So much information about Copaiba essential oil is focused on beta-caryophyllene, and for good reason. Not only does this sesquiterpene make up approximately 50 percent of CPTG® Copaiba oil, but it is also an amazing compound with health benefits that have been widely researched. To start, it’s a cannabinoid that has influential effects on CB2 receptors and a host of promising therapeutic benefits. It also has powerful antioxidant properties and supports a number of body systems when taken internally.*
However, while beta-caryophyllene is an extraordinary terpene with properties we are still discovering, the real power of essential oils isn’t in their individual compounds. Rather, it lies in the combined effect or synergy of the oil’s components that are uniquely blended together by nature. To truly understand how powerful Copaiba is and how it can best be utilized in your own essential oil routine, it is best to become familiar with its other primary constituents and examine the research about the oil as a whole.
The Other Half of the Story
Through our own testing, we have discovered that Copaiba is rich in copaene, bergamotene, and humulene. These are all sesquiterpenes which, in isolation, have also been shown to have a number of beneficial health properties. In vitro research has shown that copaene may have powerful antioxidant properties (Turkez) and offer protection against environmental threats (Andrade).* Bergamotene is particularly interesting, as in vivo research suggests that it may support proper immune system function when taken internally (Gelmini).* Similarly, experimental research suggests that internal use of humulene may support proper inflammatory response (Fernandes, Passos).*
But, thanks to synergy, the benefits of Copaiba oil are actually greater than the benefits of the individual parts. By examining Copaiba essential oil as a whole, we can see that there is extensive research suggesting it has internal benefits ranging from supporting the cardiovascular system (Campos) to the proper function of the respiratory system (Kobayashi). There is little definitive scientific evidence to suggest that these properties are due to the isolated activity of beta-caryophyllene or any of the other sesquiterpene compounds found in Copaiba.
Essential oils are composed of tens to hundreds of different terpene compounds in distinct proportions with health benefits that we are just beginning to understand. Although isolated beta-caryophyllene has a number of amazing properties, like synthetic oils, it simply cannot be compared to the whole essential oils in which it is found.
One Possible Explanation of Synergy
Although the mechanisms explaining synergy in Copaiba oil are still mysterious, new research published this year is beginning to shed light on how essential oils generally can be more effective than their isolated constituents. A recently published study found that certain terpenes increase both the fluidity and permeability of cell membranes (Hąc-Wydro). In other words, they increase how easily a molecule can pass through the cell membrane and enter a cell.
The experiments in the study revealed that oil molecules increase cell membrane permeability by sandwiching themselves in gaps between the lipids. This disrupts forces between neighboring lipid molecules (Hąc-Wydro), and makes it easier for tiny holes to form between molecules in the membrane. The tiny holes then allow small molecules from the outside environment to pass through. Because human cell membranes have lipids with all kinds of different shapes and sizes, a diverse oil with constituents of different shapes and sizes would probably have a greater ability to increase permeability.
If one constituent in an oil helps increase membrane permeability, another constituent can enter the cell more easily and exert a stronger effect on enzymes and other intracellular proteins. In turn, either constituent alone would have weaker effects on cells than their combination.
It turns out that certain Copaiba constituents are proven to synergize using this exact mechanism. For example, the Copaiba sesquiterpenes humulene and isocaryophyllene are both known for their ability to support cellular health (Legault & Pichette). When combined with Copaiba’s main constituent, beta-caryophyllene, these compounds have even greater effects (Legault & Pichette). Research shows that the reason these compounds synergize with beta-caryophyllene is because beta-caryophyllene facilitates their passage through the cell membrane (Legault & Pichette). Synergy is a real, scientifically-validated phenomenon, and you won’t get it from isolating a specific chemical.
At doTERRA we offer everyone the opportunity to experience the true benefits of whole CPTG essential oils. Copaiba essential oil is much more than just beta-caryophyllene; in fact, around 50 percent of the oil is composed of other sesquiterpene compounds that add to Copaiba’s health benefits. Other properties of Copaiba come from the synergistic effects of these constituents. While the exact mechanisms of oil synergy are still being studied, it is clear that an oil is much more than the sum of its parts. If you’re deciding between a chemical isolate or a whole oil, nature’s formulation is the clear choice.
Turkez H, et al. Effects of copaene, a tricyclic sesquiterpene, on human lymphocytes cells in vitro. Cytotechnology. 2014;66(4):597-603.
Andrade MA, et al. Essential oils: in vitro activity against Leishmania amazonensis, cytotoxicity and chemical composition. BMC Complementary Alternative Medicine. 2016;16:444.
Gelmini F, et al. GC-MS profiling of the phytochemical constituents of the oleoresin from Copaifera langsdorffii Desf. and a preliminary in vivo evaluation of its antipsoriatic effect. International Journal of Pharmacology. 2013;440(2):170-178.
Fernandes E, et al. Anti-inflammatory effects of compounds alpha-humulene and (−)-trans-caryophyllene isolated from the essential oil of Cordia verbenacea. European Journal of Pharmacology. 2007;569(3):228-236.
Passos GF, et al. Anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic properties of the essential oil and active compounds from Cordia verbenacea. The Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 2007;110(2):323-333.
Campos C, et al. Effect of free and nanoencapsulated copaiba oil on monocrotaline-induced pulmonary arterial hypertension. Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology. 2017;69(2):79-85.
Kobayashi C, et al. Pharmacological evaluation of Copaifera multijuga oil in rats. Pharmaceutical Biology. 2011;49(3):306-313.
Hąc-Wydro, et al. (2017). Studies on the Behavior of Eucalyptol and Terpinen-4-ol—Natural Food Additives and Ecological Pesticides—in Model Lipid Membranes. Langmuir. doi:10.1021/acs.langmuir.7b00774
Legault J, Pichette A. Potentiating effect of beta-caryophyllene on anticancer activity of alpha-humulene, isocaryophyllene and paclitaxel.
Li Y, Xu YL, Lai YN et al. Intranasal co-administration of 1,8-cineole with influenza vaccine provide cross-protection against influenza virus infection. Phytomedicine. 2017 Oct 15;34:127-135. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2017.08.014. Epub 2017 Aug 18.