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Copaiba (U. S. P.)—Copaiba.

Preparations: Compound Copaiba Mixture - Resin of Copaiba - Oil of Copaiba - Pills of Copaiba - Compound Pills of Copaiba- Mass of Copaiba

"The oleoresin of Copaiba Langsdorffii (Desfontaines) O. Kuntze, and of other species of Copaiba"—(U. S. P.).
Nat. Ord.—Leguminosae.
COMMON NAMES: Copaiba, Capivi, Balsam of copaiva, Balsam of copaiba, Balsam capivi.
ILLUSTRATION: Bentley and Trimen, Med. Plants, 93.

Botanical Source.—The genus Copaiba is composed of handsome shrubs or trees (most of them middle or large-sized), clothed with abrupt, pinnate, leathery leaves, and adorned with apetalous blossoms borne in whitish racemes. The fruit is a coriaceous legume, containing a single seed. The official species varies considerably in the size and form of its leaflets, and may itself be only a shrub, or a small, or a very large tree. It yields the oleoresin abundantly. The substance of the literature on copaiba may be given in the following fragment of an article contributed by us to the Western Druggist, Feb., 1898:

History and Collection.—Copaiba (popularly known as balsam of copaiva), is obtained from South America, principally from Brazil and Venezuela, being produced by numerous species of the genus Copaifera. According to Flückiger, the following species are the principal sources of the copaiba of commerce: (1) Copaifera officinalis, Linné, (Guiana, Venezuela, Colombia, Trinidad); (2) Copaifera guianensis, Desfontaines (Lower Amazon, lower Rio Negro, Cayenne, Surinam); (3) C. coriacea, Martins (Bahia and Piauhy); (4) C. Langsdorffii, Desfontaines (continental provinces of Brazil). The number of known species has steadily increased until now the Index Kewensis recognizes 23 American and 5 African species.

The copaiba obtained from the vast territory of the Brazilian continent, along the Amazon and its tributaries, is collected in the shipping port of Para. Maranhao Island is also a place of export. Other shipping ports are Maracaibo and Angostura in Venezuela; Trinidad, Demerara (British Guiana), Cartagena (Colombia), and Rio de Janeiro.

As to the mode of collecting the balsam, Piso (1658) relates that an incision is made through the bark deep into the pith at the season of the full moon, which causes such an abundant flow of fatty and oily liquid that 12 pounds may exude in 3 hours. In case no oil should appear, the opening is at once closed with wax or clay, and after 2 weeks the yield is sufficient to make up for the delay. The fact that the resiniferous ducts in these trees often attain a diameter of 1 inch, as has been observed more recently by Karsten, seems to be quite in harmony with the statement regarding the abundant yield. It is also related that frequently the balsam accumulates in these ducts and exerts pressure enough upon the enclosing walls to burst the tree with a loud report. According to Piso, the copaiba tree is not very frequent in the province of Pernambuco, but thrives luxuriantly in the island of Maranhao, which he says furnishes the balsam of commerce in great quantity. He also enumerates the many medicinal virtues of the balsam, making the curious statement that its healing virtues are also experienced as an efficient means to check the flow of blood in the Jewish practice of circumcision.

Labat reports that in 1696 he had an opportunity to observe for the first time the tree yielding copaiba in the island of Guadeloupe. He relates in detail the manner of collecting the balsam which he calls huile de copau. The vessels in which the balsam is collected are made of the fruit of the calabash, a kind of gourd. The collection, he states, takes place about 3 months after the rainy season; that is, in March for the countries north of the equator, and in September for the countries south of this line. The balsam, he states, closes all kinds of wounds except those inflicted by gunshot. He declares it to be a powerful febrifuge, having been used with almost marvelous effect in the fever epidemics at Rennes and Nantes in 1719.

