OCT 08, 2017 08:11 AM PDT

Where Does Aspirin Come From?

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham
3 14 1364

Formally known as acetylsalicylic acid (ASA), aspirin is one of the cheapest and most widely used over-the-counter drugs. This humble drug is used to treat a variety of health conditions like the common fevers, headaches, muscle pain, and inflammation. A number of recent research have also linked aspirin with anti-cancer effects. It may be surprising to know, then, that aspirin has been around for thousands of years.

"Aspirin is one of those things that, long before there were ever clinical trials or any kind of scientific knowledge, people figured out, 'Hey, I feel better when I take this substance,' " said Dr. Karol Watson, assistant professor of cardiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The drug's secret ingredient, salicylic acid, is found in the bark of the willow tree and other salicylate-rich plants. This compound was synthesized in the lab in 1853 by chemist Charles Gerhardt. By 1899, Bayer branded the drug Aspirin (after Spiraea, a genus of plants that contain salicylic acid) and began selling the drug globally. Despite fierce competition with new drugs, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, aspirin's popularity remains as strong today as it had been back in Hippocrates' time.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
JUL 22, 2018
Videos
JUL 22, 2018
No language needed
If you don’t have language, how do you think? If you know fewer words, can you think fewer thoughts? Or perhaps less complex thoughts? That’s t
JUL 23, 2018
Videos
JUL 23, 2018
Can Dark-Colored Eyes See Better?
  Other than health risks associated with certain eye colors, can some colors see better than others? For example, can brown eyes see better than ligh
JUL 24, 2018
Technology
JUL 24, 2018
Can This Airplane Prevent Jet Lag?
People who travel long distances via airplane often experience a complication known as jet lag. Symptoms of jet lag disorder include fatigue, irritability,
AUG 01, 2018
Videos
AUG 01, 2018
Goodbye to the Endangered Species Act?
The Endangered Species Act, which protects more than 2,000 plant, animal and insect species at risk of
AUG 11, 2018
Videos
AUG 11, 2018
Hit The Sweet Spot - MIT's Image Awards
MIT researchers are trying to engineer a smarter insulin.
AUG 16, 2018
Videos
AUG 16, 2018
Why won't my ears stop ringing?
An estimated 50 million Americans suffer from tinnitus in some form. Two million of those people suffer from ringing in their ears so severely that they ca
Loading Comments...