Castoreum /kæsˈtɔːriəm/ is a yellowish exudate from the castor sacs of the mature North American beaver (Castor canadensis) and the European beaver (Castor fiber).

Beavers use castoreum in combination with urine to scent mark their territory.[1][2] Both beaver sexes have 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.[3] The castor sacs are not true glands (endocrine or exocrine) on a cellular level, hence references to these structures as preputial glands, castor glands, or scent glands are misnomers.[4]

It is used as a tincture in some perfumes[5] and as a food additive.[6]

The government of Ontario pays trappers to harvest beaver castor sacs. The sacs brought CA$2.62–5.10 per ounce when auctioned at the May–June 2016 North American Fur Auction.[7]

Castoreum 01

Chemical composition

At least 24 compounds are known constituents of beaver castoreum. Several of these have pheromonal activity, of which the phenols 4-ethylphenol and catechol and the ketones acetophenone and 3-hydroxyacetophenone were strongest. Five additional compounds elicit a weaker response: 4-methylcatechol, 4-methoxyacetophenone, 5-methoxysalicylic acid, salicylaldehyde, and 3-hydroxybenzoic acid.[8] There are also oxygen-containing monoterpenes such as 6-methyl-l-heptanol, 4,6-dimethyl-l-heptanol, isopinocamphone, pinocamphone, and two linalool oxides and their acetates.[9] 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.[10] It also contains nupharamine alkaloids[11] and castoramine,[12] and cis-cyclohexane-1,2-diol.[13]


In perfume

American Beavers at the National Zoo
American Beavers at the U.S. National Zoo

In perfumery, the term castoreum refers to the resinoid extract resulting from the dried and alcohol tinctured beaver castor.[14] The dried beaver castor sacs are generally aged for two or more years to mellow.

Castoreum is largely used for its note suggesting leather, typically compounded with other ingredients including top, middle, and base notes. 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.[5]

In food

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration lists castoreum extract as a generally recognized as safe (GRAS) food additive.[15] In 1965, the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association's GRAS program (FEMA 2261 and 2262) added castoreum extract and castoreum liquid.[16] Product ingredient lists often refer to it simply as a "natural flavoring." While it is mainly used in foods and beverages as part of a substitute vanilla flavor,[17] it is less commonly used as a part of a raspberry or strawberry flavoring.[18] The annual industry consumption is very low, around 300 pounds,[19] whereas vanillin is over 2.6 million pounds annually.[20]

Castoreum has been traditionally used in Sweden for flavoring schnapps commonly referred to as "Bäverhojt" (literally, beaver shout).[21][22]


Castoreum is also used to contribute to the flavor and odor of cigarettes.[23]

Medieval beekeepers used castoreum to increase honey production.[10]

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

See also


  1. ^ 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,
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ a b International Perfume Museum, Grasse, France, Website: "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-06-24. Retrieved 2006-02-28.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ Burdock, G. A. (2007-01-01). "Safety assessment of castoreum extract as a food ingredient". International Journal of Toxicology. 26 (1): 51–55. doi:10.1080/10915810601120145. ISSN 1091-5818. PMID 17365147.
  7. ^ "May-June 2016 Wild Fur Sales Report North American Fur Auctions" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-02-22. Retrieved 21 February 2016 – via Fur Institute of Canada.
  8. ^ 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
  9. ^ 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
  10. ^ a b The Beaver: Its Life and Impact. Dietland Muller-Schwarze, 2003, page 43 (book at Google Books)
  11. ^ 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
  12. ^ 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
  13. ^ 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
  14. ^, "Castoreum, Perfumer's Ancient Intrigue," Archived February 7, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ Burdock GA (2007). "Safety assessment of castoreum extract as a food ingredient". International Journal of Toxicology. 26 (1): 51–5. doi:10.1080/10915810601120145. PMID 17365147.
  16. ^
  17. ^ Burdock, George A., Fenaroli's handbook of flavor ingredients. CRC Press, 2005. p. 277.
  18. ^ Furia, Thomas E., Chemical Rubber Company, CRC Handbook of Food Additives, Volume 2. CRC Press, 1972. p. 253.
  19. ^ Burdock, George A., Fenaroli's handbook of flavor ingredients. CRC Press, 2005. p. 276-8.
  20. ^ Burdock, George A., Fenaroli's handbook of flavor ingredients. CRC Press, 2005. p. 639.
  21. ^ Baron Ambrosia (26 February 2015). "Tales from the Fringe: Beaver Gland Vodka". Retrieved 11 December 2015.
  22. ^ BVR HJT
  23. ^ [1] United States Patent Application Publication

External links


3-Hydroxyacetophenone is a chemical compound. It is a component of castoreum, the exudate from the castor sacs of the mature beaver.