Description and Chemical Composition.—The U. S. P. describes copaiba balsam as "a transparent or translucent, more or less viscid liquid, of a pale-yellow to brownish-yellow color, having a peculiar, aromatic odor, and a bitter and acrid taste. Specific gravity 0.940 to 0.990 at 15° C. (59° F.). Insoluble in water, readily soluble in absolute alcohol, ether, chloroform, carbon disulphide, benzin, and fixed and volatile oils. It yields a transparent mixture with one-third of its volume of ammonia water"—(U. S. P.). Copaiba has the property of solidifying when triturated with 6 per cent of its weight of calcined magnesia (mass of copaiba, U. S. P.). According to Roussin the condition necessary to bring about solidification is the presence of water, either in the balsam or in the base. When both bodies are anhydrous the balsam remains liquid. In this connection it may be said that the process of the U. S. P. (and of other pharmacopoeias as well), for making solidified copaiba directs the magnesia to be previously triturated with a little water. Two varieties of copaiba are distinguished in commerce; the Para variety from Brazil, a thin, clear, pale, aromatic, somewhat acrid and bitter fluid; and the Maracaibo variety, from the Antilles and the adjacent parts of the continent, a thick, golden-yellow, sometimes faintly fluorescent oil, having an odor suggestive of turpentine.

Balsam of copaiba, so-called, is not a balsam in the strict sense, for the term balsam is properly applied to such resinous exudations as contain the aromatic principles benzoic or cinnamic acid, both of which are absent in copaiba. Copaiba is an oleoresin, consisting of a volatile oil, which holds a non-volatile resin, of acid properties in solution. The proportion of oil varies considerably with the different specimens, ranging from 30 to 60 per cent, sometimes being as high as 80 per cent, or even more. Both the oil and resin have been investigated (see Oleum Copaibae). The residue remaining after distilling the essential oil is a hard and brittle resin which softens on warming. It dissolves in alcohol, benzin, and amyl alcohol, and consists mostly of amorphous acids. Copaivic acid (C10H32O2), is a crystallizable substance which sometimes occurs as a deposit when balsam of copaiba is kept for a long time. It was first obtained by Schweitzer, in 1829. Flückiger observed a similar deposit in Trinidad balsam, from Copaifera officinalis, which he thought identical with copaivic acid. Fehling, in 1841, obtained a crystalline deposit from Para copaiva which differed from copaivic acid, and gave it the name oxycopaivic acid (C20H28O3). From Maracaibo copaiba, Straus, in 1865, isolated another crystalline acid of the formula C22H34O4, which he called metacopaivic acid. It melts at 205° C. (401° F.). All these crystalline, resinic acids and a peculiar principle discovered by Flückiger, have a bitterish taste. The closer chemical study of the oleoresin is beset with many obstacles, owing to the difficulty of procuring authentic specimens, as well as to the great variation in the product itself, due to its being collected from different species, or even different trees, and also to the possibility of sophistications not easily to be recognized.

Adulterations and Tests.—Probably the most frequent adulteration of the balsam is that of turpentine, which is facilitated when the pharmacopoeial demand calls for the more viscid variety of the balsam. The U. S. P. mentions the following tests: "When copaiba is heated it should not evolve the odor of turpentine. When the volatile oil has been completely driven off by heating copaiba in a flat-bottomed capsule, the residue, when cold, should be amorphous, transparent, and friable (absence of fixed oils). Copaiba should not be fluorescent, and, when heated to 130° C. (266° F.), it should not become gelatinous. On adding 1 drop of copaiba to 19 drops of carbon disulphide, and shaking the mixture with 1 drop of a cold mixture of equal parts of nitric and sulphuric acids, it should not acquire a purplish-red or violet color (absence of gurjun balsam)"—(U. S. P.). The German Pharmacopoeia, 3d ed. (additions), introduces two tests for colophony (suggested by Gehe & Co.), the second, the more sensitive, being as follows. "Expel the essential oil by heating on the water-bath, pulverize the residual resin, and dissolve 1 part in 5 parts of ammonia water. The cloudy solution should not gelatinize even after 1 day's standing." This test is said to detect about 10 per cent of colophony. See also Bosetti, Chem. Ztg., 1896, p. 846.

The absence of fixed oils in copaiba, is indicated, according to the U. S. P., if upon complete evaporation of the volatile oil, the residue, when cold, becomes, amorphous, transparent and friable. One of the direct tests for castor oil is based upon its insolubility in petroleum benzin, while copaiba, in excess of the solvent, is completely soluble, save a flocculent precipitate. However, it requires the addition of at least 10 volumes of petroleum benzin (Maisch, Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1877, p. 131), for the precipitation of part of the admixed castor oil. Flückiger and Hanbury's test for the presence of castor oil is to heat the copaiba with 4 parts of alcohol (85 percent); cool; evaporate the upper of the two layers formed, which contains alcohol, castor and essential oils, when the odor of castor oil will be evolved. If caustic lime or soda be heated with it oenanthol will be formed, which may be recognized by its characteristic odor. This will detect even 1 per cent of the adulterant (Pharmacographia).

