Copaiba Oil: Potent Natural Medicine or Snake Oil?

Written and Medically Reviewed by Dr Babar Shahzad, BSc and MBBS on January 31, 2020.

Due to its potent anti-inflammatory, healing, and antiseptic activities, products originating from copaiba has been widely used by traditional medicine practitioners for centuries. Specifically, this herbal medicine has served as the natural treatment of health issues such as bronchitis, chronic cystitis, diarrhea, and hemorrhoids since the 16th century.

But – what is copaiba, exactly?

Well, copaiba refers to the stimulant oil-resin obtained from the trunks of copaiba trees. These trees are typically found in tropical South America and can grow upwards of more than 100 feet.

While the health claims of folk medicine typically remain unsupported by modern science, current research has actually demonstrated support for many surprising evidence-based benefits of copaiba. So – don’t blame me if you end up entering your card details for a late-night order of a bottle of copaiba oil. After all, science says it’s good for you!

What is copaiba oil?

You might occasionally run into the term ‘copaiba balsam’ when researching on copaiba. Bear in mind that it is not the same as copaiba oil. Copaiba balsam refers to the gum resin that is directly tapped from the copaiba tree; and in turn, copaiba oil is extracted from that gum resin through a steam distillation process.

Put simply, copaiba oil is a product of copaiba balsam. Copaiba oil is considered an essential oil as it’s extracted from a plant (the copaiba tree).

If you’re familiar with the usage of essential oils, you’d know that they’re either inhaled or diluted then rubbed on the skin. I don’t know about you, but the first question that popped into my mind was, “What does copaiba smell like?”.

Think about it: even if it provides incredible health benefits, I don’t think you’d want to apply it on your body if it makes it smell like rotten eggs, right? Thankfully, we have nothing to worry about: copaiba essential oil is known for its gentle, woody aroma.

Copaiba oil benefits and uses

Given that research has clearly demonstrated its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties, you might be wondering: what is copaiba essential oil used for, exactly? And – how can it alleviate some of the health issues that have been bugging you as of late?

Well, let me help you out. Here’s 5 possible copaiba oil uses:

1. Anti-inflammatory

Inflammation is the body’s response to injury – it is a way for your body to signal your immune system to heal and repair damaged tissue, as well as defend itself against harmful invaders, such as viruses and bacteria. In the absence of a physiological response like inflammation, your wounds would fester, and you could potentially die from infections.

But complications can also arise from a prolonged inflammatory process: chronic inflammation has been linked to adverse health issues such as heart disease, stroke, and autoimmune systems such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

Struggle with persistent inflammation personally? Don’t fret; studies show that copaiba oil may be beneficial for you.

In a 2014 study performed on animal subjects, researchers demonstrated that treatment with copaiba oil-resin led to a lowered amount of oxygen radicals – molecules capable of causing cell damage. This finding is also supported by a 2017 study: when administered as a treatment, copaiba oil-resin led to a lower presence of immune cells associated with inflammation.

Ultimately, the above two studies demonstrate copaiba oil’s potential in contributing to the acceleration of the body’s healing process.

2. Pain relief

If you’re uncomfortable with regularly ingesting over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers in efforts to manage your discomfort, you’d be pleased to know that copaiba oil might help with natural pain relief.

But – how?

Well, copaiba oil exhibits antinociceptive properties – a fancy way of saying that it can help block the detection of a painful stimulus by your sensory neurons. Due to its pain-relieving effect, copaiba oil is likely to be useful in the treatment of various health disorders that involve long-term pain management, such as arthritis.

Research supports this postulation as well. It was found that in people with arthritis, the massage session which used a blend of copaiba and Deep Blue oils led to a decrease in pain scores as compared to when they were massaged with coconut oil. Excellent – now you know how to use copaiba oil for pain relief if you have arthritis!

3. Liver damage preventer

In addition to acting as a pain killer itself, copaiba oil may also help reduce liver tissue damage caused by commonly used OTC painkillers such as acetaminophens (like Tylenol).

A 2013 research study found that the administration of copaiba oil to animal subjects before they were subjected to 7 consecutive days of acetaminophen reduced measures of liver damage. Overall, when used in a preventative way, copaiba oil can reduce liver damage.

4. Oral health booster

Copaiba essential oil has also shown that it’s useful in dental health care. A 2016 study found that copaiba oil-resin gel demonstrated antimicrobial activities against a strain of bacteria – the Streptococcus mutans.

