Although benzoic acid was discovered in the 16th century, it was widely used since the 19th century for a variety of purposes. As it helps to prevent the growth of mold, fungus and bacteria it is regularly used as a food preservative. It is also used in various medications for treating bacterial infections. Today this unique acid is used for the production of various perfumes and repellents by combining it with different types of chemicals.
Composition of Benzoic Acid
This acid is a common derivative from the chemical called benzene. It contains carboxylic acid as its main component. The acid is known by different names including carboxybenzene, carboxylic acid and phenlyformic acid. The acid is known to be chemically weak in comparison to the other acids. benzoic acid is derived from a tree called benzoin tree which is found largely in Southeast Asia.
Common Beneficial Uses of Benzoic Acid
The acid which is derived from benzoin tree has a number of beneficial qualities including the ability to prevent the growth of bacteria and fungus. It is therefore widely used as a food preservative all over the world. Sodium benzoate, a salt derived from the acid is one of the most common preservatives used in jams, sauces and juices. Since it is a known preservative against bacteria and yeast, it is widely used for preserving food items such as jelly, jams, marmalade, coffee extract, cooked pork, tomato paste, sauce and various kinds of syrups. Today it is also widely used to preserve raw food items such as fish and meat.
Apart from being used as a common food preservative, benzoic acid is also used to treat bacterial infections on the skin. It is combined with salicylic acid to treat many skin infections. Doctors prescribe topical medicines which contain salicylic acid and benzoic to treat mild to severe skin infections caused due to the attack of bacteria or yeast. However, these medications should be used only for a week. It is seldom prescribed to pregnant women. The acid present in these medications helps to prevent the attack of bacteria and also cures it completely.
In addition to the above mentioned uses and advantages, it is also widely used for manufacturing various chemicals. It is often combined with phosphorous and chloride to manufacture chemicals which are quite poisonous. It is also used for manufacturing pesticides and insecticides.
Benzoic acid is used in hair sprays, lip balms, perfumes, shampoos, deodorants, sunscreen lotions, hair creams, shaving creams and so forth. It is one of the most important ingredients used in most of the cosmetic products today. It is also used in the production of dyes and plastics. In some of the countries, the acid is also used to flavor tobacco.
Even though the acid is used in many of the food products, it should be consumed only in a limited amount. The acid mixed with other chemicals can cause serious side-effects and may prove to be fatal. Though ingrained with a number of beneficial qualities, this exemplary acid should be used safely and in recommended doses.