Castoreum // is the exudate from the castor sacs of the mature North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) and the European Beaver (Castor fiber). Within the zoological realm, castoreum is the yellowish secretion of the castor sac which is, in combination with the beaver's urine, used during scent marking of territory. Both beaver sexes possess a pair of castor sacs and a pair of anal glands located in two cavities under the skin between the pelvis and the base of the tail. The castor sacs are not true glands (endocrine or exocrine) on a cellular level, hence references to these structures as preputial glands or castor glands are misnomers. Castor sacs are a type of scent gland.
Today, trappers are paid by the government of Ontario to harvest the castor sacs of beavers which can earn around 10–40 dollars each when sold to the Northern Ontario Fur Trappers Association.
In perfume-making, the term castoreum is more liberally applied to denote the resinoid extract resulting from the dried and alcohol tinctured beaver castor. The dried beaver castor sacs are generally aged for two or more years to mellow and for their raw harshness to dissipate.
In perfumery, castoreum has largely been used as an animalic note suggesting leather, compounded with other ingredients including top, middle, and base notes as a composition. Some classic perfumes incorporating castor are Emeraude, Chanel Antaeus, Cuir de Russie, Magie Noire, Lancôme Caractère, Hechter Madame, Givenchy III, Shalimar, and many "leather" themed compositions.
"New-car sprays" are available that purportedly reproduce the smell of a new car in older vehicles using an aerosol spray. The probable origin of this fragrance concept was before the use of plastics and related chemicals, being simply a leather scent (based around castoreum and birch tar oil) to mimic the smell of expensive leather upholstery.
Although modern medical use of castoreum is rare, it was still in the materia medica in the 18th century, used to treat many different ailments, including headache, fever, and hysteria. The Romans believed the fumes produced by burning castoreum could induce an abortion. Paracelsus thought it could be used in the treatment of epilepsy. Castoreum was also used as an analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antipyretic. Castoreum was described in the 1911 British Pharmaceutical Codex for use in dysmenorrhea and hysterical conditions (i.e. pertaining to the womb), for raising blood pressure and increasing cardiac output. The activity of castoreum has been credited to the accumulation of salicin from willow trees in the beaver's diet, which is transformed to salicylic acid and has an action very similar to aspirin.
It is one of the 65 ingredients of mithridate, a semi-mythical remedy used as an antidote for poisoning. It is also an ingredient of theriac, a medical concoction originally formulated by the Greeks in the 1st century AD as an alexipharmic, or antidote, considered a universal panacea.
In the United States, castoreum is considered to be a GRAS food additive by the Food and Drug Administration. It is often referenced simply as a "natural flavoring" in products' lists of ingredients. While it is mainly used in foods and beverages as part of a substitute vanilla flavour, it is less commonly used as a part of a raspberry or strawberry flavoring. The annual industry consumption is very low, around 300 pounds, whereas vanillin is over 2.6 million pounds annually.
There are at least twenty-four compounds known to be constituents of beaver castoreum. Some of these have pheromonal activity. These are the phenols 4-ethylphenol and 1,2-dihydroxybenzene (catechol) and the ketones acetophenone and 3-hydroxyacetophenone. Five additional compounds noted are 4-methyl-1,2-dihydroxybenzene (4-methylcatechol), 4-methoxyacetophenone, 5-methoxysalicylic acid, salicylaldehyde, and 3-hydroxybenzoic acid. Other neutral compounds are oxygen-containing monoterpenes such as 6-methyl-l-heptanol, 4,6-dimethyl-l-heptanol, isopinocamphone, pinocamphone, two linalool oxides and their acetates. Other compounds are: benzoic acid, benzyl alcohol, borneol, o-cresol, 4-(4'-hydroxyphenyl)-2-butanone, hydroquinone, phenol. All those compounds are gathered from plant food. It also contains nupharamine alkaloids and castoramine, and cis-cyclohexane-1,2-diol.
