Evergreen source of Tamiflu

Pine and spruce needles brim with flu-drug precursor

By Rachel Ehrenberg, 10:42 AM August 30, 2010

BOSTON — Your discarded Christmas tree might help researchers fight the flu. Some evergreen tree leaves bristle with shikimic acid, an important starter material for the antiflu drug Tamiflu, scientists reported August 26 at the American Chemical Society’s fall meeting. The compound is a precursor for many plant molecules, including amino acids and some alkaloids.

Shikimic acid makes up about 3 percent of the dry weight of pine and spruce needles, and is easily extracted with water and ethano...

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