How does aspirin work in the body?

Updated July 19, 2017

Aspirin is the more popular term for a chemical called acetylsalicylic acid (ASA). The name "aspirin" was coined by Bayer Pharmaceutical, the first company to commercially produce the drug. Derived from the leaves and bark of willow and birch trees, aspirin is an extremely versatile drug. It serves as an analgesic (pain reliever), antipyretic (fever-reducer), anti-inflammatory and cardio-protector. There are many benefits to the usage of aspirin.

How Does Aspirin Relieve Pain and Inflammation?

Damaged and pain-causing cells produce large quantities of an enzyme called cylooxygenase-2. This enzyme in turn produces a chemical called prostaglandin, which sends a message to the brain signalling that a specific part of the body is in pain. The chemical also causes the injured area to release fluids, causing it to swell or become inflamed. ASA (Aspirin) adheres to the cylooxygenase-2 and prevents it from producing prostaglandin. As a result, some of the pain signals do not reach the brain and less pain is felt. Also, the inflammation is minimised due to the lack of prostaglandin production.

How Does Aspirin Act as a Cardio-Protector?

Aspirin helps prevent heart attacks by preventing the accumulation of blood platelet cells, which can cause blood clots. Platelets are tiny blood cells that occupy the bloodstream. When a bleeding wound occurs, the platelets join together to form a clot to stop the bleeding. Blood clots are useful in this respect, but can be dangerous and cause heart attacks in some cases. Aspirin helps reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes by inhibiting the production of thromboxane, a chemical that causes platelets to stick. The reduction in the production of this chemical reduces the chances of clot formation and artery blockage.

How Does Aspirin Reduce Fevers?

Aspirin impacts the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that regulates body temperature among many other functions. It interacts with the hypothalamus, causing it to reverse the temperature increase induced by the interleukins, which are signalling molecules produced by many of the body's cells.

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