4-Methylcatechol is a chemical compound. It is a component of castoreum, the exudate from the castor sacs of the mature beaver.

5-Methoxysalicylic acid

5-Methoxysalicylic acid is a chemical compound. It is a component of castoreum, the exudate from the castor sacs of the mature beaver.A mixture of 5-methoxysalicylic acid and spermine can be used as a matrix for oligonucleotides analysis in MALDI mass spectrometry.It is an isomer of vanillic acid.


Acetanisole is an aromatic chemical compound with an aroma described as sweet, fruity, nutty, and similar to vanilla. In addition Acetanisole can sometimes smell like butter or caramel. Acetanisole is found naturally in castoreum, the glandular secretion of the beaver.


Acetophenone is the organic compound with the formula C6H5C(O)CH3 (also represented by the pseudoelement symbols PhAc or BzMe). It is the simplest aromatic ketone. This colorless, viscous liquid is a precursor to useful resins and fragrances.


The beaver (genus Castor) is a large, primarily nocturnal, semiaquatic rodent. Castor includes two extant species, the North American beaver (Castor canadensis) (native to North America) and Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber) (Eurasia). Beavers are known for building dams, canals, and lodges (homes). They are the second-largest rodent in the world (after the capybara). Their colonies create one or more dams to provide still, deep water to protect against predators, and to float food and building material. The North American beaver population was once more than 60 million, but as of 1988 was 6–12 million. This population decline is the result of extensive hunting for fur, for glands used as medicine and perfume, and because the beavers' harvesting of trees and flooding of waterways may interfere with other land uses.

Castor oil

Castor oil is a vegetable oil pressed from castor beans. The name probably comes from its use as a replacement for castoreum.Castor oil is a colourless to very pale yellow liquid with a distinct taste and odor. Its boiling point is 313 °C (595 °F) and its density is 961 kg/m3. It is a triglyceride in which approximately 90 percent of fatty acid chains are ricinoleates. Oleate and linoleates are the other significant components.

Castor oil and its derivatives are used in the manufacturing of soaps, lubricants, hydraulic and brake fluids, paints, dyes, coatings, inks, cold resistant plastics, waxes and polishes, nylon, pharmaceuticals and perfumes.


Castoramine is an alkaloid found in castoreum.

Castoreum (fungus)

Castoreum is a genus of truffle-like fungi in the Mesophelliaceae family. The genus, circumscribed by English mycologists Mordecai Cubitt Cooke and George Edward Massee in 1887, contains three species found in Australia.


Cyclohexane-1,2-diol is a chemical compound found in castoreum. It can exist in either cis- or trans-isomers.

The enzyme cyclohexane-1,2-diol dehydrogenase uses trans-cyclohexane-1,2-diol and NAD+ to produce 2-hydroxycyclohexan-1-one, NADH and H+.

Eurasian beaver

The Eurasian beaver or European beaver (Castor fiber) is a species of beaver which was once widespread in Eurasia. It was hunted to near-extinction for both its fur and castoreum; and by 1900, only 1200 beavers survived in eight relict populations in Europe and Asia. Reintroduced through much of its former range, it now occurs from Great Britain to China and Mongolia, although it is absent from Portugal, the southern Balkans, and the Middle East.

Fixative (perfumery)

A fixative is used to equalize the vapor pressures, and thus the volatilities, of the raw materials in a perfume oil, as well as to increase the tenacity.Natural fixatives are resinoids (benzoin, labdanum, myrrh, olibanum, storax, tolu balsam) and animal products (ambergris, castoreum, musk, and civet). Synthetic fixatives include substances of low volatility (diphenylmethane, cyclopentadecanolide, ambroxide, benzyl salicylate) and virtually odorless solvents with very low vapor pressures (benzyl benzoate, diethyl phthalate, triethyl citrate).


Gummivena is a fungal genus in the Mesophelliaceae family. The genus is monotypic, containing the single truffle-like species Gummivena potorooi, found in Western Australia. Described as new to science in 2002, Gummivena is intermediate in form between Castoreum and Gummiglobus, and has a gleba with "veins" of gummy tissue and a three-layered peridium. The specific epithet potorooi refers the fact that the fungus is found only in the range of the rare and endangered species Gilbert's potoroo (Potorous gilbertii).


Nupharamine is an alkaloid found in Nuphar japonica and in castoreum.

Nuphar japonica contains nupharamine, and methyl and ethyl esters of nupharamine.

