1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Copaiba

COPAIBA, or Copaiva (from Brazilian cupauba), an oleo-resin—sometimes termed a balsam—obtained from the trunk of the Copaifera Lansdorfii (natural order Leguminosae) and from other species of Copaifera found in the West Indies and in the valley of the Amazon. It is a somewhat viscous transparent liquid, occasionally fluorescent and of a light yellow to pale golden colour. The odour is aromatic and very characteristic, the taste acrid and bitter. It is insoluble in water, but soluble in absolute alcohol, ether and the fixed and volatile oils. Its approximate composition is more than 50% of a volatile oil and less than 50% of a resin. The pharmacopoeias contain the oleo-resin itself, which is given in doses of from a half to one drachm, and the oleum copaibae, which is given in doses of from five to twenty minims, but which is inferior, as a medicinal agent, to the oleo-resin. Copaiba shares the pharmacological characters of volatile oils generally. Its distinctive features are its disagreeable taste and the unpleasant eructations to which it may give rise, its irritant action on the intestine in any but small doses, its irritant action on the skin, often giving rise to an erythematous eruption which may be mistaken for that of scarlet fever, and its exceptionally marked stimulant action on the kidneys. In large doses this last action may lead to renal inflammation. The resin is excreted in the urine and is continually mistaken for albumin since it is precipitated by nitric acid, but the precipitate is re-dissolved, unlike albumin, on heating. Its nasty taste, its irritant action on the bowel, and its characteristic odour in the breath, prohibit its use—despite its other advantages—in all diseases but gonorrhoea. For this disease it is a valuable remedy, but it must not be administered until the acute symptoms have subsided, else it will often increase them. It is best given in cachets or in three times its own bulk of mucilage of acacia. Various devices are adopted to disguise its odour in the breath. The clinical evidence clearly shows that none of the numerous vegetable rivals to copaiba is equal to it in therapeutic value.