|MadSci Network: Science History|
Wood alcohol, or methyl alcohol ( CH3OH ), is a common solvent and reagent in organic chemistry and has been since the late 1800's when the science of organic chemistry really took off. As a solvent it has been used to separate some mixtures in chromatography. It's also been used to extract many natural products such as the common red, purple and blue pigments(anthocyanins) found in apples, purple cabbage and flowers. As a reagent it has been commonly used to make fragrant compounds such as esters, which are typically made from carboxylic acids and alcohols. To make oil of wintergreen ( an ingredient found in Ben Gay and many other products)regular alcohol will not do. You need the smaller methyl group found in wood alcohol, and that synthetic technique is over a century old. Enrico Uva
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