Saturday, July 1, 2017

Indigenous Science: Willow bark as pain reliever

I once heard research about bears chewing on willow bark when they had been experiencing pain. The researcher was surprised to realize that willow bark was filled with ASA, an active ingredient in pain relievers. My Mom and Dad were not surprised as I was. Well, yeah, we know that. It was something that I didn't realize for quite some time. I later came across the handbook from Lakehead University called Aboriginal Innovations and showed it to my Mom. She was also not surprised, her Grandpa told her about willow bark ages ago.

Anyway, here is the description from that handbook for your edification. Learning is cool:

**The active ingredient in pain relievers such as aspirin was known to Aboriginal peoples for centuries, as well as Hippocrates in Greece, 5th Century B.C. This ingredient is found in species of the willow tree and was used to treat ailments among Aboriginal peoples.**

**The derivative that the Aboriginal peoples were extracting from willow bark was called salicin, the pharmacological relative of a family of drugs called salicylates or in scientific terms, acetylsalicylic acid. The phar- macological formula for aspirin was developed by German industrial chemist Felix Hoffman in the 19th century. A formula that was less acidic, and easier to tolerate internally, was syn- thesized acetylsalicylic acid or ASA. This drug reduced fever, relieved moderate pain, and at substantially higher doses, alleviated rheumatic and arthritic conditions. It is an analgesic that is effective both as a pain reliever and anti-inflammatory agent, relieves swelling associated with arthritis and minor injuries, and reduces fever.**

**Aspirin is the principal active ingredient in an excess of 50 over-the- counter drugs. Over 40 million pounds of aspirin are produced annually in the United States alone, which equates to about 300 tablets per year for every person. Americans consume approximately 80 billion aspirins per year.**

*Innovator(s): Aboriginal peoples across Canada and the Americas*
*Date of Innovation: Pre-European*
*Contact Origins: North America (Willow Trees)*
*Source: Imbris Inc.*
*Ken Flieger, Aspirin: A New Look at an Old Drug. Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada Mayo Health
Food and Drug Association of Ontario*

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