Salicylic acid is a type of phenolic phytohormone and beta-hydroxy acid. This monohydroxybenzoic acid is crystalline, colorless organic acid. It acts as a plant hormone and is used in organic synthesis. The salts and esters of salicylic acid are referred to as salicylates. Salicylic acid is mainly found in the plants and plays an important role in the development and growth of the plant. It has significant contribution in various plant processes such as transpiration, photosynthesis as well as ion uptake and transport. Salicylic acid also promotes certain changes in leaf anatomy and chloroplast structure. It also plays a major role in protecting the plant from pathogens by stimulating production of pathogenesis-related proteins.
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Salicylic acid is found in a variety of vegetables and unripe fruits such as raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, raisins, apricots, dates, guavas, grapes, olives, green pepper, tomatoes and mushrooms. Some of the herbs and spices are also known to contain higher amount of salicylic acid. Nuts like peanuts, almonds and water chestnuts contain a significant amount of salicylic acid.
Medicinal Uses of Salicylic Acid
Salicylic acid and its derivatives are used in skin care and hair care products. It can be used to treat various skin problems like acne, psoriasis, lichen simplex, chronic atopic dermatitis, ichthyosis, seborrhoeic dermatitis, corns, warts and keratosis pilaris. It acts as keratolytic, comedolytic and bacteriocide agent and sheds dead cells from the skin epidermis. It opens clogged pores and eliminates bacteria. It also causes exfoliating effects and prevents clogging of pores and enhances cell generation. It is known to remove blackheads and whiteheads. Salicylic acid is also used many shampoos for treating dandruff. Salicylic acid can be directly applied on the affected skin. You can use a cosmetic pad soaked in salicylic acid.
Salicylic acid has been known to relieve fever since ancient times. It is used as an anti-inflammatory drug. Aspirin is pain and fever reliever, which is derived from a compound of salicylic acid. It suppresses the production of prostaglandins and thromboxanes, which are responsible for the formation of blood clots. Due to ability of salicylic acid to suppress activity of thromboxanes, it prevents formation of blood clots and heart attack.
Side Effects and Precautions
Usually, salicylic acid and its preparations are tolerable. If used in higher concentration, it may cause mild irritation. An allergic reaction from salicylic acid is rare. However, it should be used specifically on the affected areas, because it may burn or irritate healthy skin. You may experience the symptoms like mild or severe skin irritation, flushing and reddening of skin and unusually warm skin. In some rare cases, salicylic acid poisoning with topical preparations may occur. It can cause the symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, dizziness, confusion, rapid breathing, severe drowsiness and ringing or buzzing in the ears.
When you are using salicylic acid preparations, you should avoid using alcohol containing preparations, abrasive soaps and cleansers, soaps or cosmetics that can dry the skin and other medicated topical agents such as topical retinoids, calcipotriol or benzoyl peroxide. Usage of salicylic acid should be avoided by pregnant and nursing women, as it is absorbed through the skin.
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