Salicylic acid is a phenolic plant growth regulator known to regulate various aspects of plant growth and development. It also functions in various ways in modulating biotic and abiotic stress responses. Plants, such as willow tree (Salix sp.) and poplar (Populus sp.), have been used since the fourth century BC to relieve pain in the human body. But it was only in the nineteenth century that salicylic acid (SA) and related compounds such as methyl salicylate, saligenin, and their glycosides were isolated from the bark of willow tree and were found to be analgesic. Oil of wintergreen, extracted from the American plant Gaultheria procumbens, which was widely used as analgesic during the mid-nineteenth century, is also rich in methyl salicylate. SA was chemically synthesized in 1858 in Germany, and it replaced wintergreen oil as an analgesic. The sharp bitter taste and gastric irritation caused by SA, however, did not make it popular for its application as an analgesic. Subsequently, Bayer and Co. (a German pharmaceutical company) produced acetyl derivative of SA, i.e., acetyl salicylic acid, with the trade name Aspirin which became popular as an analgesic since then (Fig. 22.1). In the recent past, action of this phenolic compound, i.e., SA (chemical name: 2-hydroxybenzenecarboxylic acid), has also been discovered in various aspects of plant growth and development and acquisition of disease/wound resistance.
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