Copaiba oil caught my attention a few years ago, for so many beneficial reasons! Now, I explore more about this essential oil. I also discuss a newly “discovered” connection between a constituent found in it and a controversial, quite popular, herb.
In Part I of this two-part article, I reviewed my findings on copaiba from a few years ago, and highlighted some additional information that was revealed since I wrote this first summary. Now, let’s journey more into the fascinating world of copaiba essential oil and its amazing constituents.
Stop…Safety First!! A Brief Review on Quality and Standards
In Part I, I revealed the sourcing of the essential oil brand that I use. Why?
It is very important to know the quality and standards of your essential oil company. Copaiba essential oil is generally reported to have high levels of beta-Caryophyllene, and is deemed to have other important sesquiterpenes and diterpenes. However, various factors can affect the availability and presence of these therapeutic constituents.
For example, species found within the copaiba plant family can differ in chemical makeup. Furthermore, variations can occur within individual trees of the same species themselves! It can get quite complicated and the savvy consumer must be aware!!
Species differences, alterations in phytoconstituents in individual trees, and adulterations can lead to different therapeutic effects of any essential oil.
This is stated in the Tropical Plant Database listing of copaiba:
…effects have been related to the sesquiterpene chemicals in copaiba oil which scientists have noted can vary significantly-not only between different copaiba tree species, but also within a given species and, even among individual trees. Sesquiterpene content can range anywhere from 30-90%. This may account for the results obtained by other Brazilian researchers who tested eight different commercial samples of copaiba oil and only three of the eight samples demonstrated significant…
Here are some specific examples:
Example 1: An in vitro study demonstrated divergent potencies of various species of copaiba on the inhibition of parasites. This most likely relates to their different chemical makeups.
Example 2: A component found in the resin, not the oil, was prominent in the species of copaiba used to help with skin blemishes. This would indicate one should know when to use the resin and how to use the synergism of a complimentary copaiba essential oil.
Example 3: The study with the commercial samples that were referenced above, were only three out of the eight samples of copaiba showed favorable ending results. Here is the abstract of the full paper I found on sci-hub:
The composition of eight samples of commercial copaiba oils, used in the Amazonian region as anti-inflammatory agents and available in popular markets, were analysed by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (HRGC-MS). Major differences were observed in their chemical composition and some adulterations were pointed out. When tested in vivo oils 1 and 3, and to a lesser extent oil 6, significantly inhibited bradykinin-induced oedema formation. The other tested oils had no effect. When assessed in carrageenan-induced oedema formation, oils 1, 2 and 6, but not oil 3, significantly attenuated the oedema formation. The other tested oils failed to affect carrageenan-induced paw oedema. Oils 1 and 6 were further fractionated and several sesquiterpenes and diterpenes were detected. It is suggested that the naturally occurring sesquiterpenes present in the copaiba oils seem to be responsible for the anti-inflammatory action reported in the folk medicine. Furthermore, our results clearly show an adulteration in copaiba oils available in Brazil. Copyright _ 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
The Planet- Another Important Point
Let’s also not forget that we want a company that is aware of sustainability and considers the environmental impact when distilling their quality essential oils. This is especially true now that copaiba’s popularity has grown internationally. Furthermore, the new research on its very safe and distinct effects, can tempt greedy manufactures to cut corners to produce more yield of a unstandardized essential oil.
My Ah-Ha Connection- It Came Upon a Saturday Morning
A good friend of mine, and a fellow scientific oil lover, sent me a very fascinating study via Facebook messenger one morning. It was entitled, “Beta-caryophyllene is a Dietary Cannabinoid.”
Okay, here we go….
She communicated to me that she found it interesting, because we knew that beta-caryophllene is high in copaiba oil. (Yay, we both really did know this.) This component, also found in large amounts in some other essential oils, had other exciting properties that would explain why we were both discussing beta-caryophyllene before breakfast on a Saturday. I highlighted these points from the article below:
Plant essential oils are typically composed of volatile aromatic terpenes and phenylpropanoids. These lipophilic volatiles freely cross cellular membranes and serve various ecological roles, like plant-insect interactions (1, 2). The sesquiterpene (E)-?-caryophyllene [(E)-BCP] (Fig. 1) is a major plant volatile found in large amounts in the essential oils of many different spice and food plants, such as oregano (Origanum vulgare L.), cinnamon (Cinnamomum spp.) and black pepper (Piper nigrum L.) (3–5). In nature, (E)-BCP is usually found together with small quantities of its isomers (Z)-?-caryophyllene [(Z)-BCP or isocaryophyllene] and ?-humulene (formerly ?-caryophyllene) or in a mixture with its oxidation product, BCP oxide (Fig. 1). Because of its weak aromatic taste, (E)-BCP is commercially used as a food additive and in cosmetics (6). (E)-BCP is also a major component (up to 35%) in the essential oil of Cannabis sativa L (7). Although Cannabis contains >400 different secondary metabolites, including >65 cannabinoid-like natural products, only ?9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), ?8-tetrahydrocannabinol, and cannabinol have been reported to activate cannabinoid receptor types 1 (CB1) and 2 (CB2) (8). Here, we show that the essential oil component (E)-BCP selectively binds to the CP55,940 binding site (i.e., THC binding site) in the CB2 receptor, leading to cellular activation and antiinflammatory effects.
