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Safrole is a colorless or slightly yellow oily liquid. It is typically extracted from the root-bark or the fruit of sassafras plants in the form of sassafras oil, or synthesized from other related methylenedioxy compounds. It is the principal component of brown camphor oil, and is found in small amounts in a wide variety of plants. The Octea cymbarum oil made of the Octea pretiosa, a plant growing in Brazil, and sassafras oil made of the Sassafras albidum, a plant growing in eastern North America, are the main natural sources for safrole. It has a characteristic "candy-shop" aroma.
Safrole was once widely used as a food additive in root beer, sassafras tea, and other common goods. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) barred the use of safrole after it was shown to be mildly carcinogenic. Today, safrole is also banned for use in soap and perfumes by IFRA.
It is a precursor in the synthesis of the insecticide synergist piperonyl butoxide.
Use in ecstasy manufacture
Safrole is used as the main precursor for the clandestine manufacture of MDMA (ecstasy). The standard synthetic procedure for the production of MDMA from safrole is via isomerization in the presence of a strong base to isosafrole, oxidization to 3,4-methylenedioxy phenyl-2-propanone, finally a reductive amination with either methylamine (to make MDMA) or ethylamine (to make MDEA) or ammonia (to make MDA). A newer synthesis method makes use of the Wacker process (palladium(II) chloride catalyst and 1,4-benzoquinone) to oxidize safrole directly to the 3,4-methylenedioxy phenyl-2-propanone intermediate.
It is nearly impossible to obtain large quantities of safrole and/or sassafras oil without arousing the suspicion of law enforcement, as Safrole is currently a List I chemical. Moreover, safrole is listed as a Table I precursor under the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Safrole". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|