Trees belong to one of the most important raw material suppliers in the world. Even our ancestors used them for the construction of temples, palaces, and warships. Today, the possible uses are more diverse than ever. The following listicle is about products you never thought wood was a part of. We’ll call them fun uses of wood.
We previously published an article on the main uses of eucalyptus trees. This time we will look at a wider spectrum. Read on to discover nine unexpected items that contain wood products!
9 fun uses of wood
Several products are made of celluloid, a composition of nitrocellulose and camphor. Nitrocellulose is a highly flammable compound combined by nitric acid and wood fibers or starch. Camphor is an organic compound extracted from the wood of camphor trees and processed by steam distillation.
The celluloid is considered as the first thermoplastic, a material that can be molded under a specific temperature. It was created as Parkesine, a brand invented by Alexander Parkes. Parkesine plastics were made by dissolving nitrocellulose in solvents such as alcohol or wood naphtha and mixing in plasticizers such as vegetable oil or camphor.
Ping Pong balls, photographic film, hair claws, combs, the frame of eyeglasses, knife handles, guitar picks, and billiard balls are just a few of many products created by Parkesine – in other words, a product of wood.
2. Cigarette filters
This is a no brainer; 95% of cigarette filters are made of cellulose acetate fibers that are based on wood pulp cellulose. Cellulose is a natural component of all plant cell walls and in every fruit and vegetable we eat. It is made up of oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon. Though it is often considered as wood pulp, because manufacturers grind up wood to extract cellulose from, it is not the same.
The cellulose acetate fibers are thinner than thread. They are packed tightly together to create a cotton-like filter.
The relation between wood and ink may seem a bit far fetched, but some inks are actually made with nitrocellulose as well. Ink also incorporates tall oil rosin, otherwise known as liquid rosin, from hard pines. It is a viscous yellow-black odorous liquid and a by-product of wood pulp that is mainly obtained from conifers.
And speaking of ink, some paints contain hydroxyethyl cellulose, a gelling and thickening agent. So do beauty products.
4. Nail polish
Ever wondered why nail polish dries quickly? Well, wonder no more. Nail polish uses nitrocellulose – no surprise there – which strengthens and quickly dries the polish.
5. Chewing Gum
Surprisingly, chewing gum has been around since the Stone Age. It is speculated that the first gum to have ever existed is the chicle gum, made from the sap of the Sapodilla tree. The chicle – or the sap – is white and gummy. Other civilizations have used other substances. But almost all of them were retrieved from trees. For instance, Ancient Greece used mastic tree bark; resinous gum.
Formerly, the chicle was chewed on. Later, it was the most used substances to make chewing gum. In fact, the brand of candy-coated chewing gum Chiclets is derived from the word chicles.
Today, most modern gums are based on a synthetic equivalent, a rubbery material called polyisobutylene that’s also used in the manufacture of inner tubes or tires. But some manufacturers still use the good old chicle. For instance, Chicza’s chewing gum is 100% biodegradable – and sustainable! This type of gum still uses chicle from the Mayan rainforest.
Talk about fun uses of wood, amirite?
This may not come as a surprise, after all, people in older times used herbs and wood to clean their teeth. As a matter of fact, meswak is a tooth cleaning twig made from the Salvadora persica tree. It was believed to have been used over 7000 years ago! The twig, mainly used in the Arabian peninsula, was used for its antibacterial activity and other medicinal properties.
Toothpaste, mouthwashes, and other oral hygiene products usually contain several different wood components, such as cellulose gum and Xylitol, another name for sugar alcohol. The latter is specifically made from birch trees and is mainly used as a sweetener.
7. Ice cream
No, you did not read this wrong; the phrase does indeed say ice cream. Soft ice cream, frozen yogurt or whipped topping use – wait for it – cellulose! It thickens and stabilizes these delicious desserts, helping them retain their shape. The same way the agent is used in beauty products and paint.
In recent years, cellulose has become a popular food additive due to its unique chemical and physical properties when combined with water. Cellulose allows for the production of thick and creamy food items without the use of much fat.
8. Parmesan cheese
Mhmm! Just reading it, makes us imagine a penne completely covered in Parmesan. We’ll let you guess which wood product is used here.
Yes, you guessed right; cellulose. The harmless organic substance prevents grated cheese from clumping. The official guideline allows the cellulose to make up 2 to 4 percent of a product. So, if you’re like us and can’t live without cheese, this little amount won’t bother you.
Known medicines and drugs are made from plants in their natural, pre-processed form. During the fall and winter months, most of the medicinal trees offer roots, twigs, and bark for the cure of a variety of standard complaints.
The bark, the leaves, the buds, and even the roots of a tree can be used in medicine. They help heal wounds, sore throats, bowel issues, diarrhea, rheumatism, and even gunshot wounds – as surprising as this sounds. Slippery elm can be turned into a salve and treat gunshot wounds. American soldiers used it to heal gunshot wounds during the American Revolution. It actually doesn’t sound as surprising anymore, once we think about how our ancestors used to treat sicknesses and injuries.
Today, camphor is commonly used in ointments, lotions, and creams, such as Vaseline. It can be used topically to relieve pain, irritation, and itching. Medicine in the form of quick-dissolve tablets often uses refined microcrystalline cellulose – refined wood pulp – as a pill filler.
Because the list of how plants and trees can be used in medicine is endless, we’ll dedicate another article to their medical benefits. So stay tuned!