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June 1974

Aspirin: The Unique Drug

Author Affiliations

From the departments of medicine, Harvard Medical School and Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, Boston.

Arch Surg. 1974;108(6):765-769. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1974.01350300009004

Although drugs have been used by humans since earliest times, few people realize how important an effect they have had on the history of the human race. High on the list among drugs that have exerted a profound effect are the salicylates of which the most widely used product, aspirin, is the best known. It, as well as all the other salicylates, are direct descendants of willow bark used by Hippocrates 2,300 years ago for the relief of pain and fever. The active principle of this bark, known as salicin, occurs in many shrubs and trees, but most abundantly in the bark of the willow (Salix). Theophrastus, a student and friend of Aristotle who inherited his teacher's library and botanical garden, listed the willow and plants of the genus Spiraea and other members of the Rosaceae (or rose) family that had these properties. They were also listed by Diodes in

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