What is Gum Copal

Gum Copal is the mature form of natural resin of forest trees. The gum copal from Indonesia is a natural resinous material of the Bur sera bipinnata plant. Gum Copal is a very environmentally friendly and high quality natural resin which is soluble in ethanol. Due to common impurities and differences in regions, gum copal ranges in color from black to yellow to white. It is characterized by its hardness and relatively high melting point. It also has a mint and turpentine odour.

Gum copal comes in many forms, depending on its grade, which is measured by its percentage purity. The color of gum copal ranges from black to yellow to white. Along with ivory and slaves, gum copal was a significant export in the nineteenth century. It can have an appearance similar to amber and can be mistaken for it. Unlike amber, gum copal is usually only 100-1,000 years old and it has not yet fossilized.

Manufacturing Process

Gum Copal is collected by tapping the living forest tree. The gum copal is stored in the bark and the most common way to extract the resin is by cutting the bark and letting the resin flow out. The collected resin is filtered and cleaned to remove the impurities. There are different varieties of gum copal depending on the factors such as geographic, environmental and the process by which it is collected i.e. the type of tapping used. Gum Copal which is pale, clean and has good solubility in alcohol, is considered to be the best quality.  For example, the high-quality resin Prime White Soft (PWS) is high in alcohol solubility, light yellow and low in grime.

The Uses of Gum Copal

Gum copal has a very wide variety of uses in both past and present times. Primarily used as an incense by ancient civilizations, it also found usage as an early form of glue, and traditional medicine for cases such as dysentery, stomach pains, dizziness and fright. It was often used in religious occasions too in the form of sacrifices to deities (typically associating the copal as food for the gods).

Paint and Coating Industry

It is used as an emulsifier and stabilizer for the production of color, paints, printing inks and aromatic emulsions. Gum Copal is used in enamel paints as these paints are used for coating surfaces of outdoor or surfaces with variation in temperature and gum copal has excellent weather resistance ability. It is also used as a raw material for varnish. Gum copal produces glossy films and has good weather protection property. It is also used as a pigment binder in varnishes since it has excellent binding properties. Its properties such as water resistance ability, solubility in alcohol, glossy nature, binding abilities have increased its usage and made it one of the important and easily available sources of raw materials for the production of perfumes, paints, adhesives and varnishes.

Fragrance Agent

Gum Copal resin is used in incense industry as it has a clean, light, fruity or citrus smell. It is believed that this resin incense is used for clearing and clarifying the mind, and for removing negative energies as it hold the influence of protection and purification.

Pharmaceutical Industry

Gum Copal is also used as medicine for several ailments such as in the treatment of burns, headache, nosebleed, fever, stomach ache and in the preparation of dental products and as a remedy for loose teeth and dysentery. Gum Copal like other natural materials is also used in the field of drug delivery as they are readily available, cost-effective, potentially degradable, eco-friendly and they are compatible.


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