba oil (Copaifera reticulata) is anti-inflammatory because it reduces recruitment of neutrophils to the site of injury. Neutrophils are the body’s first responders when it comes to inflammation, squeezing out of the bloodstream into the tissue at the first sign of trouble. These then signal other inflammatory responses, so reducing the neutrophils reduces the inflammatory response. This particular study explored the effect of copaiba oil on rats after induced damage to the central nervous system. They found that the copaiba oil reduced tissue damage and was neuroprotective, although they admit that the mechanism is still largely unknown, aside from the reduction of neutrophils at the site. (9)
 
 Bottom line: Effective

Antimicrobial

Copaiba oil has been used as an antibacterial/antifungal agent for centuries in Brazil, and it seems research confirms this. In 2008, a group tested several varieties of copaiba oil (Copaifera martii, Copaifera officinalis, and Copaifera reticulata) against common bacteria. They were found to be most effective against gram positive bacteria (such as strep and staph), and moderately effective against dermatophyte fungi. The group proposes that the copaiba oil is bactericidal because it lyses (cuts) the cell wall of the bacteria, causing its death. However, copaiba oil showed no effect against gram negative bacteria and yeast. Note: Gram positive and Gram negative are classifications of bacteria based on their structure. (10)
 
Bottom line: Effective in some cases.
 

Wound Healing

 
Here we have yet another traditional use of copaiba oil, and again, we see the support of science. In 2002, a group tested copaiba resin (Copaifera langsdorffii) as a wound healing accelerant. They found that the resin acted as a very effective wound contraction accelerant in rats when applied topically at a 4% concentration as compared to a control. They also found the tensile strength of the healing wounds to be greatly improved. However, the effect was short-term, as the difference between the resin and the control became less significant as more time passed. This most likely means that the copaiba resin accelerates the initial stages of wound healing, but eventually the natural healing of the body catches up. (11)
 
Bottom line: Effective
 

Cautions

 
  • Women who are nursing or pregnant should always avoid essential oils as we do not have enough information on how they affect babies.
  • Many websites claim copaiba oil is safe (actually they say one of the safest) to take internally, however I would like to see more research before I support that claim.
  • Copaiba in large doses has been known to cause nausea, vomiting, strangury, bloody urine, and fever (3). So rubbing some on your skin occasionally will probably be alright but rubbing it all over every day or taking more than 10 drops internally daily may cause problems. Use common sense, and always go to a doctor if you experience adverse side effects.
  • Copaiba oil can be applied directly to the skin without dilution in most cases, however those with sensitive skin should take special care. (Read here for dilutions for sensitive skin)
What do you use copaiba oil for? Know of any science I missed? Let me know in the comments below!
 
Want to save this info for later (plus get a few recipes to help you put this knowledge into practice)?Click below to get access to a printable uses and recommended recipes sheet for copaiba! (plus an entire library of other free content!)
 

Free Uses and Recipe Sheet

References:

