Acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) can be prepared by the esterification of the phenolic hydroxyl group of salicylic acid. It is used in medicine as an analgesic, as an anti-inflammatory agent, and as an antipyretic compound. Acetylsalicylic acid is usually known by the name Aspirin, although that is a trademark of Bayer AG in North America; see Aspirin for medical information.
The medicinal properties of acetylsalicylate were observed in 1763 by a clergyman called Edmund Stone, who lived in Chipping Norton in England. Stone wrote to the president of the Royal Society describing his discovery that powdered willow bark helped treat the "agues", or fevers affecting people who lived near rivers. Willow trees commonly grew on river banks, and Stone argued that this was evidence of the doctrine of signatures, an unscientific but commonly accepted idea of the time that includes the notion that nature provides information about its remedies by virtue of where they are located. The name Salicylic acid is derived from the latin name for the Willow tree - Salix.
Stone's discovery helped drive the development of one of the most widely used drugs of today: aspirin.
it is present in our natural diet in fruit and vegetables, particularly if they have had to defend themselves against damage or disease
it isn't produced by our bodies
trace amounts, it has been suggested, are required for the maintenance of life
This last point is controversial because salicylate deficiency, unlike, say, Vitamin C deficiency, which causes scurvy, does not result in any particular known symptoms. A low salicylate intake seems to be related to longer term problems, resulting in higher risks of age-related chronic diseases.
Whereas most vitamins are an enzyme cofactors, promoting cellular biochemical reactions - Vitamin C boosts production of collagen - salicylate is not, but then nor is Vitamin E, which is an antioxidant, like salicylate.
Lack of salicylate appears to predispose humans to: