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s obtained in pure form from the oil by fractional
distillation under a vacuum. Asarone boils at about 170° C under good
aspirator vacuum of 15-20 torr. The asarone fraction should be
collected over a 20-degree range centered on 170° C. I found the yield of
asarone from American plants to be about 15% of the oil, giving 30 ml
from 15 pounds of root.
Asarone is a light-sensitive material, and as such, should be stored in
the fridge or freezer. Upon standing in the fridge, it will crystallize,
allowing further purification by filtering. The m.p. of the pure
substance is 67° C. Asarone is listed as a cancer-suspect chemical,
along with half the other substances in the world. In reality it is not
particularly harmful. See Chem. Abstracts 1931, page 169. It also
doesn't have any pronounced drug effect at reasonable oral dosage.
See Dr. Shulgin's comments on the substance in Pikhal.
With the double bond in the propenyl position, we come to the
next major advance over the disappointing procedure cited in the
beginning of this chapter. See European Patent 0,247,526 titled "A
Process for 3,4-dimethoxyphenylacetone Preparation." This process
uses a simple electrochemical cell to convert the propenyl-benzene to
the corresponding phenylacetone in very high yield. The procedure
given also works with 2,4,5-trimethoxypropenylbenzene (asarone),
and probably also with iso-safrole. It is my opinion that it will work
with all propenylbenzenes.
There are great advantages to the use of an electrochemical cell in
clandestine synthesis. The solvents and the salts can be reused over
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and over again, making for a very low profile. The reagent doing the
transformation is electricity, available at the nearest wall socket. The
transformer, multimeter and alligator-clip wiring can all be obtained at
Radio Shack with zero suspicion attached. This method comes with
my highest recommendation.
To do the reaction, a 1000 ml beaker must be rigged up as shown in
Figures 6 and 7.
A central piece of
stainless steel having a
surface area of about 100 cm2
actually in contact with the
solution is securely clamped
into place down the center of the beaker.
On each side of this stainless steel piece,
securely clamp into place two pieces of
graphite, roughly equal in size, having a
total surface area in contact with the
solution of about 70 cm2. All three of
these electrodes should run
straight down into the flask, and a
constant distance of 1 cm should
separate the surface of
the anodes from the
cathode. This is very
important, as the anodeto-
cathode distance determines the voltage at which this cell runs. It is
also very important that shorts between the anode and cathode be
prevented. The current must flow anode-to-cathode through the
solution, not through a short!
Then into the beaker place a magnetic stirring bar, 25 grams of
NaBr dissolved in 100 ml of water, 500 ml of acetonitrile, and 20
grams of asar95
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