  1. “copaiba.” The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. 2015. Retrieved November 10, 2015 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-copaiba.html
  2. Duke, J.A. and Wain, K.K. 1981. Medicinal plants of the world. Computer index with more than 85,000 entries. 3 vols.
  3. Grieve, M. 1931. A modern herbal. Reprint 1974. Hafner Press, New York.
  4. da Silva AG, Puziol Pde F, Leitao RN, Gomes TR, Scherer R, Martins ML, Cavalcanti AS, Cavalcanti LC. Application of the essential oil from copaiba (Copaifera langsdori Desf.) for acne vulgaris: a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Altern. Med. Rev. March 2012. 17(1):69-75.
  5. Nilce V. Granosa and Edilberto R. Silveira. Volatile Constituents of Copaifera langsdorffii from the Brazilian Northeast. Journal of Essential Oil Research. Volume 17, Issue 2, 2005.
  6. S.R. Lima, V.F. Junior, H.B. Christo, A.C. Pinto, P.D. Fernandez. In vivo and in vitro studies on the anticancer activity of Copaifera multijuga Hayne and its fractions. Phytother. Res., 17 (2003), pp. 1048–1053
  7. Cristina G. VenturingFranciele A. Bruinsman, Renata V. Contri, Francisco N. FonsecaLuiza A. FrankCamilo M. D’AmoreRenata P. RaffinAndréia BuffonAdriana R. PohlmannSilvia S. GuterresCo-encapsulation of imiquimod and copaiba oil in novel nanostructured systems: promising formulations against skin carcinoma. European Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences. Vol 79. 15 November 2015. pp. 36-43.
  8. Débora S. Dias, Lívia B. A. Fontes, Antônio E. M. Crotti, Beatriz J. V. Aarestrup, Fernando M. Aarestrup, Ademar A. da Silva Filho, and José O. A. Corrêa. Copaiba Oil Suppresses Inflammatory Cytokines in Splenocytes of C57Bl/6 Mice Induced with Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis (EAE). Molecules. 201419(8), 12814-12826.
  9. Guimarães-Santos A, Santos DS, Santos IR, et al. Copaiba Oil-Resin Treatment Is Neuroprotective and Reduces Neutrophil Recruitment and Microglia Activation after Motor Cortex Excitotoxic Injury. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM. 2012;2012:918174.
  10. Adriana Oliveira dos Santos; Tânia Ueda-Nakamura; Benedito Prado Dias Filho; Valdir F Veiga Junior; Angelo C Pinto; Celso Vatapu Nakamura. Antimicrobial activity of Brazilian copaiba oils obtained from different species of the Copaifera  genus. Mem. Inst. Oswaldo Cruz vol.103 no.3 Rio de Janeiro May 2008  Epub Apr 30, 2008.
  11. Paiva, L. A. F., de Alencar Cunha, K. M., Santos, F. A., Gramosa, N. V., Silveira, E. R. and Rao, V. S. N. (2002), Investigation on the wound healing activity of oleo-resin from Copaifera langsdorffi in rats. Phytother. Res., 16: 737–739. doi: 10.1002/ptr.1049

Note: I am not a doctor or certified aromatherapist, and information presented in this article is not meant to replace advice from a licensed health professional. 

 


About Rachel

Rachel is a blogger and Biophysics Lab Manager who lives in Clemson, SC (go tigers!). After studying conventional pharmaceuticals and how they target specific ailments, she applied that knowledge to figuring out how essential oils can work to treat the same ailments, and ended up creating the blog The Essential Girl. When she’s not blogging or sciencing the shit out of something in the lab, she likes to swing dance and teach group fitness classes.

  • Want to order.is this product sold in Canada.if so where.I live in Alberta.thank you.

    • rachel

      Hi Beth!
      I ordered this product from Young Living. I just checked and it looks like they will ship to Canada for you.

      There are two ways you can order with Young Living. You can order as a regular customer or you can order as a wholesale member and get 24% off of every order you make. They also start you out with 50% off a premium starter kit (which contains the Copaiba oil you are looking for). I was really glad I got the starter kit because it introduced me to some oils I might never had thought to try (and I got them all 50% off as part of the kit).

      You can click here to get started. It will prompt you to choose whether or not to become a member, and then you can click the blue continue button to get started with your order.

      Thanks for reading, and let me know if this works for you!

  • Tracy

    Copaiba has great in my allergy bomb. I put equal parts of peppermint, lemon, lavender and copaiba in an empty YL bottle, and put a roller top on it. My dilution rate is really low for this mix. It’s probably 2/3 oils and 1/3 carrier oil. But up until using YL oils a few years ago, every spring was miserable – migraine city and popping Imitrex like it was candy. The “super allergy bomb” along with mgrain has made huge difference. For 3 years straight I was a prisoner in my house and missing out on my kids’ outside activities. And if I HAD to be outside, even going from house to car, I was doing a constant Michael Jackson impersonation – always wore a mask. No longer the case. I think this spring is going to be really rough – tree pollen already record levels. So I’m already starting to use – back of neck (being careful of sunlight due to lemon) and on my feet at night. Trying to let build up a bit so to speak in my system. Bad effects on system and liver due to daily Imitrex far outweighs any potential negatives from EO’s. Peppermint especially has made HUGE difference for me. It’s probably my main go to oil!! LOVE my oils!! Realize that I do need to be more diligent about what and when and how long I diffuse given that I have 2 cats….