Salicylic acid is got from plants like wintergreen leaves and white willow back. Health benefits of salicylic acid include bacteriostatic, keratolytic and fungicidal actions. It is chemically called orthohydroxybenzoic acid. Esters and salts of salicylic acid are called salicylates. Since it has many medicinal properties and it has been used for fever relief and to cure inflammations for centuries, some researchers suggest that salicylate is a vital nutrient in our diet and deserves to be awarded the status of a vitamin – ‘Vitamin S’.

Health Benefits of Salicylic acid

Since it is a keratolytic, salicylic acid or vitamin S is used mainly as medications for the skin and it is used to treat certain medical conditions.

Health benefits for reducing pain : Health benefits of salicylic acid for relieving pain are significant as it has the same active ingredients as aspirin – a popular NSAID. Very few foods contain high concentrations of salicylic acid. Even these foods – berries, almonds, oregano etc. – do not contain sufficient quantities to relieve pain. Hence, it has been suggested that people take plant extracts rich in salicylic acid as a good natural alternative for aspirin.

Benefits for blood thinning : Similar to aspirin are the benefits of salicylic acid as a blood thinner. Those who have cardiovascular problems can use salicylic acid to thin blood, therefore preventing internal building up of blood clots and blockage of arteries that are the leading causes of strokes and heart attacks. Regular intake of salicylic acid from food encourages healthy blood flow. However, those who have blood clotting problems must be cautious when consuming these foods.

Health benefits for colorectal cancer : Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, salicylic acid reduces the risk of developing colorectal cancer. Both people who regularly take small doses of aspirin and vegetarians also have low risk levels. This is because these groups have greater concentration of salicylic acid in the blood. Hence, it has been suggested that eating foods rich in salicylic acid can reduce the chances of contracting colorectal cancer.

Health benefits for acne : Health benefits of salicylic acid for treatment of acne are significant. It is found in many products recommended for the treatment, prevention and cure of acne. It helps to unclog pores, reduces swelling and redness. Most lotions, Salicylic acidcleansers and gels for acne are made using 0.5% – 2% salicylic acid. Gels must be applied on the acne using cotton pads or balls. Only thin layers of lotions must be applied. Facial cleansers can be used after soaking cotton in warm water. Skin irritation can persist for a few weeks until the body gets used to the medication. For severe forms of acne, higher concentrations of salicylic acid can be used as chemical peels. These remove the top layer of the skin. 

Benefits for common warts : Skin warts are ugly and annoying and products using salicylic acid have long been used to treat warts. These can be got as gels, plasters, drops or pads. Warts of all sizes – tiny to large, unsightly ones can be treated with salicylic acid. Since this is a keratolytic medication, it dissolves keratin (protein) that forms most of the inner part of the wart and the thick dead skin on top. 

Benefits for corns and calluses : Corns and calluses are thick dead skin that is found under the soles of the feet and palms. Since salicylic acid has keratolytic properties, it dissolves the corn and the thick dead layer that covers it. It is safe to use and gentle on the skin. Salicylic acid for treatment of corns and calluses is available as applicators, plasters, pads and drops. Since it softens the skin and turns it white, you can easily peel off or gently cut off the dead tissue. This reduces the pain caused by corns.

Benefits for dandruff : Dandruff causes skin on the scalp to dry and flake. Salicylic acid treats dandruff by softening the skin and preventing flaking. Dandruff shampoos often contain 1.8-2% salicylic acid. The benefits can be enjoyed only if the shampoo is rubbed on the scalp and allowed to soak for a few minutes before washing it thoroughly. It takes a few weeks for the results to be seen and the shampoo will need to be used for several weeks before signs of dandruff disappear.

Other benefits

  • Psoriasis
  • Antiseptic medications
  • Food preservative
  • Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, salicylic acid also benefits those with Alzheimer’s disease, type-2 diabetes, certain cancers and cardiovascular diseases.

Foods rich in salicylic acid

Health benefits of salicylic acid can be got mainly from fruits such as blackberries, blueberries, dates, raisins, cantaloupe, apricots, dates, fresh avocado, granny smith apples, tangelos, mandarin oranges and grapes all which contain high levels of salicylic acid. Other sources include vegetables like mushrooms, green peppers, broccoli and spinach, nuts like almonds, pine nuts, macadamia nuts and peanuts, and certain herbs and spices like turmeric, cumin, curry powder, curcumin etc. 

Salicylic Acid : Precautions

Those with diabetes, poor circulation or frail skin must not use salicylic acid preparations for warts, calluses, corns etc., for it can cause ulceration of the skin. Those with such health problems must consult a medical practitioner before using these products.

When you use it for the skin, make sure you do not use salicylic acid products on birthmarks, genital or anal warts, warts that have hair growing or on moles. Ensure these medications do not encounter the nose, eyes, groin, broken skin or mouth. Those who are allergic to NSAID’s – non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs – like aspirin must inform their doctor before using salicylic acid or they could develop similar allergies. Others who have peripheral vascular disease, skin infections or diabetes, the elderly and pregnant or lactating women must also use salicylic acid after consulting their doctor.

Summary

The health benefits of salicylic acid can be seen for those with inflammatory conditions of the body and skin. Various skin conditions benefit greatly from using salicylic acid creams and lotions. We can also eat the various foods rich in salicylic acid and enjoy its benefits. Salicylic acid can truly be called ‘Vitamin S’.