Aspirin is on of the first drugs to ever be commonly used and is still one of the most widely used in the world. How widely used you ask? Approximately 35000 metric tonnes are produced and consumed every year. Chemically aspirin is known as acetylsalicylic acid with the chemical formula of C9H8O4. Aspirin is an analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, and is an inhibitor of platelet aggregation. The history of Aspirin Aspirin has been a major part of just about everyone’s lives. From the college kid who had too much fun the night before to the overstressed mother, aspirin is the first thing people turn to for headache and minor pain relief.
It’s surprising to find out how little we know about such a commonly used product. The following is research about Aspirin and its place in general Chemistry. The active ingredient in aspirin is called acetyl salicylic acid, which is a synthetic derivative of salicin, a natural compound found mainly in plants such as the willow tree. Looking back in history you can see that since approximately year 400bc aspirin, or its natural form salicin, has been depended on for pain relief. According to research and history the willow leaf was used as herbal medicine by the ancient Greeks during childbirth to ease labor pains.
There is also documentation of the first proper scientific study of the herbal remedy in year 1763. Dried willow bark was used by Reverend Edward Stone of Chipping Norton near Oxford on 50 parishioners suffering from rheumatic fever. He then recorded the benefits it had. It wasn’t until year 1823 that salicin was extracted from willow and formally named. Not much later, apparently in medical terms, salicylic acid was created for the fist time by French chemists in year 1853. The product had very limited usage though. Apparently it caused great irritation to the lining of the mouth and stomachs of the users.
Now the goal was to create a formula that could be widely used. Finally in year 1893 German chemists found that by adding an acetyl group to the salicylic acid it reduced the irritation found in earlier tests. Very soon after, major advancements are made that will catapult aspirin from its humble beginnings as willow bark to salicylic acid to our everyday usage of saving lives and providing relief. On October 10, 1897 a German chemist by the name of Felix Hoffman working under Bayer developed and patents a process for synthesizing acetyl salicylic acid. That is when acetyl salicylic acid is formally named Aspirin.
That is also when aspirin is for the first time put to clinical testing. The initial clinical testing of aspirin found it to be a potent treatment for pain, fever, and inflammation. From then on out aspirin has been one of the most widely used drugs ever created. In the 1930’s Bayer’s patent on acetyl salicylic acid ran out then making the drug generic and broadening its use even further. One very interesting fact is that with all the usage aspirin was getting we still didn’t know how or why aspirin actually worked. It wasn’t until the 1970s that how aspirin worked was discovered.
British chemist Professor John Vane discovered that aspirin blocks an enzyme needed for the production of the natural hormones called prostaglandins. Those hormones are involved in many processes of the body including pain and tissue injury. That discovery earned him the Nobel Prize for Medicine in year 1982 and the distinguished title or Sir John Vane. Since then there have been discoveries from all areas of medicine stating the benefits of aspirin. Some of the discoveries have been that aspirin helps with heart attacks, strokes, pregnancy complications, colon cancer, diabetes, and dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease).
Scientists are still testing aspirin for benefits; I can only imagine what else they’ll find. Aspirin and its uses Aspirin, or acetylsalicylic acid, is a commonly used medicine found in hospitals, clinics and medicine cabinets everywhere. Since a prescription is not needed, it is easy to come across. But just what is aspirin, and what is it used for? Many know that it relieves minor aches and pains, fever, and can “help save a life” during a heart attack, but few understand just how diverse the uses are.
The most common uses of aspirin are those listed above: aches and pains associated with different conditions, such as arthritis, as well as fever and can aid in a heart attack. Aspirin decreases aches, pain and fever by decreasing the effects of prostaglandins which are partly responsible for the inflammation of an injured area, and producing the heat in a fever. Aspirin helps to reduce platelet aggregation, or decrease the sticking together of the clotting factors in blood, called platelets. Contrary to common belief, aspirin does not break up a blood clot; it just helps to prevent them from forming or getting worse.
In addition, recent studies have shown that aspirin or aspirin therapy can help relieve or prevent a wide variety of conditions and complications, including cancers, pregnancy problems and even diseases like Alzheimer’s. Pregnancy problems such as pre-eclampsia and fetal growth retardation are two of the most common complications of pregnancies. They are both caused by blockages of the blood vessels of the placenta. In a study involving more than 9000 women in 16 countries showed that a daily dose of 60mg aspirin reduced the risk of pre-eclampsia by thirteen percent.
Several studies have shown that aspirin not only may reduce the risk of a stroke in patients with early warning signs of transient ischemic attacks (TIA’s) or reduce the severity of the stroke, but also may reduce the mortality rate of post stroke patients. Evidence is escalating that supports the idea of regular aspirin usage reducing the risk of many of today’s most common cancers. First indications of this were in colon cancer. In a long term study of 90,000 US nurses between 1976 and 1995 those who took 4-6 tablets of aspirin per week had a greatly reduced incidence of colorectal cancer compared with nurses who did not take aspirin.
The longer the nurses had been taking aspirin the greater the protection they gained. More recently, a study involving 14,000 women has shown that those who had reported using aspirin 3 or more times per week for at least 6 months were 30% less likely to develop lung cancer compared with women who had taken no aspirin. The risk reduction was even greater for non-small cell lung cancer. Also recently published is a study of the effect of aspirin usage in pancreatic cancer incidence in 28,000 post-menopausal women.
In those individuals who took aspirin 2-5 times per week, the risk of developing pancreatic cancer was 53% lower than in those women who had never taken aspirin. The more often the women took aspirin, the lower their risk of cancer. Other cancers that have shown to be slowed by aspirin therapy include breast, prostate, and adult leukemia. Women who took high doses of aspirin with hormone-sensitive breast tumors had the greatest benefit. Males taking aspirin showed a 10% decrease for the risk of prostate cancer, and 30% decrease in developing advanced prostate cancer.
A study involving women showed that aspirin users had a 50% decrease in adult leukemia. Blindness, coronary artery disease, stroke and kidney failure are common complications in those with diabetes because of poor circulation of blood to vital organs. The benefits of taking one aspirin a day are now widely accepted. Some form of dementia affects about one in four people aged 70 years or above. There is some evidence that aspirin may help prevent both the condition resulting from impaired blood flow and the most serious form of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease.
The latter is believed to be an inflammatory condition similar to arthritis. Aspirin has also shown to be beneficial in reducing Hodgkin’s disease, reducing the mortality rates after bypass surgery, preventing a first heart attack, and being helpful to most heart patients. Studies have also shown that aspirin is able to block some viruses, since they depend on the prostaglandins, which aspirin inhibits. While the benefits of aspirin seem great, there are some set backs. Since aspirin is still a chemical drug, some people may have an allergy to it, and it may be serious enough to cause anaphylactic shock.
Aspirin has also been shown to cause stomach ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding, and has caused convulsions and seizure activity. It may lead to bronchospasm, and can progress renal insufficiency or advanced stages of renal disease. Aspirin given to children with chicken pox or other viral infections may lead to Reye’s syndrome. If overdosed on, it may cause acid-base and electrolyte disturbances, dehydration and hyper or hypoglycemia. It may also lead to death. So take caution when taking aspirin, and always consult a physician if you have concerns. www. aspirin-foundation. com.