The History of Aspirin
Aspirin is a trade name for acetylsalicylic
acid, a common analgesic. The earliest known uses of the drug can
be traced back to the Greek physician Hippocrates
in the fifth century B.C. He used powder extracted from the bark of
willows to treat pain and reduce fever.
Salicin, the parent
of the salicylate drug family, was successfully isolated in 1829 from willow
bark. Sodium salicylate, a predecessor to
aspirin, was developed along with salicylic acid in
1875 as a pain reliever.
was not often popular though, as it has a habit of irritating the stomach.
However, in 1897, a man named Felix Hoffman changed
the face of medicine forever. Hoffman was a German chemist working for
Bayer. He had been using the common pain reliever of the time, sodium
salicylate, to treat his father's arthritis.
The sodium salicylate caused his father the same
stomach trouble it caused other people, so Felix decided to try and concoct a
less acidic formula. His work led to the synthesization of acetylsalicylic
acid, or ASA. This soon became the
pain killer of choice for physicians around the globe.
Scientists never really understood the inner
workings of the drug however. It wasn't until the 1970's, when British
pharmacologist John Vane, Ph.D. began work on
aspirin that people began to understand how aspirin really works. Vane and
his colleagues found that aspirin inhibited the release of a hormone like
substance called prostaglandin. This chemical
regulates certain body functions, such as blood vessel elasticity and changing
the functions of blood platelets. Thus can aspirin affect blood clotting
and ease inflammation.