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 in combination with the beaver's urine, used during scent marking of territory. Both male and female beavers 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.
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.
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, and medieval beekeepers used it to increase honey production.
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 both foods and beverages as part of an artificial vanilla flavor, 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.
Twenty-four compounds known to be constituents of beaver castoreum were individually screened for pheromonal activity. These are the phenols 4-ethylphenol and 1,2-dihydroxybenzene and the ketones acetophenone and 3-hydroxyacetophenone. Five additional compounds noted are 4-methyl-1,2-dihydroxybenzene, 4-methoxyacetophenone, 5-methoxysalicylic acid, salicylaldehyde, and 3-hydroxybenzoic acid.
- 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
- 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"
- Müller-Schwarze, D and Houlihan, P.W., "Pheromonal activity of single castoreum constituents in beaver,Castor canadensis", Journal of Chemical Ecology, Volume 17, Number 4 / April 1991, Springer Netherlands, doi:10.1007/BF00994195