Related animal products
- Taxea, a secretion of the badger's subcaudal glands comparable in its medicinal use to the better-known castoreum
- Hyraceum, the petrified and rock-like excrement composed of urine and feces excreted by the Cape Hyrax (Procavia capensis), and a sought-after material that has been used in traditional South African medicine and perfumery
- Walro, J.M. and Svendsen, G.E., "Castor sacs and anal glands of the north american beaver (Castor canadensis): their histology, development, and relationship to scent communication" Journal of Chemical Ecology, Volume 8, Number 5 / May 1982, Department of Zoology and Microbiology, Ohio University,
- Müller-Schwarze, Dietland (1992). "Castoreum of beaver (Castor canadensis): function, chemistry and biological activity of its components," Chemical Signals in Vertebrates IV, 457–464, Plenum Press.
- Johnston, Robert E.; Sorenson, Peter W.; and Müller-Schwarze, Dietland (1999). Advances in Chemical Signals in Vertebrates, Springer, 1, 282. ISBN 0-306-46114-5.
- Svendsen, G.E., Huntsman, W.D, "A field Assay of Beaver Castoreum and Some of its Components," American Midland Naturalist, Vol. 120, No. 1 (Jul., 1988), pp. 144–149, University of Notre Dame.
- International Perfume Museum, Grasse France, Website: http://www.museesdegrasse.com/MIP/fla_ang/mat_prem_10.shtml
- Hyraceum.com, "Castoreum, Perfumer's Ancient Intrigue," http://www.hyraceum.com[dead link]
- Compare Boericke, Materia Medica.
- Compare mummy
- Stephen Pincock (28 March 2005). "The quest for pain relief: how much have we improved on the past?". Retrieved 2007-06-17.
- Burdock GA (2007). "Safety assessment of castoreum extract as a food ingredient". Int. J. Toxicol. 26 (1): 51–5. doi:10.1080/10915810601120145. PMID 17365147.
- Burdock, George A., Fenaroli's handbook of flavor ingredients. CRC Press, 2005. p. 277.
- Furia, Thomas E., Chemical Rubber Company, CRC Handbook of Food Additives, Volume 2. CRC Press, 1972. p. 253.
- Burdock, George A., Fenaroli's handbook of flavor ingredients. CRC Press, 2005. p. 276-8.
- Burdock, George A., Fenaroli's handbook of flavor ingredients. CRC Press, 2005. p. 639.
- BVR HJT
- "What's Inside: For a Refreshing Hint of Tear Gas, Light Up a Cigarette"
- The Beaver: Its Life and Impact. Dietland Muller-Schwarze, 2003, page 43 (book at Google Books)
- Pheromonal activity of single castoreum constituents in beaver,Castor canadensis., Müller-Schwarze, D and Houlihan, P.W., Journal of Chemical Ecology, April 1991, Volume 17, Number 4, Springer Netherlands, doi:10.1007/BF00994195
- Neutral compounds from male castoreum of North American beaver, Castor canadensis. Rong Tang, Francis X. Webster, Dietland Müller-Schwarze, Journal of Chemical Ecology, November 1995, Volume 21, Issue 11, pages 1745-1762, doi:10.1007/BF02033674
- Stereoselective synthesis of enantiomerically pure nupharamine alkaloids from castoreum. Stoye A, Quandt G, Brunnhöfer B, Kapatsina E, Baron J, Fischer A, Weymann M and Kunz H, Angew Chem Int Ed Engl., 2009, volume 48, issue 12, pages 2228-2230, doi:10.1002/anie.200805606
- Zur Kenntnis der stickstoffhaltigen Inhaltsstoffe von Castoreum. B. Maurer and G. Ohloff, Helvetica Chimica Acta, 2 June 1976, Volume 59, Issue 4, pages 1169–1185, doi:10.1002/hlca.19760590420
- cis-cyclohexane-1,2-diol in the beaver gland. Z. Valenta, A. Khaleque, M. H. Rashid, Experientia, 1961, Volume 17, Issue 3, page 130, doi:10.1007/BF02160827