Field of Science

A rose by any other name is poison ivy

In 1865 John Maisch published a short paper "On the Active Principle of Rhus Toxicodendron". For the unsensitized, rhus toxicodendron is the botanical name for poison ivy. Maisch isolated a fraction he considered to be the "active principle" responsible for the misery that is poison ivy and dubbed it toxicodendric acid. Are you itchy yet? (I am and Maisch surely was, he and various visitors to his lab suffered with outbreaks of poison ivy.)

By 1897 Franz Pfaff of Harvard had weighed in. Toxicodendric acid extracted from poison ivy turned out to be acetic acid - yes, vinegar, by another name, CH3COOH. He showed the itch was in the oil.

1 comment:

  1. Rhus toxicodendron= is the poison oak or poison ivy. Poisoning by this
    plant is rare in England, though not uncommon in the United States. Mere
    contact with the leaves or branches will in many people set up an acute
    dermatitis, with much oedema and hypermia of the skin.


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