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What is Undecylenic Acid?

By Heather Phillips
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Undecylenic acid, also known as undecenoic acid, is an organic, unsaturated fatty acid commercially obtained from castor oil. It is also present in human sweat. It has many manufacturing applications, including its use in the making of nylon-11, an engineering polymer. It is often found in cosmetics, perfumes, and dandruff shampoos. This substance also has anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral properties, and is used in many anti-fungal creams, supplements, and powders.

As a natural fungicide, some of the conditions undecylenic acid can be effective at treating include athlete’s foot, ringworm, jock itch, as well as thrush and other candida albicans infections. It can also be helpful in managing skin infections, like psoriasis. In addition, it sometimes works well as a treatment for herpes simplex viral lesions.

When undecylenic acid is used to treat fungal infections, it is often converted to a zinc salt, known as zinc undecylenate. In this form, it can be added to powders and ointments. The zinc salt can be up to four times more effective as an anti-fungal agent than its original organic fatty acid counterpart.

This fatty acid can also be taken internally, in supplement form, for the control of infections, such as oral thrush and gastrointestinal candidiasis. When taken for such conditions, the derivative calcium undecylenate is often used. This is because calcium undecylenate can be 20 times more effective as an anti-fungal substance than the base fatty acid it comes from. It generally works best when mixed with betaine hydrochloric acid in a time-release form, so that it spreads uniformly throughout the intestinal tract.

Many chemical derivatives obtained from undecylenic acid, such as undecylenic aldehyde, undecalactone, and ethyl undecylenate, are used for making fragrances. They are typically used in the making of perfumes because of their fruity, rosy bouquets. These substances are often added to jasmine, rose, lilac, and other floral-scented perfumes. They can also be used to add peach and apricot notes to a scent.

Another important use of this fatty acid and some of its derivative chemicals is in the field of agriculture. These substances are often effective at controlling fungal growth in crops. Methyl undecylenate, a derivative of undecylenic acid, is used in the manufacture of synthetic insect pheromones. Chemical substances that are excreted externally by a plant or animal, pheromones influence the behavior of others of their species. For this reason, synthetic insect pheromones can be used agriculturally to control unwanted pests.

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