Copaiba: The “miracle” medicinal tree in Bolivia
The copaiba tree is a resource that belongs to the whole Rio Blanco Indigenous Peoples Community.
In Bolivia, a group of women walk single file through the forest on their way to “tap” a copaiba (Copaifera langsdorffii), the “miracle tree” that is a source of income, health and empowerment for them and their community. These Indigenous Women belong to the Association of Women Entrepreneurs, otherwise known as “the Pioneers”. They harvest the tree’s oleoresin, collecting it from a hole drilled carefully into the trunk. They then process it into cosmetic and medicinal products, overseeing every part of the production chain.
The copaiba is known as the “miracle tree” because it is one of the medicinal trees most widely used in Bolivia’s Chiquitania region – and indeed in the Amazon in general. It treats inflammation and wounds and is considered one of the most important natural remedies in a rural region where people live far from pharmacies and hospitals and have little access to public health care.
The Pioneers are following in their ancestors’ footsteps. For centuries, the copaiba has been a staple of natural medicine. In Bolivia, healers used the oil, distilled from the oleoresin, to cure colds and rheumatism, massaging the pain away. Taking two drops daily mixed with a tablespoon of honey still treats bronchitis, tonsillitis and coughs here. In Brazil, they place copaiba oil on tumours and hives. A tea made from the seeds of the tree also works as a purgative and treats asthma.