Wait – so what? You see: this particular strain of bacteria is known to cause tooth decay and cavities. Ultimately, the prevention of further reproduction of the bacteria strain may be useful in preventing tooth decay and cavities! For those trying to cut down on dental bills, occasionally adding a drop of copaiba essential oil to your preferred choice of mouthwash may not be a bad idea. And don’t worry: it’s perfectly safe to do so.

5. Acne treatment

If you’re a fervent user of essential oils, it should not come as a surprise to you that many of them can be used to improve the appearance of acne. As it turns out, copaiba essential oil is no exception – its anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and healing properties make it an ideal natural treatment option for those suffering from acne.

A 2018 clinical trial found that participants who applied gel infused with 1.0% copaiba essential oil on areas on their troubled areas experienced a highly significant decrease in the surface affected with acne. This study demonstrates copaiba oil’s potential in treating surface acne.

copaiba benefits

Copaiba oil side effects

There are two primary ways you can make use of copaiba oil: topical application and oral ingestion. As a result, the various copaiba essential oil side effects that occur vary based on the methods.

When applied topically to the skin, side effects may include skin sensitivity, redness, and itching.  It is critical to always dilute copaiba oil with a carrier oil, such as coconut oil or almond oil. Of course, it goes without saying that you should pick a carrier oil you’re not allergic to.

To err on the side of caution, you should perform a patch test on a small area of your arm before applying copaiba essential oil on larger areas of your body. It’s critical to avoid contact with your eyes and other mucous membranes (such as the insides of your nostrils) when using copaiba oil.

When copaiba oil is ingested, especially in excessive amounts, side effects can include stomach pains, diarrhea, vomiting, tremors, rash, groin pain, and sleeplessness. If you experience any of the symptoms, be sure to immediately discontinue use and seek medical attention at the closest clinic.

Also, lithium is known to have possible adverse interactions with copaiba. Oral ingestion of copaiba may decrease your body’s efficiency in ridding itself of lithium. If you happen to be on any lithium-containing medications, do speak to your healthcare provider before consuming copaiba oil. It’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your health!

Copaiba vs. CBD Oil

If you’ve done your due diligence on researching on copaiba oil, there’s no doubt that you would have seen the CBD oil versus copaiba oil debate. Both CBD oil and copaiba oil are trendy products, and they both espouse their very own benefits.

However, because of their popularity, there’s been a whole lot of confusion about the two products. In fact, there’ve been people who claim to be using CBD, when in fact, they’re using copaiba oil.

What is CBD oil?

Now, just to set the record straight: CBD and copaiba are not the same things. CBD oil is not an essential oil, like how we’ve established that copaiba oil is. CBD stands for cannabidiol – an active ingredient in cannabis that is derived from the hemp plant.

Wait – cannabis? Does this mean CBD oil can get you high? Not so fast: CBD is naturally non-intoxicating. That’s because CBD oil contains minimal THC; this is another type of cannabinoids that result in psychoactive effects.

Main differences between CBD oil and copaiba oil

There are many differences between CBD oil and copaiba oil, but here are the two primary ways they can be distinguished from each other:

  • Is it an essential oil?

Copaiba oil is an essential oil; CBD oil is not.

  • Does it contain cannabinoids?

CBD oil contains cannabinoids, while copaiba oil does not.

Similarities between CBD oil and copaiba oil

Well – what about similarities? I mean, there’s got to be a reason why consumers are mixing both of them up, right? Honestly, that might be because both oils contain Beta-caryophyllene (BCP). BCP is also known as terpene, an aromatic organic compound.

Copaiba oil contains a significant amount of BCP – typically around 55% to 60%. On the contrary, CBD-rich hemp oil contains much lesser concentrations: between 2% and 30%. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that BCP is a common underlying theme between CBD oil and copaiba oil.

copaiba vs cbd

So – which is better?

Quite honestly, determining which of the two oils is better is quite akin to comparing oranges and apples. They’re two entirely different things. CBD oil promises other health benefits that may not be supported by copaiba oil, such as antipsychotic effects and the promotion of heart health. Which oil you ultimately choose should boil down to your personal preferences and health goals.

Bottom line

Much of the research performed on copaiba products have supported its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. The potential side effects associated with copaiba oil are also mild; if you’re seeking a natural healing medicine suitable for pain relief, dental care, and acne treatment, I’d say the benefits far outweigh the risks. Of course, it is always safer for you to consult with your doctor if you’re planning to incorporate copaiba oil into your life.

And now, you know what to say when someone tells you that CBD oil and copaiba oil are the same things: they’re absolutely not! In fact, you can do them a favor by sharing this article with them.