Wednesday 2 May 2012

Wondrous Words Wednesday 2/5/12- and a bit of a rant

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a fabulous weekly meme hosted by Bermuda Onion, where we share new (to us) words that we’ve encountered in our weekly reading.  

I love that new words can turn up anywhere. Often when you least expect them. This week's word came from following a link on Facebook and reading an article about The 15 Grossest Things You're Eating. I could cope with paint chemicals in salad dressing and cloned cows stomach. But was completely stopped in my tracks by Beaver Anal Gland Juice. It's known as Castoreum. 

Castoreum (Noun)

A peculiar bitter orange-brown substance, with strong, penetrating odour, found in two sacs between the anus and the external genitals of the beaver; castor; used in medicine as an antispsamodic, and by perfumers. The Free Dictionary. 

Castoreum is indeed the secretion from beaver anal glands. Beavers combine it with urine and use it to mark their territories. Humans use it as vanilla or raspberry flavouring in foods! And rather incredibly in perfumes. It can even be labelled as "natural flavouring"in foods as it is a natural product- for beavers. 
There are so many questions! How did anyone ever think of using it for any use? There is apparently a reasonably long history of use such that the FDA classes it as Generally Recognised as Safe, and there have not been any reports of human adverse reactions. 

Still, I've seen what comes out when my vet treats my dog's blocked anal glands. Definitely not appetising. I don't want to spread it on toast, or drink it. 

Jamie Oliver isn't a fan either.

I can only hope that as we don't have beavers in Australia that I'm not at much risk of accidentally ingesting some beaver anal products. I wonder if I ever have? It really doesn't bear thinking about. I think I would be happy if castoreum was banned. 


bermudaonion said...

Oh my gosh, I'll be scouring labels for castoreum from now on!

Libby said...

What?!?! Do they sedate the beavers? Are there big captive beaver farms?

This is disgustingly amazing. ;)

Anonymous said...

Interesting word,very eye-opening.

Joy said...

I only knew this because I saw that Jamie Oliver segment on Letterman. Eek.
Joy's Book Blog

Anonymous said...


Satia said...

Ignorance is bliss.

I hope I forget this word before I finish typing this.

Nope. I still remember it. Damn.

Genie -- Paris and Beyond said...

Yeucht! Barf! Ralph! Retch...

These are probably not all words, but I could not type what I thought as I read this...


Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews said...

Hi Louise,

Luckily we don't have beavers here in the UK either, although I do wonder if castoreum is use in imported food products ... it's bound to be, isn't it?

As for finding this substance in perfume .. is nothing sacred! Every time I spray my favourite scent now, I shall be thinking of a beaver's bottom!

You really should be more selective about what you read on 'Facebook', although on the other hand, we should all be more aware of the way we are abusing our bodies.

To be honest though, if all the things that were potentially bad for us, were taken away, there wouldn't be an awful lot of anything left!!

A disgusting, but interesting post,


Hannah said...

I could really, really have lived without every learning about castoreum, dear friend.