Aspirin or acetylsalicylate acid is a compound that is widely used in medicine. The use of aspirin in medicine began long before the active reagent was removed from its natural source. The first documented use of aspirin was found in the writings of Hippocrates, the so called father of medicine. Hippocrates prescribed that willow bark could be used to remedy a wide range of conditions such as pain, fever and inflammation. Scientists began to seek to extract the active compound from willow tree bark.
The name of the compound that was first extracted was salicin. Scientist such as Henri Leroux continued to work on salicin, first converting it to a sugar (glucose) and an aromatic compound (salicyaldehyde) and then converting it to an acid (salicylic acid) by oxidation and hydrolysis. This acidic compound was found to be too harsh on the stomach so scientists such as Charles Frederic Gerhardt and Hoffman sought to find a way to buffer it. Finally, acetyl chloride was used to buffer the salicylic acid and that is how aspirin or acetylsalicylate was formed.
Aspirin is used for a wide range of maladies beginning at headaches and ranging from menstrual pains to use in preventing cancerous tumors. Aspirin is used antiplatelet. This means that it is used to stop platelets from congregating and forming blood clots. This helps to prevent heart attack and strokes. Aspirin is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). NSAIDs are medications with analgesic, antipyretic and in higher doses anti-inflammatory effects. An analgesic is a drug that produces temporary pain relief without inducing a stupor and has no drowsy-side effects.
Aspirin is said to be antipyretic because it can be used to reduce or to cure fevers and its anti-inflammatory properties allow it to be used to reduce swellings and other bruises (inflammations) in and outside of the body. Non-steroidal means they are not steroids, which often have similar effects. Aspirin is able to remedy these maladies because of the innate chemical properties that it has. First, aspirin is used to prevent heart attacks because of its anti-platelet properties. Aspirin is able to stop platelet formation because it can bond to cyclooxygenase I and prevents it from carrying out its function.
The function of cyclooxygenase I is to produce prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are the chemical agents that cause platelets to begin to stick together in order to form a blood clot. Blood clots cause strokes and heart attacks. Therefore, strokes and heart attacks can be prevented if the platelets are unable to form these clots. This is what aspirin does. By preventing the enzyme cyclooxygenase I from producing prostaglandins by bonding to it, aspirin stops prostaglandin production which in turn stops platelet formation which in turn stops a blood clot from forming which will in effect prevent a heart attack.
So we see that the intake of aspirin creates a chain reaction that ends in the prevention of a stroke or heart attack. Aspirin derives its pain-relieving properties from a very similar source. Pain is a chemical message that is sent to the brain through sensory neurons that sense, transmit and receive sensory signals called stimuli. When a part of the body is hurt the cells in that area begin to produce prostaglandins. Prostaglandins cause the nerve endings to transmit the signal of pain to the brain. Aspirin stops the brain from receiving the messages of pain from the damaged area by preventing the production of prostaglandins.
It does this once again by bonding to cyclooxygenase and preventing it from carrying out its regular function. Pain is good in that it notifies the brain when an area of the body is hurt. Sometimes however it happens unnecessarily for example during a woman’s menstrual period she will feel painful sensations in the abdomen commonly referred to as cramps. Administering aspirin will prevent prostaglandins from causing the message of pain to be sent to the brain. This allows for a healthy, happy woman- NO MORE CRAMPS. Aspirin is antipyretic and anti-inflammatory drug.
It is antipyretic because it is able to alleviate fevers. Prostaglandins are also responsible for the inflammation that takes place at the site of wound or rupture. They cause the damaged area to become coated in fluids from the blood in order to produce a cushioning effect and to help it to heal. Stopping the production of prostaglandins will cause the inflammation to cease. This is especially crucial in cases where the damage is internal. For example when a blood vessel near the heart is ruptured the prostaglandins will immediately begin to inundate the area with fluid from the blood.
This causes inflammation in the heart (cardiac muscles) and in the arteries. This kind of inflammation is extremely dangerous and could inadvertently lead to a heart attack if it is not stopped. Aspirin does this very quickly and without the use of steroids. Although aspirin has been dubbed the ‘miracle drug’, there are still several side effects that those who will consider taking aspirin should be aware of. People who have peptic ulcers, mild diabetes and gastritis should be careful when taking aspirin as these conditions increase the risk of induced stomach bleeding.
People with hemophilia or any other bleeding condition cannot take aspirin as it will worsen their already decrepit platelet count condition. Aspirin inhibits the ability of the kidney’s to excrete uric acid so people with conditions such as gout cannot take it. High doses of aspirin have been known to cause iron-deficiency anemia. It also causes a severe disease called Reye’s syndrome when given to children and adolescents. Reye’s syndrome is characterized by acute encephalopathy and fatty liver and though it is very rare it is a very severe disease that has caused millions of deaths.
Some personates manifest what looks like an allergic reaction to aspirin including hives and swelling. Important to note though is that this reaction is not caused by allergens but by the inability of the person’s body to metabolize aspirin. Aspirin has several other minor effects such as the swelling in skin tissues, small brain hemorrhages and prolonged bleeding after operations. Aspirin was first sold in a powered form by the company Bayer. Soon the economic value of aspirin became so important that they were forced to lift the copy right on it.
Aspirin has become a major economic drug. So much so that there are now new types of aspirins being synthesized, these include: fruit flavored aspirin; chewable aspirin and aspirins specifically for menstrual pains. Soon fillers were introduced into the aspirin. Fillers are usually derived from various starch sources such as corn, wheat, potatoes and tapioca. Fillers are inactive ingredients or excipients that are added to the drug in order to provide shape and bulk for tablets and capsules. This gives fillers a role of great economic important.
By adding fillers the company can increase the weight of the product while the amount of active ingredients remains the same. This means that they will be able to sell the aspirin at a higher price due to its increased weight only the amount of active ingredients remains the same and so a profit is made. Some fillers contain gluten and can cause terrible side effects. Ignorant persons with gluten-intolerant conditions often fall prey to fillers. Aspirin is an extremely beneficial medicine. Aspirin has now exploded into a multi-billion dollar industry because of all the uses that have been found for it.
Aspirin is able to relieve, cure or prevent a wide range of things. Whether it is a pain in the joint, or rheumatic fever or an inflamed artery aspirin is on the ready. Not only that but it comes in a variety of forms. If you like strawberries chances are that there will be strawberry flavored aspirin tablets for you. Not just any tablets however, tablets are no available in a chewable form! One should be careful though because aspirin can cause several side-effects such as uncontrollable bleeding and Reye’s syndrome. Remember to watch out for fillers and enjoy your aspirin!