Castoreum is the exudate from the castor sacs of the mature North American Beaver and the European Beaver within the zoological realm. Castoreum is derived from the Greek word Kastor meaning beaver. Castoreum is obtained from the animal source Caster Canadensis. 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.
Castoreum is mentioned in the works of the ancient commentators who mistakenly believed this musky substance is derived from the beaver’s testicles. In his tales, Aesop, the prominent Greek fabulist, retells the widespread hunter’s fallacy that cornered beaver bites off its own testicles, only to throw them to the hunter and so escape the death.
And beavers were not hunted for their testicles but for their meat and waterproof fur, which is used to make coats. For this reason, castoreum was even used as an aphrodisiac. But now one company in Canada is farming beavers for Fur Coats and Castoreum is a by product. This now perhaps is the only Animal Product , legally available and allowed for use.
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.
Acute toxicity studies in animals indicate that castoreum extract is nontoxic by both oral and dermal routes of administration and is not irritating or phototoxic to skin. Skin sensitization has not been observed in human subject tests. Castoreum extract possesses weak antibacterial activity. A long historical use of castoreum extract as a flavoring and fragrance ingredient has resulted in no reports of human adverse reactions. On the basis of this information, low-level, long-term exposure to castoreum extract does not pose a health risk. The objective of this review was to evaluate the safety-in-use of castoreum extract as a food ingredient.
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. It is used extensively in perfumery. It’s very pungent, strong animalic note makes it an interesting item in men’s perfume, fourgeres, chypres, oriental basis leather notes. The warm animal sweet leathery note of castoreum helps the accords achieve sensuality.