The first record of the pyrethrum daisy was 2000 years ago at the time of China’s Chou Dynasty.  The flower appears to have been traded along the Silk Route and eventually was grown in the Dalmatian region.  There are reports that French soldiers used crushed flowers to control fleas and body lice during the Napoleonic Wars (1804-1815).  In 1860, pyrethrum powder was introduced to the United States, but whole flowers later replaced the powder as the desired imported product.  In 1881, pyrethrum cultivation was introduced to Japan from England and when World War I broke out in 1914, Japan became the principle supplier of pyrethrum flowers to the United States.

    McLaughlin Gormley King Company (MGK) was formed in 1902 and by 1910 was importing spices that were packed in dried pyrethrum flowers.  MGK began importing pyrethrum powder in 1915 for insect control that was applied with a bellows-type device.  In 1919, kerosene extracts of pyrethrum became available and by 1928, the use of pyrethrum powder had nearly ceased.  A paper by Staudinger and Ruzicka on pyrethrum identification in 1924 and a paper by Gnadinger, an MGK employee, on a method to quantitate pyrethrum in 1929 awakened new interest in the product and it became possible to assay pyrethrum and produce a pyrethrum extract of standardized active content.

Japan was supplying 82% of pyrethrum flowers sold to the United States in 1926 and by 1931 they were supplying 91% of the US needs.  In 1928, pyrethrum cultivation was introduced to Kenya and by 1932 commercial production of pyrethrum flowers began.  MGK initiated a project to grow pyrethrum flowers in Colorado in 1933 while efforts to develop commercial production of pyrethrum flowers in Brazil were also underway.  In 1938 the first pyrethrum flowers were imported from Tanganyika (now Tanzania) and in 1939 MGK assisted with the construction of a pyrethrum extraction plant in South Africa.  With significant contributions from Gnadinger, AOAC published the first method for quantification of pyrethrum in 1940.

In 1990 MGK began collaboration with a group in Australia that eventually evolved into Botanical Resources Australia (BRA).  BRA grew pyrethrum flowers using modern agricultural practices and soon supplied MGK with crude pyrethrum extract for refining.  In approximately 1998 BRA began refining pyrethrum extract using a super critical fluid process.  Due to social and economic problems in Kenya in 2006 – 2008, supplies of refined pyrethrum drastically dropped to almost non-existent and BRA became the largest supplier of pyrethrins in the world market.  In 2006 MGK purchased controlling interest in TPPMCL, a company that extracted pyrethrum flowers in Tanzania.  Most recently, the company’s name was changed to Pyrethrum Company of Tanzania (PCT).  MGK has undertaken a long term project to improve the extraction facility in Tanzania, to coordinate the pyrethrum flower growers and the annual collection of flowers.


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