Another possible (perhaps probable) admixture is that of gurjun balsam, or wood oil, obtained from various species of gigantic trees (Dipterocarpus), native to India. (According to Mr. Kebler about 30,000 pounds of gurjun balsam were imported in 1894 without any authentic information being obtainable concerning its disposition). This balsam has the property of thickening when heated to 130° C. (266° F.), especially in closed tubes. Mr. L. F. Kebler has employed with much satisfaction the following test suggested by Messrs. Dodge and Olcott, for the presence of gurjun balsam in copaiba: "Place 1 Cc. of glacial acetic acid (99.5 per cent) in a test-tube; to this add 4 drops of pure concentrated nitric acid (sp. gr. 1.42); mix well; then add to this mixture, carefully, 4 drops of the balsam in question; if gurjun balsam is present, within 5 minutes a reddish zone will appear between the layer of balsam and the acid. On mixing the contents of the test-tube well, the whole will assume a reddish or purple color." Another test, by which it is claimed that 1 per cent of gurjun balsam may be detected, is given by Ed. Hirschsohn (Jahresb. der Pharm., 1895), and consists in heating a mixture of 1 volume of the balsam, 3 volumes of 95 per cent alcohol, and 1 gramme of stannous chloride. If gurjun balsam is present a pink coloration appears, becoming violet-red after 1/2 hour, but after 1 hour's standing its vividness disappears.

In testing copaiba the German Pharmacopoeia (1890) introduces directions for the determination of the acid number and the ester number, calculated to detect an admixture of colophony and compound ethers (or esters).

Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—When given in large doses, copaiba is an irritant; in medicinal doses it is stimulant, cathartic, and diuretic; it likewise exerts all especial influence on the mucous tissues of the system, diminishing their secretions when excessive, and for this latter purpose it is principally employed. Taken internally, it causes warmth in the gastric region, with unpleasant eructations, and sometimes nausea, or even emesis. Its continued use, unless in very small doses, impairs the digestive functions. In the course of its action it becomes absorbed, so that its odor and bitter taste are communicated to the urine, while the former can also be observed in the respiration. Among the inconveniences attending its use, especially in large doses, the most frequent are sickness at stomach, emesis, hematuria, catharsis, and febrile symptoms; these effects may be obviated very often by administering the remedy more frequently, but in smaller doses, and by combining it with cinnamon, nutmeg, or some other aromatic. At times it produces a transient, papular, cutaneous affection, like the eruption of rubeola, and which is accompanied with an unpleasant formication or itching. It has been found most beneficial in chronic mucous affections, as in chronic gonorrhoea, bronchitis, irritable conditions of the bladder, gleet, leucorrhoea, chronic catarrh, chronic diarrhoea and dysentery, and obstinate piles. Its effects in gonorrhoea are much improved by the addition of liquor potassae; and is much more beneficial in the gonorrhoea of males than of females, because, in the latter, the vagina is oftener affected than the urethra. However, in the urethral form it is equally as efficient in both sexes. It seems necessary that the copaiba-impregnated urine pass over the infected parts, and for that reason it is seldom as effectual in injection as when taken internally. According to Prof. F. J. Locke it has a specific influence if properly used, and that in all stages of the disease it has been used in too large doses. In the inflammatory stage of gonorrhoea, with great urethral irritation and profuse discharge, it is always contraindicated. In this acute stage he recommends the following as a sedative: "Rx Specific aconite, gtt. x; specific gelsemium, specific cannabis, aa flℨj; simple syrup, aqua, aa q. s. fl℥iv. Mix. Dose, a teaspoonful every 3 hours, or 4 teaspoonfuls per day."

