Throughout history, willow bark was used as pain relieving medicine: from the time of the ancient Egyptians and the ancient Greeks, through to the 19th century, willow bark was used to treat inflammation, pain and fever. It was discovered that the magic of it was due to a single ingredient: Salicylic Acid.
When scientists and healthcare experts tried to isolate salicylic acid and treat patients with it, they noticed that it didn’t sit well with patients and was often an irritant. In 1853, a french chemist, Charles Gerhardt combined Salicylic Acid with another compound to
produce acetylsalicylic acid, today known as Aspirin. He figured there were more efficient compounds out there and dismissed his research. In 1899, it is said that Felix Hoffman “rediscovered” Gerhadt’s research and used it to treat his father’s rheumatism.
Though there is controversy over who should be accredited with the “invention” of aspirin, pharmaceutical giant Bayer claims that the rightful inventor is Felix Hoffman. Bayer’s first major product in 1899 was aspirin and went to register a worldwide trademark. The trademark was lost during World War I because the term “aspirin” became such an ubiquitous term.
Where does the word aspirin come from? Bayer named it! The “A” stands for Acetyl, “Spir” represents the part of the name of the plant which the acid is derived from and “In” was a typical suffix in the pharmaceutical industry at the time.
After keeping up with all that back and forth and pharmaceutical drama, I have a bit of a headache… Maybe an aspirin will help!
- Jenna Dhanani