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History of Aspirin

  • Date Submitted: 03/31/2010 01:25 PM
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Aspirin or acetylsalicylic acid, is a derivative of salicylic acid that is a mild, nonnarcotic analgesic useful in the relief of headache and muscle and joint aches. The drug works by inhibiting the production of prostaglandins, body chemicals that are necessary for blood clotting and which also sensitize nerve endings to pain.

The father of modern medicine was Hippocrates, who lived sometime between 460 B.C and 377 B.C. Hippocrates was left historical records of pain relief treatments, including the use of powder made from the bark and leaves of the willow tree to help heal headaches, pains and fevers.

By 1829, scientists discovered that it was the compound called salicin in willow plants which gave you the pain relief.

According to "From A Miracle Drug" written by Sophie Jourdier for the Royal Society of Chemistry: "It was not long before the active ingredient in willow bark was isolated; in 1828, Johann Buchner, professor of pharmacy at the University of Munich, isolated a tiny amount of bitter tasting yellow, needle-like crystals, which he called salicin. Two Italians, Brugnatelli and Fontana, had in fact already obtained salicin in 1826, but in a highly impure form. By 1829, [French chemist] Henri Leroux had improved the extraction procedure to obtain about 30g from 1.5kg of bark. In 1838, Raffaele Piria [an Italian chemist] then working at the Sorbonne in Paris, split salicin into a sugar and an aromatic component (salicylaldehyde) and converted the latter, by hydrolysis and oxidation, to an acid of crystallised colourless needles, which he named salicylic acid."

Henri Leroux had extracted salicin, in crystalline form for the first time, and Raffaele Piria succeeded in obtaining the salicylic acid in its pure state.

The problem was that salicylic acid was tough on stomachs and a means of 'buffering' the compound was searched for. The first person to do so was a French chemist named Charles Frederic Gerhardt. In 1853, Gerhardt neutralized...

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