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Gallic acid is an organic acid found in a variety of foods and herbs that are well known as powerful antioxidants. Foods and herbs such as blueberries, walnuts, apples, flax seed and tea all contain Gallic acid. Gallic acid is also found in gall nuts, sumac, witch hazel, watercress, oak bark, and a variety of other plants and herbs. Gallic acid is also found as part of tannins, which are astringent, bitter plant polyphenols.
To obtain Gallic acid in a pure form, one must obtain it through an extraction process from gall nuts. First, finely-powdered nut galls are obtained. The powdered galls are mixed with distilled water to make a thin paste. The paste is then exposed to air, allowing it to stand in a warm place for about 4 weeks, ensuring that it has enough water at all times to maintain a pasty consistency.
The paste is in a porcelain or glass container, avoiding the use of iron since iron or the presence of iron salts gives the product a color that is difficult to remove. After exposing the mixture to air for the required time, the paste is expressed and the residue is boiled with distilled water for a short time.
The boiled water and paste is filtered through charcoal while hot. When cooled, crystals of Gallic acid are formed. Sometimes further purification is necessary and the crystals are dissolved, treated with charcoal and re-crystallized.
Past Uses of Gallic Acid
Many of the foods containing Gallic acid have been used for years as natural remedies, and were relied upon by various cultures for their medicinal properties. Blueberries, for example, were used by Native Americans and the early American settlers.
Native Americans used blueberries to make an aromatic tea that was used as a relaxant during child birthâ€”a popular usage for berries (rich in Gallic acid) that continued to be used by women of the early American settlers. Tea from blueberry leaves was also believed to be a good tonic for purifying the blood.