Whether you are a teen or adult, outbreaks of acne can undermine self-confidence.  There are many factors that can cause outbreaks, but this article may provide helpful information.

Copaiba Essential Oil Successful Against Acne vulgaris

A fascinating March 2012 study from researchers in the Department of Pharmacy, Centro Universitário Vila Velha in Espirito, Brazil, delved into the historical use of copaiba (Copaifera langsdorffi Desf.) The study notes that traditional medicine found value in copaiba because of its anti-inflammatory, healing, and antiseptic activities.

The researchers reported that the early European settlers found the indigenous American Indians of Central and South America were using copaiba on the navels of newborns and on warrior wounds following battle. This use followed the natives’ observations of how injured animals would rub their bodies on the stems of copaiba trees when they were wounded.

The researchers found that copaiba oil-resin “acts as a defense against microorganisms, such as fungi and bacteria.”1 This fact, plus a review of a study2 of ten essential oils used to treat acne, caused the Brazilian researchers to test copaiba as an acne treatment, even though it hadn’t been previously tested for this skin condition.

According to the Brazilian researchers, personal hygiene has a minor role to play in acne, and excessive skin cleaning can actually exacerbate acne symptoms. Washing the skin’s main purpose is to prepare the skin to receive topical treatment.

The trial itself was quite ingenious. The volunteers each had two distinct regions of acne to treat. The copaiba essential oil was mixed in a gel (the active gel). The tubes of active gel and placebo gel were color-coded. The volunteers were to always start with the tube that contained the active gel so that the distinctive odor from the copaiba was present at first, blocking the volunteers from noticing the difference between the active gel and odorless placebo. The twice-daily applications were done for 21 days in the home. The volunteers signed a commitment form for the treatment protocol, and the tubes were weighed weekly using a portable balance that was accurate to 10 mg to ensure the steady decline of tube weights.

The “placebo effect” was observed with a significant decrease in the extent of area affected by acne. A positive clinical effect occurred with evidence of “(1) cessation in the eruption of new pustules, (2) healing of pre-existing pustules, and (3) diminishing of erythematous [redness of skin caused by inflammation] area.”

The study reported there “was a highly significant decrease in the surface affected with acne in the areas treated with the 1.0% copaiba essential oil preparation.” They also found “that the copaiba essential oil treatment had only a topical instead of a systemic effect. The rationale for this conclusion was that since both of the gels (active and placebo) were applied at the same time in the same volunteers, and the effect in the areas treated with the active gel were significantly greater, the main effect appeared to be specific to the location where the active gel was applied.

“Our results,” the study concluded, “indicate that the essential oil from copaiba might have utility as a topical treatment for mild acne. Larger studies are warranted to further access its efficacy in this clinical condition, and to determine whether it would have any utility for more severe acne vulgaris or might synergize with other existing acne therapies.”

While acne is most common in teenagers, even babies can get acne. Three out of four teenagers have some acne, and it tends to run in families.3 This positive research about the natural remedy of copaiba essential oil brings a welcome acne treatment option without the dangerous side effects plaguing some pharmaceutical treatments.


1.       Da Silva AG, et al. Application of the essential oil from copaiba (Copaifera langsdorffi Desf.) for Acne vulgaris: a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial, Altern Med Rev. 2012 Mar;17(1):69-75.
2.       Lertsatitthanakorn P, et al. In vitro bioactivities of essential oils used for acne control, Int J Aromather 2006; 16:43-49.
3.       http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001876/.

This article is reprinted from AIRASE with permission

15 November 2012