Copaiba essential oil is obtained by tapping the tree trunks to release resin from which the oil is obtained. Copaiba oleoresins have long been used in Brazilian folk medicine for healing and reducing inflammation yet few studies have been conducted to better understand the science behind the effectiveness of Copaiba for medicinal remedie
One study that was conducted by researchers at the Institute of Biological Sciences, Federal University of Pará in Brazil showed COR to be both an anti-inflammatory and a neuroprotective agent following acute damage to the central nervous system.
When the human body experiences acute neural disorders like stroke and brain or spinal cord trauma, a conspicuous inflammatory response often occurs which may lead to secondary damage to the tissues. This study shows the potential for COR to be anti-inflammatory, antinociceptive (reduce sensitivity to painful stimuli), anticancerous, antimicrobial, antiulcer and to increase would healing.
Animals were the subjects of this particular study – specifically, male adult Wistar rats obtained from the Central Animal Facility of the Federal University of Pará. The rats were injected with the neurotoxin N-Methyl-D-Aspartate (NMDA). NMDA is a water-soluble synthetic substance that is not normally found in biological tissue. NMDA is an excitotoxin which means it kills nerve cells by over-stimulating them. Injections of NMDA in this study resulted in central nervous system damage similar to that caused by stroke and/or other trauma to brain or spinal cells.
For this test, the rats were placed in three different groups: Group 1 received a single dose of COR (400 mg/kg, i.p.) while Group 2 received two daily doses (200 mg/kg, i.p.) for 3 days post injury. Group 3 was the control group which was treated with vehicle only. Dosing times were chosen because previous studies had shown that the maximum damage to central nervous system occurred at 1 and 4-7 days following NMDA injection. COR dosing amounts were also based on previous studies which indicated COR treatment at 400 mg/kg produced the best results.
Testing then involved deeply anesthetizing the animals and removing their brains for analysis. Cresyl violet staining revealed conspicuous tissue damage and inflammatory response following injections of 80 nmol of NMDA into the motor cortex of the adult rats. Evidence of massive amounts of inflammation was observed in the motor cortex at day 1 following NMDA injection and increased necrosis occurred at day 4 following NMDA injection. The inflammatory response was characterized by a dramatic increase in the number of mononuclear cells in and around the lesion site.
However, there was less tissue damage in NMDA-injected animals treated with COR compared to vehicle animals both at day 1 and day 4 following injury. Tissue necrosis was less evident in COR-treated animals compared to vehicle animals. COR treatment also significantly reduced intense inflammatory responses normally association with cell damage caused by NMDA injections.
It is not completely understood how COR exerts its anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects although it is suspected to modulate the body’s natural response to release pro-inflammatory substances. COR chemical composition includes several sesquiterpenes, the highest of which is beta-caryophyllene which is known to inhibit cannabinoid type-2 receptors and thus reduce inflammation. Along with the beta-caryophyllene, additional sesquiterpenes alpha-copaene and alpha-humulene show enormous potential to decrease the burden of inflammation-induced damage following neural and nonneural diseases.