The Ancient Botanical History Behind Common Aspirin

In a healing Ted-Ed Lesson written by Krishna Sudha and animated by Gerta Xhelo, narrator Addison Anderson talks about the fascinating history of aspirin. Anderson explains that the substance was originally discovered by the ancient Sumerians, who scraped the bark off a willow tree in order to ingest the healing substance within.

4000 years ago, the ancient Sumerians made a surprising discovery: if they scraped the bark off a particular kind of tree and ate it, their pain disappeared. Little did they know that what they’d found was destined to influence the future course of medicine. Krishna Sudhir traces the history of aspirin.

History of Aspirin

Since that time, this very substance has undergone significant improvements and international cooperation, utilizing such botanicals as willow bark and meadowsweet to further scientific research. It wasn’t until Bayer Pharmaceuticals coined the term in 1897 that the medication became known officially as aspirin.

Originally, aspirin was just Bayer’s brand name. A for Acetyl and spir for meadowsweet, whose botanical name is Spirea Ulmaria. Soon aspirin became synonymous with acetylsalicitic acid.

Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails.