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The road to today's aspirin pills
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The road to today’s aspirin pills

By on October 14, 2015

A brief history about how did aspirin become the world’s most popular and most prescribed drug

In the past, long before aspirin was discovered, people were using natural plant extracts to fight fever and pain. Plants containing salicin were well known to the early Egyptians, Greeks, Chinese and native North Americans, as painkilling potions were brewed from willow bark. However, these potions had severe side effects, such as nausea and ulcers.

German scientists were the ones that first isolated salicin from Willow bark in 1828. Acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) was synthesized by the mid 1800s, but their work was soon forgot.

German chemist Felix Hoffman was the one taking the glory for the so called “aspirin”. He was working for Bayer in 1897 when he was able to synthesize ASA to treat his father’s pain without any serious side effects. It was only in 1899 that ASA was branded as Aspirin and it quickly became the world most popular and most prescribed drug.

Did you know that?

– The name aspirin derives from Spiraea, the genus pf plants from which ASA is obtained.
– Pliny, the Roman historian, suggested rubbing crushed snails on the forehead to treat headaches.
– Mexicans in the Sierra Madres did the same with live toads.
– Sixth century French bishop St. Gregory rubbed his head against St. Martin’s tomb to alleviate upsetting headaches.
– Aspirin is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) and it is estimated that approximately 40,000 metric tons of it is consumed annually worldwide.


About Laura Parvan

Medical professional, blogging passionate, with a high interest in social media impact on health-care information.