12 Surprising Facts About Aspirin

Although ancient history is often dry and not very relevant, it’s interesting that aspirin, chemically known as acetylsalicylic acid or ASA–by far the world’s best known and most popular drug–has been around a long, long time. As far back as 400 BC, in fact, when Hippocrates prescribed willow leaves to reduce pain. Today, the acid from willow bark and willow leaves are still the active base ingredient in aspirin and, since 1899, it continues to be a boon to the pharmaceutical world.

Medical science (and patients) avoid exaggerated and misleading references to it as a “wonder drug,” but aspirin is credited with being helpful with many problems, from headaches, cramps, heart disease and cancer to arthritis, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, dandruff, morning sickness, skin rashes, sunburns and mosquito bites.

Here are 12 things you didn’t know about aspirin:

Aspirin Is Amazingly Widespread

The Guinness Book of World Records consistently shows that aspirin is overwhelmingly the world’s top-selling drug. To that end, around 100 billion aspirin tables are produced every year. After all these years, aspirin is so popular that approximately 3,500 scientific articles are written every year about it.

B Brown / Shutterstock.com
B Brown / Shutterstock.com

Aspirin May Be Ubiquitous, But It’s Not Completely Safe

Caution! Like most drugs, aspirin has side effects, and can be especially harmful when mixed with other products. Doctors warn that the chance of side effects increases when aspirin is taken in combination with other prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines, cough syrups and sleeping pills, vitamins, herbal and dietary supplements, alcohol and sometimes certain foods and beverages.

For instance, people who already use a prescribed medication to thin the blood should not use aspirin unless recommended by a doctor. There are also supplements that thin the blood and could interact with aspirin. Using aspirin with alcohol or with another product that also contains aspirin, such as self-prescribed cough and sinus drugs, can increase the chance of side effects as well.

Some medical conditions, such as pregnancy, uncontrolled high blood pressure, bleeding disorders, asthma, peptic (stomach) ulcers, liver and kidney disease, could make aspirin a bad choice.

Never take aspirin without food. Aspirin on an empty stomach may affect the inner lining of the stomach and cause stomach irritation, and risks of gastrointestinal problems like ulcers, stomach burning, pain and cramps, nausea and internal bleeding.

Photographee.eu / Shutterstock.com
Photographee.eu / Shutterstock.com

Aspirin Can Treat More Than 50 Disorders

Aspirin reduces the risk of heart disease and strokes. Daily or every-other-day aspirin therapy reduced the risk of coronary heart disease.

It reduces risks of blindness, stroke and kidney failure for diabetic patients, and may reduce the risk of some cancers. Findings of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) show that men at high risk for colon cancer taking two aspirins daily reduced their risk of colon cancer by 63 percent, and that women who took aspirin daily may reduce their risk of ovarian cancer by 20 percent and were 13 percent less likely to develop breast cancer.

Aspirin also has anti-blood clotting mechanisms, improves the blood flow to the brain and may lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Shane Maritch / Shutterstock.com
Shane Maritch / Shutterstock.com
1 of 4