While most people think of aspirin as an over-the-counter drug, you may be surprised to learn that it was originally a botanical remedy.
And that’s just one of the reasons why I recommend this humble pain reliever for everything from preventing heart attacks to lowering your risk of cancer.
This drug dates back to the ancient Egyptians, who used extract from white willow tree bark (which contains salicin—a compound chemically similar to aspirin) in medicines to reduce pain, fever, and inflammation.
In 1899, Bayer® figured out how to create a chemical based on these compounds and named it Aspirin. (Eventually, Bayer® lost their right to the trademark, which is why we refer to it as generic aspirin today).
Like another botanical-remedy-turned-drug, metformin (which I discuss on page 6), aspirin has been around long enough to be studied for a number of medical conditions beyond its traditional use.
For instance, it’s been established for decades that regular consumption of aspirin reduces your risk of heart disease. It’s thought that aspirin helps “thin the blood,” meaning that it stops blood clots that can lead to heart attacks.
More recently, convincing evidence has accumulated that taking aspirin can prevent colon cancer. In fact, I covered this finding in a recent June 2017 Daily Dispatch (“Daily aspirin reduces cancer risk by up to 30 percent”). To read more, simply type the title into the top right search bar on
And now, a new study shows that regular aspirin use may lower your risk of liver cancer by more than 50 percent.1
Two aspirin each week keeps liver cancer away
Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston analyzed data from approximately 87,500 women in the Nurse’s Health Study, and about 46,000 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. These were the same studies that first discovered the aspirin-heart health link years ago.
The researchers tracked the study participants’ aspirin use for more than 26 years. During that time, 65 men and 43 women were diagnosed with liver cancer.
Overall, the study participants who regularly took at least two standard-dose aspirin per week had a whopping 49 percent lower risk of liver cancer.
Furthermore, the longer the participants took the aspirin, the more that percentage increased.
For instance, ingesting at least 1.5 standard-dose aspirin a week for five or more years was linked to a 59 percent lower risk of liver cancer.
The researchers think aspirin may help prevent the inflammation or liver scarring that can lead to cancer. And because liver cancer can take years to develop, taking aspirin for longer periods of time may help stave off this inflammation in the early stages of cancer, or even at pre-cancerous stages.
Why I like aspirin more than NSAIDs
The bottom line is, there’s nothing not to like about aspirin.
And yet, some doctors (who should really know better) continue to shy away from prescribing this ancient remedy because it may cause stomach irritation and bleeding in some people.
But these are the same short-term side effects caused by every other over-the-counter pain reliever, including NSAIDs, like ibuprofen. And NSAIDs can also increase your risk of cardiovascular disease—while aspirin reduces it.
Nevertheless, many doctors are enamored with more “modern”—but dangerous—pain relievers instead of good old time-tested standbys like aspirin. I suspect pharma companies sustain the chatter about aspirin side effects simply to encourage doctors to prescribe more of their newer, expensive drugs instead.
That said, some new drugs like ibuprofen are a real therapeutic advancement for people with the intractable pain of late-stage rheumatoid arthritis, and for women with menstrual pains. When I was in medical training, some people with arthritis were given 20 or more aspirin per day. Obviously, that’s not an optimal treatment regimen (although it does show that aspirin can be tolerated in very high doses).
But for most people, aspirin is an effective and relatively safe pain reliever. So if you want to fight pain, inflammation, or fever—and protect yourself against heart attacks and cancer—always keep a bottle of aspirin in your medicine cabinet.
Aspirin’s okay for the kids and grandkids, too
For decades, aspirin was considered perfectly safe and effective for children—even babies. Remember St. Joseph® Children’s Aspirin?
But in the 1960s, an extremely rare condition of the liver called Reye’s Syndrome was linked to aspirin use in children. Consequently, the CDC, the FDA, and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that aspirin not be given to reduce fever in anyone under age 19.
So, what did doctors do instead? They happily gave out Tylenol® (acetaminophen) to babies and children—including before, during, and after vaccinations—to stop a fever.
This practice is wrong on so many levels! First of all, vaccinations should never be given to children running a fever. And it’s also highly inappropriate to give Tylenol to anyone, at any time—especially children.
Even the government acknowledges that taking too much acetaminophen can damage the liver.2 In fact, pain relievers like Tylenol® are the leading cause of acute liver failure in the U.S. today. And the irony is that in order to prevent a very rare liver condition linked to aspirin, these doctors gave children with fevers a drug that actually promotes liver failure…
If your child or grandchild is running a mild fever—with a body temperature of 102 degrees or lower—there’s usually no need to do anything. In fact, there are benefits to letting a fever run its course. As I mention in my latest textbook, Fundamentals of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 6th edition, fever helps your body overcome infection, like a natural antibiotic.
So don’t panic if Junior’s temperature is slightly elevated. Kids can typically tolerate thermometer readings of up to 104 degrees. But anything higher means you should seek treatment immediately.
1“Association Between Aspirin Use and Risk of Hepatocellular Carcinoma.” JAMA Oncol, October 4, 2018.