The Reimer-Tiemann reaction stands as a testament to the power of organic synthesis, providing a simple yet effective method for introducing formyl groups into phenols. Its versatility, mild conditions, and compatibility with various substituents have made it an indispensable tool for the synthesis of a wide range of valuable compounds.

Reimer-Tiemann reaction is named after its discoverers, Karl Reimer and Ferdinand Tiemann. This reaction has gained prominence in the recent past due to its simplicity and efficiency in selectively producing ortho-hydroxybenzaldehydes from phenols.

While the reaction’s limitations, such as the formation of dichlorocarbene and the potential for reduced yields, require consideration, its overall advantages have secured its place as a cornerstone of organic chemistry.

Reaction Overview

The Reimer-Tiemann reaction involves the interaction of three key reagents: phenol, chloroform, and a strong base, typically sodium hydroxide.

Reactants: Phenol

Reagents: CHCl3, a base (NaOH, KOH), and a protic solvent

Product: (ortho)-Formyl phenol (or) ortho-hydroxybenzaldehyde

Reaction Type: Electrophilic Aromatic Substitution reaction


Phenol –(CHCl3, Base / Protic solvent)–> ortho-hydroxybenzaldehyde

ortho hydroxy benzaldehyde preparation

Upon mixing these components, a series of transformations unfold, ultimately leading to the formation of the desired ortho-hydroxybenzaldehyde.

Reaction Mechanism

The mechanism of the Reimer-Tiemann reaction is characterized by a sequence of electrophilic aromatic substitution reactions.

1. Initially, the strong base deprotonates chloroform to generate a chloroform carbanion. This carbanion undergoes rapid α-elimination, resulting in the release of dichlorocarbene, the reactive intermediate responsible for the formulation.

2. The dichlorocarbene electrophilically attacks the phenol molecule, preferentially targeting the ortho position due to the stabilizing influence of the hydroxyl group. This interaction leads to the formation of an unstable dichloroether intermediate.

3. Subsequent hydrolysis of the dichloroether intermediate under acidic conditions yields the final product, the ortho-hydroxybenzaldehyde. The overall reaction is summarized as follows:

C6H5OH + CHCl3 + 3NaOH → o-(OH)C6H4CHO + 3NaCl + 3H2O

 Reimer-Tiemann Reaction mechanism detailed

Substituents on the phenol ring can influence the reaction outcome, with electron-donating groups generally favoring ortho-formylation, while electron-withdrawing groups may lead to para-formylation or reduced reactivity.\

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Scope and Applications

The Reimer-Tiemann reaction exhibits remarkable versatility, allowing for the formylation of a wide range of phenol derivatives.

The synthetic applications of the Reimer-Tiemann reaction extend to the preparation of various valuable compounds. Salicylaldehyde, produced from phenol, serves as a key intermediate in the synthesis of pharmaceuticals, perfumes, and dyes.

Additionally, the reaction can be employed to synthesize other ortho-hydroxybenzaldehydes, finding applications in the production of flavorings and fragrances.


The Reimer-Tiemann reaction offers several distinct advantages that have contributed to its widespread adoption in organic synthesis:


The reaction exhibits high regioselectivity, preferentially forming ortho-formylated products.

Mild Conditions

The reaction proceeds under mild conditions, typically at room temperature, minimizing undesirable side reactions.

Compatibility with Substituents

The reaction can accommodate a variety of substituents on the phenol ring, allowing for the synthesis of a diverse range of ortho-hydroxybenzaldehydes.


Despite its merits, the Reimer-Tiemann reaction also has certain limitations:

Formation of Dichlorocarbene

Dichlorocarbene is a reactive and potentially hazardous intermediate, requiring careful handling and safety precautions.

Limited Yields

The reaction may not consistently provide high yields, particularly for certain phenol derivatives.

Competition with Ortho-Substitution

Other ortho-substitution reactions, such as Friedel-Crafts acylation, may compete with the Reimer-Tiemann reaction, affecting product selectivity.