Opium (perfume)

Opium is an Oriental-spicy perfume created for fashion brand Yves Saint Laurent (YSL) by perfumer Jean Amic and Jean-Louis Sieuzac of Roure, first marketed in 1977. Its top notes are a mixture of fruit and spices, with mandarin orange, plum, clove, coriander and pepper, as well as bay leaf. Its floral middle notes consist predominantly jasmine, rose and Lily of the Valley, in addition to carnation, cinnamon, peach and orris root. It is underlined by the sweet woody base note containing sandalwood, cedarwood, myrrh, opopanax, labdanum, benzoin and castoreum, in addition to amber, incense, musk, patchouli, tolu and vetiver.


Pediomelum is a genus of legumes known as Indian breadroots. These are glandular perennial plants with palmately-arranged leaves. They have a main erect stem with inflorescences of blue or purple flowers and produce hairy legume pods containing beanlike seeds. Some species have woody roots while others have starchy tuber-like roots which can be eaten like tuber vegetables such as potatoes or made into flour. Indian breadroots are native to North America. Many species have synonymy with genus Psoralea.

Selected species:

Pediomelum argophyllum - silverleaf Indian breadroot

Pediomelum aromaticum - aromatic Indian breadroot

Pediomelum californicum - California Indian breadroot

Pediomelum canescens - buckroot

Pediomelum castoreum - beaver Indian breadroot

Pediomelum cuspidatum - largebract Indian breadroot

Pediomelum cyphocalyx - turniproot

Pediomelum digitatum - palmleaf Indian breadroot

Pediomelum esculentum - large Indian breadroot

Pediomelum humile - Rydberg's Indian breadroot

Pediomelum hypogaeum - subterranean Indian breadroot

Pediomelum latestipulatum - Texas Plains Indian breadroot

Pediomelum linearifolium - narrowleaf Indian breadroot

Pediomelum megalanthum - intermountain Indian breadroot

Pediomelum mephiticum - skunktop

Pediomelum pariense - Paria River Indian breadroot

Pediomelum pentaphyllum - small Indian breadroot

Pediomelum reverchonii - rock Indian breadroot

Pediomelum rhombifolium - gulf Indian breadroot

Pediomelum subacaule - Nashville breadrootPediomelium tenuiflorum see under old name Psoralidium tenuiflorum

Pediomelum castoreum

Pediomelum castoreum is a species of flowering plant in the legume family known by the common names beaver Indian breadroot and beaver dam breadroot. It is native to the deserts around the intersection of California, Nevada, and Arizona, where it grows in local habitat including disturbed areas. It is a perennial herb with no stem or a short stem that is mostly underground, leaving the plant at ground level. The compound leaves are each made up of five or six oval leaflets which may be over 4 centimeters long. The leaf is borne on a long petiole. The inflorescence is a raceme of several blue or purple pealike flowers each roughly a centimeter long. The fruit is a hairy oval legume pod tipped with a long, curved beak. It contains ridged gray seeds each about 6 millimeters long.


Salicin is an alcoholic β-glucoside. Salicin is produced in (and named after) willow (Salix) bark and acts as an anti-inflammatory agent in the human body. Salicin is also commonly found in the bark of Populus species, and the leaves of willows and poplars. It is also found in castoreum, which was used as an analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antipyretic. 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 that of aspirin. Salicin was the historical origin of aspirin and is chemically related to it. When consumed, the acetalic ether bridge is broken down. The two parts of the molecule, glucose and salicyl alcohol, then are metabolized separately. By oxidizing the alcohol function the aromatic part finally is metabolized to salicylic acid. Salicin tastes bitter like quinine.Salicin may cause an allergic skin reaction (skin sensitization; category 1).Mild side effects are standard, with rare occurrences of nausea, vomiting, rash, dizziness and breathing problems. Overdose from high quantities of salicin can be toxic, damaging kidneys, causing stomach ulcers, diarrhea, bleeding or digestive discomfort. Some people may be allergic or sensitive to salicylates and suffer reactions similar to those produced by aspirin. People should not take salicin if they have asthma, diabetes, gout, gastritis, hemophilia, stomach ulcers; also contraindicated are children under 16, and pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Synthetic musk

Synthetic musks, known as white musks in the perfume industry, are a class of synthetic aroma compounds to emulate the scent of deer musk and other animal musks (ambergris, castoreum and civet). Synthetic musks have a clean, smooth and sweet scent lacking the fecal notes of animal musks. They are used as flavorings and fixatives in cosmetics, detergents, perfumes and foods, supplying the base note of many perfume formulas. Most musk fragrance used in perfumery today is synthetic.

Synthetic musks in a narrower sense are chemicals modeled after the main odorants in animal musk: muscone in deer musk, civetone in civet, and ambroxide in ambergris. Muscone and civetone are macrocyclic ketones, ambroxide is a cyclic ether. Other structurally different but functionally similar compounds also came to be known as musks.

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