Science Questions

Why do willow trees make an Aspirin precursor?

Sun, 6th Mar 2011

Listen Now    Download as mp3 from the show Aspirin's Anniversary


Luciano Medrano via Facebook asked:

I love Aspirin! I'd like to know about the raw material, wich willow is best provider ? And to what purpose does that tree make the precursor of aspirin?


We posed this question to Professor Peter Rothwell from the University of Oxford...

Peter -   That's a very good question.  It looks very much as though a lot of different plants synthesise salicylic acid. Itís very effective in warding off infections and treating particularly fungal infections in plants.  So it looks as though itís synthesised for that purpose.  And in fact, one of the downsides of modern food production is that we get a lot less salicylic acid from our diet because all of our food now is pristine with no infection.


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