This section is from the book "Materia Medica And Therapeutics: An Introduction to the National Treatment of Disease", by John Mitchell Bruce. Also available from Amazon: The pharmacology and therapeutics of the materia medica.
The oleo-resin obtained from incisions made in the trunk of Copaifera multi-juga. and other species of Copaifera. Chiefly from the valley of the Amazon.
Characters and Tests. - About the consistence of olive oil, light yellow, transparent, with a peculiar odour, and an acrid aromatic nauseous taste. Perfectly soluble in an equal volume of benzol. Is not fluorescent.
Composition. - Copaiba consists of less than 50 per cent of the officinal volatile oil, and more than 50 per cent of resin. The oil of copaiva, isomeric with turpentine, C10Hl6, is colourless or pale yellow, with the odour and taste of copaiva. Resin of Copaiva, C20H30O2, is a brownish resinous mass, consisting of a crystallisable resin, copaivic acid, the chief constituent of the oleo-resin, and a non-crystallisable viscid resin of copaiba, amounting to 1 1/2 per cent. The proportion of oil and resin varies much with the age and exposure of the copaiba.
Impurities. - Turpentine, detected by the odour on heating. Fixed oils, detected by a greasy ring round the resinous stain left by copaiva when heated on paper. Copaiva dissolves one-fourth its weight of carbonate of magnesia by the aid of heat, and remains transparent; not so the fixed oil. Gurjun balsam, which coagulates at 270°.
Dose. - 1/2 to 1 fl.dr.
Oleum Copaibae. - The oil distilled from Copaiba. Dose, 5 to 20 min., with mucilage or yolk of egg.
Copaiva produces an acrid nauseous sensation in the mouth, warmth in the stomach, unpleasant eructations, and gastrointestinal irritation like other oleo-resins. Large doses or the persistent use of the drug leads to dyspepsia, sickness, and diarrhoea; and it is contra-indicated in irritable states of the stomach and bowels.
The volatile oil of copaiba is excreted by the kidneys, bronchi, and skin, and the resin at least by the kidneys. All the secretions smell freely of the drug, and the neighbourhood of the patient is pervaded with a characteristic unpleasant odour. In thus passing through the eliminating organs, copaiva stimulates them, altering their secretions and the nutrition of their cells and vessels. The urine is passed more frequently. and usually in increased quantity; but it may be scanty, with albumen and blood, pain in the loins, and other symptoms of renal congestion. The albumen thus passed must be distinguished from the acid resin of copaiva which may be thrown down from the urine by nitric acid, and which is dissolved by heat or alcohol. Carried by the urine into the bladder and urethra, and possibly also excreted by the mucous membranes of the same parts, copaiva produces along the whole genitourinary tract a stimulant and disinfectant effect. A similar influence is produced in the bronchi, and the mucous secretion is increased, and expectoration reflexly excited. The stimulation of the skin (and probably the primary gastro-intestinal irritation in part) may sometimes cause an eruption, the "copaiba rash," not unlike that of measles.
The uses of copaiva depend entirely on its remote local effects, the immediate local effects only suggesting care in its administration. Its chief application is to the genito-urinary organs. The resin is given as a highly useful diuretic in hepatic and cardiac dropsy, but must be avoided in the dropsy-attending Bright's disease. It is much to be preferred to the oleo-resin for this purpose. The latter is chiefly employed in inflammatory affections of the bladder and urethra, especially gonorrhoea, when the first acute symptoms have somewhat subsided. It is best combined with potash and cubebs. Naturally it is less useful in the vaginal gonorrhoea of women. Copaiba is now seldom used in bronchial affections, on account of the unpleasant effects attending it; but in hospital practice it will sometimes diminish and disinfect the profuse foul products of chronic bronchitis and bronchiectasis when other means have failed. It is occasionally given in skin diseases.