No, Copaiba Will Not Cause Hallucinations!!
Here’s the cool part….it doesn’t create a psychoactive effect, even though hit binds to one of the cannabinoid receptors in our bodies, according to the study! (I highlighted that in the abstract below.) The authors state:
The psychoactive cannabinoids from Cannabis sativa L. and the arachidonic acid-derived endocannabinoids are nonselective natural ligands for cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1) and CB2 receptors. Although the CB1 receptor is responsible for the psychomodulatory effects, activation of the CB2 receptor is a potential therapeutic strategy for the treatment of inflammation, pain, atherosclerosis, and osteoporosis. Here, we report that the widespread plant volatile (E)-?-caryophyllene [(E)-BCP] selectively binds to the CB2 receptor (K i = 155 ± 4 nM) and that it is a functional CB2 agonist. Intriguingly, (E)-BCP is a common constituent of the essential oils of numerous spice and food plants and a major component in Cannabis. Molecular docking simulations have identified a putative binding site of (E)-BCP in the CB2 receptor, showing ligand ?–? stacking interactions with residues F117 and W258. Upon binding to the CB2 receptor, (E)-BCP inhibits adenylate cylcase, leads to intracellular calcium transients and weakly activates the mitogen-activated kinases Erk1/2 and p38 in primary human monocytes. (E)-BCP (500 nM) inhibits lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced proinflammatory cytokine expression in peripheral blood and attenuates LPS-stimulated Erk1/2 and JNK1/2 phosphorylation in monocytes. Furthermore, peroral (E)-BCP at 5 mg/kg strongly reduces the carrageenan-induced inflammatory response in wild-type mice but not in mice lacking CB2 receptors, providing evidence that this natural product exerts cannabimimetic effects in vivo. These results identify (E)-BCP as a functional nonpsychoactive CB2 receptor ligand in foodstuff and as a macrocyclic antiinflammatory cannabinoid in Cannabis.
So basically, this component could modulate the health of many organs, due to its action on these receptors generally recognized to be “hit” by cannabis.
My iPad Heats Up
My friend was particularly interested in how this would support bone health, so I shot her back this study entitled, “Cannabinoid Receptors and the Regulation of Bone Mass.” My iPad heated up with geek excitement as I typed “It appears this constituent was shown to affect the inflammatory cascade and there are CB2 receptors on the bone.” We continued back and forth in “nerd-speak” for a bit, then continued with our days with happy smiles.
Cannabinoid Receptors Are Everywhere!
Yes, it’s relatively new this obsession with different cannabinoid receptors and where they are finding them. This is leading researchers to move beyond the psychoactive effect of cannabis and to look at other constituents found in the plant for differing therapeutic targets. Dr. Mercola recently had an interview with a recent expert and explained this “phytocannabinoid entourage”:
The Endocannabinoid System
The cannabis plant makes cannabinoids, also known as phytocannabinoids or plant cannabinoids. This encompasses both CBD and THC, the latter of which is the psychoactive ingredient. In all, there are about 60 different cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, and medicinally, several of them are used. You also make cannabinoids inside your own body. So far, two major ones have been identified and studied since the early ’90s.
The endocannabinoid system was first described in a science article in “The Journal of Science” in 1992. The primary role of the endocannabinoid system — which releases human cannabinoids that interact with receptors found in virtually all tissues in the body — is to bring balance (homeostasis) to tissues and biological systems.
Essentially, the endocannabinoid system plays a key regulatory role in the human body. For example, there are endocannabinoid receptors in the nervous system, where cannabinoids are made locally on demand. What this means is that, in your nervous system, you have sending nerve cells and receiving nerve cells, and the endocannabinoid system works with those cells to maintain balance.