If the urination produce burning, give in a wineglassful of water from 10 to 15 grains of sodium bicarbonate, 2 or 3 times a day; if constipated, purge with compound powder of senna and jalap. Then, in the latter stage, in the absence of inflammation: Rx Copaiba, flℨj; alcohol, fl℥j. Mix. Dose, 5 to 10 drops, 4 times a day in sugar and water. When the disease is chronic or unduly prolonged: Rx Copaiba, sweet spirit of nitre, aa fl℥ss; liquor potassae, essence of cinnamon, aa flℨj; mucilage of acacia, simple syrup, aa flℨj. Mix. Dose, a teaspoonful after each meal (Locke's Syllabus, p. 110). However, the more recent improvements in the treatment of gonorrhoea (especially the course above pursued in the acute form), render the disease readily curable, copaiba being rarely, if ever, required to effect the cure. In injection, it has been used with fairly good results. Make an emulsion of 2 drachms of copaiba with the yolk of an egg, add 20 or 30 drops of laudanum to it, in order to prevent its too speedy discharge from the rectum, and 8 fluid ounces of water. This may be used as a rectal injection, and repeated 3 or 4 times a day. In small doses (5 drops) copaiba is useful in chronic inflammation of the intestinal tract with ulceration. Give the medicine 3 times a day. Locally, it forms an excellent application to chilblains, sore nipples, old ulcers, and fistulous ulcers, in which it serves to speedily soften the callosity of the walls of the fistulous canal. Vesical catarrh, painful dysuria, and irritable bladder, from excessive venery, or following gonorrhoea, are relieved by taking from 1 to 5 drops of copaiba on sugar. Inflammation of the urinary passages contraindicates its use.

Painted upon the breast in mastitis, and covered with oil silk, it often prevents the formation of abscesses. It has been painted upon the cheeks and temple for the relief of purulent ophthalmia, syphilitic iritis, and sclerotitis. Scaly diseases of the skin have also been influenced for good by its internal use. The dose of copaiba is from 5 to 60 drops, 2 or 3 times a day. It may be taken in emulsion, made by triturating each dose with the yolk of 1 egg, adding 1/2 an ounce of mint, cinnamon, or other aromatic water, and sweetening with sugar, or it may be taken in the form of pill with magnesia. The best and least objectionable form in which it can be taken is in the form of capsules. The oil (which see) is the best form for obtaining the effects of copaiba upon the respiratory tract.

Specific Indications and Uses.—Vesical pressure and tenesmus, frequent desire to urinate, the urine coming in drops; itching, burning, or smarting in urethra after urination; urethral mucoid discharges; cough, with thick tenacious expectoration, accompanied by loud mucous rales; laryngeal irritation.

Related Products.—OLEORESIN OF HARDWICKIA. This is a product of the Hardwickia pinnata of Roxburgh, Nat. Ord.—Leguminosae, and closely resembles copaiba in taste and odor. It is, however, of darker color, and, though transparent, appears black when viewed with reflected light. It is thick and viscid, and is not fluorescent like gurjun balsam, and, in transmitted light, is pale yellowish-green in thin layers and wine-red in thicker layers. Broughton obtained a considerable amount of volatile oil (25 to 40 per cent), identical in composition with copaiba oil, though he failed to find copaivic acid in the resinous portion, which probably consists of two resins, one of which has acid qualities. The oil has laevogyre properties. This oleoresin comes from the East Indies, and is collected exactly like copaiba in Brazil. On applying the above pharmacopoeial test for the presence of gurjun balsam in copaiba to the oleoresin of hardwickia, a faint greenish-yellow hue results. In India this oleoresin is employed in gonorrhoea with as good results as are obtained from copaiba.

Other tomes: AJP1883 - (USDisp)

LAGAM BALSAM (Minjak-lagam).—A product resembling balsamum dipterocarpi, and having a bitter, persistently acrid taste. It is of greenish cast in reflected, and transparently yellow in transmitted light. It readily dissolves in alcohol, benzol, ether, carbon disulphide, and chloroform. A laevogyre essential oil (C20H32), to the extent of 1/3 of the balsam, was obtained by G. Haussner by distillation with water. There are two resins present, one neutral and the other acid. The acid resin (C7H14O3) is amorphous. When melted with caustic potash the neutral resin yields acetic, formic, butyric, and other acids and phenols. It was introduced into Europe from Sumatra, in 1854, but its botanical source is unknown (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1883, p. 369, from Archiv. der Pharm., 1883).


King's American Dispensatory, 1898, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., and John Uri Lloyd, Phr. M., Ph. D.



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