Willowbark

Historical note This herb has been used as a therapeutic agent since ancient times, with some reports stating that it was used in ancient China around 500 bc as a treatment for pain and fever and around 400 bc by Hippocrates, who recommended the bark be chewed for relief of fever and pain. As centuries passed, herbalists continued to prescribe the bark for many conditions and by the 1 8th century, it was widely used as an antipyretic and analgesic. Sometime during the late 1 820s, French and German scientists extracted the glycosidic constituents, including salicin (Hedner & Everts 1 998). The oxidation of salicin yields salicylic acid, which was produced in the mid 1 800s but had limited clinical use due to the gastric irritation it caused. In 1 853 a French chemist neutralised salicylic acid to create acetyl salicylic acid, but had no interest in marketing it and abandoned his discovery. A Bayer chemist called Hoffmann rediscovered acetyl salicylic acid in 1 897 as a better tolerated treatment for his father's RA and within 2 years it was marketed by Bayer under the tradename of Aspirin (Setty&Sigal 2005). Since then it has become one of the most successful medicines in history. Although many believe aspirin was synthesised from the salicin found in willowbark, it was actually the salicin found in another herb, meadowsweet, from which aspirin was developed.

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