For example, if the receiving nerve cell becomes too excited, you end up with a seizure. Seizures are due to uncontrolled electrical activity in the neurons. It’s an overstimulated state. The endocannabinoid receptor detects this overstimulation and, on demand, makes human cannabinoids to dial down the sending impulses, thereby balancing the system.
The article continues on to bring in essential oils’ compounds now..
Different Marijuana Strains Have Different Effects
In addition to cannabinoids, there’s a whole other set of compounds in cannabis called terpenes — the same compounds found in essential oils. Terpenes are what give each marijuana strain its unique color and smell. Some strains smell like lemon. Other strains are purple and smell like lavender. In fact, the same terpene found in lavender, linalool, which gives lavender its calming, relaxing potential, is also found in many marijuana strains.
There’s a whole range of marijuana strains known for their calming, sleep-inducing, relaxing properties, collectively known as “indicas.” Indicas strains will not induce anxiety. They’re relaxing and stress-reducing. The sativas are more stimulating and energizing, and resemble caffeine in this regard.
Just a few days prior to listening to this interview, I was engrossed in an educational webinar sent to me and my fellow certified functional medicine colleagues. It was entitled “Splendor in the Grass”: the Emerging Role of Phytocannabinoids in Brain Health and Disease.” Dr. Jay Lombard discussed the biochemistry of this plant and the various constituents in an extraordinary detailed yet understandable way! It was intriguing…
Dr. Lombard explained the different effects of the different cannabinoid receptors and the differences between THC and CBD.
I finally had an “ah-ha” moment…my rule of three!
Putting together (1) my friends message, (2) the Dr. Mercola interview and then (3) contemplating this lecture, I had to explore more.
The Terpenoid Entourage Effects
I found this amazing article entitled, “Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects”, in which the author highlighted that terpenes aren’t getting the attention they deserve. They are powerful synergistic molecules which help to produce the health-promoting properties (not psychoactive) effects of medical cannabis.
The author then reviews the actions of several terpenes found in cannabis that are also found in essential oils. Here’s the abstract, I highlighted the main points:
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has been the primary focus of cannabis research since 1964, when Raphael Mechoulam isolated and synthesized it. More recently, the synergistic contributions of cannabidiol to cannabis pharmacology and analgesia have been scientifically demonstrated. Other phytocannabinoids, including tetrahydrocannabivarin, cannabigerol and cannabichromene, exert additional effects of therapeutic interest. Innovative conventional plant breeding has yielded cannabis chemotypes expressing high titres of each component for future study. This review will explore another echelon of phytotherapeutic agents, the cannabis terpenoids: limonene, myrcene, ?-pinene, linalool, ?-caryophyllene, caryophyllene oxide, nerolidol and phytol. Terpenoids share a precursor with phytocannabinoids, and are all flavour and fragrance components common to human diets that have been designated Generally Recognized as Safe by the US Food and Drug Administration and other regulatory agencies. Terpenoids are quite potent, and affect animal and even human behaviour when inhaled from ambient air at serum levels in the single digits ng·mL?1. They display unique therapeutic effects that may contribute meaningfully to the entourage effects of cannabis-based medicinal extracts. Particular focus will be placed on phytocannabinoid-terpenoid interactions that could produce synergy with respect to treatment of pain, inflammation, depression, anxiety, addiction, epilepsy, cancer, fungal and bacterial infections (including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). Scientific evidence is presented for non-cannabinoid plant components as putative antidotes to intoxicating effects of THC that could increase its therapeutic index. Methods for investigating entourage effects in future experiments will be proposed. Phytocannabinoid-terpenoid synergy, if proven, increases the likelihood that an extensive pipeline of new therapeutic products is possible from this venerable plant.
Note: The tables in this study are fascinating, but they are not compliant with essential oil claims! The authors can state the effects in the study, because it is for a generic component of the essential oil and it is for research, so keep that in mind.
Here is a great summary of the article if you want the cliff’s note version.
Here’s the point: As we discover more about traditional and powerful herbs used for healing, we are validating the role of the essential oils as, well, essential. Therefore, I almost always include them whenever I’m suggesting wellness protocols for my clients. This way, I can ensure the full “entourage” is on board.
I believe that the more we discover about the different pathways that nutrients and healing herbs can modulate, the more we will realize essential oils not only act in similar ways, but are perhaps more potent and more versatile.
Happy, not psychoactive, oiling to all of you!
This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and standardized constituents. There is no quality control in the United States, and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only to contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin.
This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.