What Plant Does Aspirin Originate From?


Quick Answer

Salicylic acid, the natural form of aspirin, is found in willow and myrtle, according to ASPREE. The ancient Egyptians used willow bark and myrtle to reduce fever and pain, while the Greeks and Romans used willow leaf to cure inflammation.

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Full Answer

Aspirin is a substance called acetylsalicylic acid, and it is generally used to relieve pain, inflammation and fever, explains ASPREE. Mary Bellis says on About.com that aspirin is a derivative of salicylic acid and is a mild, non-narcotic analgesic used in relieving headaches, muscle pains and sore joints. It works by inhibiting the production of prostaglandins, which are body chemicals essential for blood clotting. Scientists first discovered in 1829 that a compound named salicin in willow plants relieved pain. Later on, the analgesic component of willow bark was isolated. Chemists continued to improve the extraction procedure and salicin was soon split into sugar and salicylaldehyde. Salicylic acid was created by Raffaele Piria by converting salicylaldehyde via hydrolysis and oxidation.

Charles Fredric Gerhardt was the first to prepare acetylsalicylic acid in 1853 by adding an acetyl chemical to natural salicylic acid, states ASPREE. As it was an unstable form, Felix Hoffmann independently created acetylsalicylic acid in a more chemically pure, stable and palatable form which was renamed aspirin afterward.

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