What is Benzoic Acid?
Benzoic Acid is a chemical compound with the molecular structure C7H6O2 or C6H5COOH. Benzoic Acid acquired its unique name because for much of its history scientists thought it could only be extracted from gum benzoin. However, scientists now know that Benzoic Acid is naturally bound and free and appears in almost all plants and animals, serving as an intermediate in the biosynthesis of many secondary metabolites. It is a fungistatic compound that is commonly used as a food preservative as well as in the paint and coating industry. In appearance Benzoic Acid is a colorless, crystalline solid. Further, it is a simple aromatic carboxylic acid.
What Does USP Mean?
The USP designation is important to look out for when purchasing products to be used in food or medical grade products. USP stands for the United States Pharmacopeia and designates that a certain product has been manufactured using a standard, approved, and uniform process. This designation also guarantees that they have undergone the proper testing and ensures that they have met certain standards. Any product that holds the USP designation is guaranteed to meet necessary identity, potency, purity, and performance standards.
This unique acid was first discovered by the well-known Nostradamus in the 16th century. At first, it was believed that it could only be derived from gum benzoin through a process known as dry distillation. Many years later, in 1875 another scientist by the name of Salkowski learned that Benzoic Acid could be used for its antifungal properties, to be used in berry preservation. However, today Benzoic Acid is used for far more, including preservation of food and common industrial products.
How is Benzoic Acid Made Today?
Currently, the production of Benzoic Acid has come a long way from the days of only being derived from gum benzoin. This compound is found in abundance in nature, especially in berries. But it can also be naturally occurring in cinnamon, cloves, mushrooms, and some dairy products. Further, it is produced commercially, in laboratories, by a process known as hydrolysis. In addition, it can be derived from the following substances; benzaldehyde, benzyl alcohol, and benzyl chloride. Because there are so many production options, Benzoic Acid is a relatively inexpensive and readily available compound, making it an ideal compound for a variety of preservation needs.
How Can Benzoic Acid Be Used?
Benzoic Acid can be used both as a preservative and also for its antifungal properties, making it a very diverse product that can be used in a variety of ways.
For Medicinal Purposes
Due to its antifungal properties, Benzoic Acid can be added to creams and ointments for the treatment of fungal skin diseases by preventing infection caused by bacteria. It has shown effective in treating ringworm, tinea, and even athletes foot. In addition, this acid can be used as a topical antiseptic. Benzoic Acid can be found in a variety of antifungal creams already on the market today.
For Cosmetic Products
When used in cosmetic products, the acid acts as a pH buffer, preservative, and emollient. In addition, it is sometimes used to add a hint of fragrance to such products, but that is not its main function. Within the cosmetic industry, Benzoic Acid can be commonly found in products like lotion, mouthwash, sunscreen, foundation, shampoo, cleansers, soaps, and even lipstick. It is even effective at preventing microbe growth in toothpaste! In addition to its practical benefits, when used in cosmetics this acid helps with anti-aging, soothing, and moisturizing the skin! In comparison to other preservatives, Benzoic Acid is considered to be low-risk for causing allergic reactions. However, any time a new product is used you should always test a small amount to see how your body or skin reacts.
For Use in Paint and Coating
Benzoic Acid can be used in the pain and coating industry in a variety of ways. First, it can be used as a component of alkyd resin, which forms the basis for many different types of paint and coatings. When used in this manner, it has the ability to increase gloss, hardness, and chemical resistance. Second, it can be used for its antifungal properties as a preservative. When used this way it increases shelf-life and storage stability.
For Use in Food Products
While Benzoic Acid can be found naturally occurring in many different types of foods, it can also be added artificially. It is most effective when used as a preservative in foods that are already rather acid. It works by destroying microbes and preventing them from fermenting glucose. This can be great for extending the shelf life of various kinds of foods and food products.
Is Benzoic Acid Safe?
As with any chemical, there are always dangers associated with consumption of large quantities of the chemical, such as an accident. However, when used in its proper amounts Benzoic Acid is considered safe for topical use and ingestion. When ingested by the human body it is absorbed by the stomach lining, converted, and passed through the body as urine. While small amounts are safe, people who are working with the raw chemical in large quantities need to be careful of over exposure.