I’m a self proclaimed “Hippie”. Everyone has always viewed me as a tree hugger or crunchy, or whatever the newest term is. I’ve always leaned towards a natural lifestyle and shy away from the use of chemicals. But, I have a confession to make. I have used “chemicals” my entire life and continue to do so because the science nerd in me pushes me to do my own research!
Confused yet? It’s simple really. I LOVE dihydrogen monoxide. I literally douse myself with it and drink it up all day long. Sounds scary right? Guess what… dihydrogen monoxide is the scientific term for water. Today’s society is so scared of scary names that most people don’t take the time to do the research.
Hoaxes of this nature often scare the general public because they do not know the IUPAC name of common everyday chemicals. Just for fun, and to give you a better idea where I’m going with this, let’s take a look at some other seemingly scary ingredients and see what they really are.
Deoxyribonucleic acid is the chemical makes virtually all life possible on this planet and possibly elsewhere in the universe. Without it life would be impossible as we understand it because this is the chemical responsible for the transfer of genetic information from parents to offsprings. So, what is it? It’s DNA.
Vitamin C is one form of ascorbic acid, a naturally occurring organic compound that is a very important part of our diet. If you saw the IUPAC name of this common chemical you probably will have second thoughts about eating another orange which is (5R)-[(1S)-1,2-dihydroxyethyl]-3,4-dihydroxyfuran-2(5H)-one. The name basically tells a chemist the locations of the chemical groups and how many of the chemical groups are on the parent molecule. For example, the 3,4-dihydroxyfuran tells the chemist that there are two hydroxy or -OH groups at positions 3 and 4 on the five-sided ring called furan.
The chemical responsible for the flavor of banana is isoamyl acetate. The IUPAC name for this flavor is 3-methylbut-1-yl ethanoate. It is also responsible for the flavor of another fruit, the pear. Most organic acetates has a fruity smell and are responsible for the flavor of other fruits.
You probably also love theobromine, the main ingredient in cocoa. Or how about vanilla? The IUPAC name for vanilla is 4-Hydroxy-3-methoxybenzaldehyde. Whoa!
Glycerin is actually just a sugar alcohol found in natural fats like palm oil. Physically, it’s a clear, transparent liquid with a high viscosity and a sweet taste. It’s highly soluble in both water and alcohol, and is also a great solvent for other materials, which makes it useful for the preparation of tinctures and foods.
A polysaccharide is a large molecule made of many smaller monosaccharides. Monosaccharides are simple sugars, like glucose. Special enzymes bind these small monomers together creating large sugar polymers.
Science is the study of nature. Just because something may sound unnatural and scary, it doesn’t mean that it is. Scientists have to have a system to classify items and sometimes the common person like us gets caught in the “scary chemicals” trap.
At the end of the day everything is a chemical in some way. Some are good and some are bad. Do your research and you just might become a science nerd too! Science is as natural as natural can get.