Source, Etc

Copaiba is an oleo-resin obtained from the trunk of Copaifera Lansdorfii, Desfontaines (N.O. Leguminosoe), and other species of Copaifera.

The trees from which the official oleo-resin is obtained are large trees attaining over 100 metres in height, indigenous to Brazil and the north of South America. The drug, which was highly esteemed by the natives of Brazil and had probably long been used by them as a medicine, was introduced into Europe about the beginning of the seventeenth century.

The oleo-resin is contained in anastomosing, schizogenous secretion ducts that form an extensive network in each zone of the secondary wood of both stem and root, extending throughout the entire length of the zone, resembling therefore in arrangement the laticiferous tissue of the dandelion. These ducts are formed in the young wood and rapidly attain their normal diameter, which is often very considerable; at the level of the insertion of the branches a number of lateral ducts connect zone with zone. In addition to these schizogenous ducts lysigenous cavities also appear to be formed by the breaking down of the cell walls and their probable transformation into resinous or oleo-resinous substances.

The oleo-resin is collected by cutting in the trunk of the tree near the base a cavity sloping inwards and downwards, and penetrating to the centre of the trunk, resembling the ' box ' made in the trunk of the turpentine trees. Into this cavity the oleo-resin is discharged; it is transferred to barrels and other vessels for exportation.

The large size of the secretion ducts, and their extensive distribution in each zone of wood throughout the entire length of the tree, render the amount of oleo-resin that may be secreted by each tree very considerable. Even as much as 48 litres is said to have been obtained from a single tree, others again yielding but little.

The drug is exported from the seaports on the northern coast of South America - viz. Para, Maranham, Maracaibo, Bahia, Cartagena, etc, these towns giving their names to the commercial varieties of the drug. As these differ in the percentage of volatile oil and of resin and in the composition of the latter the following typical commercial varieties may be described at length.