Many or most Amazonian hardwood trees contain some kind of chemical defenses against their most common predators: fungi and bacteria, moisture and termites. The best timbers are those that resist decay in its many forms, and so it's unsurprising that many of the Amazon's finest timbers also possess notable chemical defenses, often in the form of oils and resins.
Dozens, even hundreds of species produce compounds that are medicinal or otherwise useful to man. And some of these trees also happen to smell wonderful. The Amazon is a forest of many saps and, we've found, a forest of many aromas.
Since 2010, Camino Verde has been working to keep Amazonian trees alive by researching and developing the essential oils contained in leaves, bark, branches, wood and flowers of Amazonian trees that would otherwise be cut for their timber. We've found that many trees can give sustainable harvests of leaves rich in essential oils without harming the trees. And if it's more profitable to keep a tree alive than to cut it down for wood, people will keep the trees alive.
Our focus in the first phase of the project has been working with several genera in the Lauraceae family, a family that includes many familiar aromatic plants including Cinnamon, Bay Laurel, and Camphor. In the Amazon, the Lauraceae sub-group commonly known as moenas includes many unique aromatic trees, the most famous of which, Brazilian rosewood, was driven almost to extinction for its essential oil.
Now we're working to reforest and develop products from these trees, giving incentives to local farmers to plant rather than fell these amazing-scented Amazonian giants.