Bayer didn’t “invent” aspirin. Mother Nature did, sorta.
Today, most people think of aspirin as a harmless wonder drug – able to stop pain, fever and even prevent heart attack and stroke, without risk.
Not true. History proves it…
Thousands of years ago, humans witnessed injured bears (not the Chicago Bears) gnawing on the bark of white willow trees. Some dude – probably an earlier rendition of The People’s Chemist – assumed that it was done to relieve pain.
After a long night of drinking away his frustrations with people who talk more than they think, he decided to test his theory. Hungover, the young chemist made a tea from the bark. It tasted like shit. But, almost instantly, his discomfort melted away.
Despite his gluttonous indulgence, the crushing pressure on his head was released. It was like cheating and winning. White willow bark became the official pain reliever not only for bears, but also for many other party-goers astute enough to follow his lead…
Hippocrates Shuns Food
Greek physician Hippocrates heard about white willow bark…This is same guy that nerdy nutritionists today quote as saying, “let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.”
Well, thank God he started taking tips from chemists. Drugs are more fun than food and far more interesting. Eventually, the doctor put the real medicine to use, and it worked – drugs like white willow bark are much more reliable than a fucking apple when you need relief. It’s rumored that Hippocrates later said, “Chemists are awesome tutors and fun to party with.”
As time past, Big Pharma got excited about the pain killer. This laid the groundwork for the eventual isolation and synthesis of a molecule known as salicylic acid – one of many ingredients found in white willow bark.
To their distress, the industry couldn’t market the natural ingredient as their own. (You can’t patent Mother Nature, yet.) In order to have a monopoly, they had to alter it a bit. Chemist Carl R. Gerhardt was the first to do so in 1853.
Bayer Steals From Mother Nature
Starting with the parent compound, Gerhardt performed a series of laboratory reactions. This yielded a molecular cousin. The newly devised willow bark-fake was named ASA (acetyl-salicylic acid). It marked one of the earliest and most profitable thefts from Mother Nature. Bayer trademarked it as “Aspirin” in 1889. Some say the name was derived from St. Aspirinius, a Neapolitan bishop who was the patron saint against headaches.
As aspirin popularity grew, the inherent risks surfaced. (So much for being a saint…) The small molecular change made for big dangers.
Why Aspirin is so Damn Risky
Like deflating a tire, aspirin depletes the body of life-saving nutrients. These include folic acid, iron, potassium, sodium and vitamin C. Symptoms associated with such depletion include: anemia, birth defects, heart disease, elevated homocysteine (a risk factor for heart disease), headache, depression, fatigue, hair loss, insomnia, diarrhea, shortness of breath, pale skin and suppression of the immune system.
Internal bleeding is one of the biggest risks. Studies show that aspirin users die sooner compared to those not taking it.
Body Count Increasing Among Aspirin Users
Each year, a grossly underestimated 7600 deaths and 76,000 hospitalizations occur in the United States from use of aspirin and other NSAIDS like Motrin, Aleve, and Celebrex. But, the FDA states that only about 10% of deaths caused by NSAIDS are reported.
Doctors aren’t willing to acknowledge aspirin as the deadly culprit. Death by the drug is usually attributed to the victim being either too damn sick or too damn old. Therefore, the body count is much higher than we are told.
In 1986, Dr. Otis R. Bowen, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, issued a warning reminding parents that children and teen-agers with flu symptoms “should not be given aspirin.” Using it for the flu or Chicken Pox, aspirin puts users at risk for Reyes Syndrome, a disorder that causes organs to shut down, and large amounts of bloody, watery liquid to accumulate in the lungs.
In 2009, historian and researcher Dr. Karen Starko showed that mortality rates were increased during the 1918 flu epidemic due to aspirin use! At the time, massive amounts of the drug were purchased by the military and given to soldiers. The “always pharmaceutically compliant” Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) suggested a dose of 1,000 milligrams every three hours. That’s the equivalent of almost 25 standard 325-milligram aspirin tablets in 24 hours – twice the daily dosage generally considered safe today! Minus the overdose, it’s predicted that death rates wouldn’t have been so tragically high.
Identifying Aspirin Actions Gets Nobel Prize
It was pharmacologist John Vane who discovered the good and bad actions of aspirin. On one hand, he found that it blocks the production of an enzyme known as COX (cycloxygenase). Downstream, this prevents inflammation, swelling, pain and fever. But, he elucidated a risky trade off.
Aspirin also stifles the formation of healing compounds. Crucial for physiological support, they protect the stomach from damage by hydrochloric acid, maintain kidney function and stop internal bleeding. Vane won the Nobel Prize for his work.
Bayer wasn’t concerned about the findings…Or they ignored Nobel Prize winning science.
Expanding their market reach, they pushed “baby” aspirin to protect against heart attack and stroke. But, the “little bit” is still harmful. Writing for The New York Times, Dr. Neena S. Abraham said, “If your physician has suggested you take aspirin to reduce your risk of heart disease, it is important to remember that even small doses of daily aspirin — including “baby aspirin,” at a dose of 81 milligrams daily — can increase your risk of ulcers and bleeding.”
…buffered or enteric-coated aspirin won’t protect you.
Judith P. Kelly of the Slone Epidemiology Unit at the Boston University School of Medicine warned that “all forms of aspirin carry risk.” Protective covering or not, it still paralyzes the production of physiologically-important compounds in our body.
White willow bark doesn’t contain ASA or “aspirin.” Therefore, it won’t accidentally kill you.
By: Shane Ellison, MS