One of the most common medications has a long and varied history. Some facts and history about Aspirin:
• The Father of modern Medicine, Hippocrates, wrote about pain killers in the 5th century B.C.E. and mentioned a powder and tea made from the bark and leaves of the white willow tree that worked for headaches, pain and fever.
• In 1829 scientists discovered that it was the compound called salicin in the willow and other plants that worked on headache, fever and pain.
• Salicin was further chemically reduced to obtain pure salicylic acid, the actual substance that worked on pain and fever.
• Pure salicylic acid was very hard on the stomach, so further research to combine it with another substance to make it more tolerable for the stomach lead to the production of acetylsalicylic acid.
• In 1899 Felix Hoffman, a German chemist that worked for the German dye and drug manufacturer Bayer found out that acetylsalicylic acid helped his father’s arthritis pain. He persuaded the company to manufacture the drug and it was patented in 1900. The compound was given the name Aspirin – “A” from acetyl, “spir” from the spirea plant from which salicin was extracted, “in” was a common ending for drug names.
• Aspirin in powder form was distributed to physicians and soon became the number one drug in the world.
• By 1915 Aspirin was manufactured in tablet form and could be bought without a prescription.
• At one time the Bayer company held the trademark rights to both Aspirin and Heroin (before it became illegal, naturally)
• Aspirin’s reputation as a pain and fever reducer was increased during the world-wide Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918-1919.
• In 1948 a general practitioner in California noticed that patients that he prescribed aspirin to did not have heart attacks. He started to recommend taking aspirin for heart health.
• In 1952 children’s chewable aspirin was introduced.
• Aspirin’s popularity waned in the early 1950’s after the introduction of acetaminophen and ibuprofen.
• In the early 1970’s scientists discovered that aspirin inhibits the production of inflammation-causing chemicals called prostaglandins in the body, thus reducing pain.
• With research showing that daily aspirin therapy does help at risk patients from heart attacks, strokes and recurring heart attacks, aspirin sales increased.
Today more than 70 million pounds of aspirin are produced world wide per year, which makes it the most used drug in the world.