Copaifera officinalis is a very special oil and resin obtained from the trunk of pinnate-leaved South and Central American trees. The exudate, which contains both a resinous substance and an essential oil will vary in color from light gold to dark brown, depending on the concentrations of each of these substances. The oil/resin has many traditional uses among people of the Amazon and Central America. When the balsam is steam-distilled, copaiba oil is extracted; it has a very aromatic scent, is light gold in color and has a mild bitter to pungent taste. The chemical constituents of the oil is predominantly caryophyllene, as well as sesquiterpine hydrocarbons. Due to the hydrocarbons in the oil, it has also been commonly used as biodiesel. Other uses include a fixative agent in perfumes and soap. It is used as a lacquer to protect wood. The oil can also be used as an artist material, generally as an oil paint and in decoration of ceramics. It is ideal to paint onto ceramics, as it adheres well to the surfaces prior to firing and it produces a beautiful shine.
In terms of medicinal usage, its use dates all the way back to the 16th century in Brazil, where it has been used both internally and externally for the treatment of many diseases. Many studies have been conducted in Brazil, documenting its wide effects for medicinal usage. The Yaviza people of Panama used the resin with honey and it was given to newborn babies, as it was believed to impart knowledge and protect them from hexes. In recent research, the oil has been found to have anti-inflammatory activity, as well as anti-tumor, anti-tetanus, anti-septic and anti-hemorrhagic properties.
As an essential oil, C. officinalis has been found to be effective at reducing pain and inflammation, infection, it heals the skin, prevents fungal growth, enhances respiratory capacity, improves the health and luster of skin and hair, can improve bladder control, speeds the healing process and may lower blood pressure.
The resin of Copaiba has been used ceremonially for thousands of years. The Inca’s would burn it on gold plates, and the smoke used to clear sickness from the body. More recently it is used in various forms of sweat lodge ceremony, believed to bring back ancestral memories. To the Maya, it is known as Pom, and used as well to clear and cleanse away dark spirits and for protection. The Maya have also been known to use this resin as a substitute for Amber and added into their ceremonial jewelry.