Around 400 BC, the Greek physician Hippocrates prescribed powder from the bark and leaves of the willow tree to relieve pain and fever.

Much later, at the end of the 19th Century, the German company Bayer used the active ingredient from willow plants to manufacture aspirin.

Apart from working as a painkiller, the "wonderdrug" inhibits blood clotting. Long-term, low-dose aspirin use, is therefore recommended by doctors to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Drugs usually have side-effects and aspirin is no exception the British Medical Journal recently voiced concern that even very low dosages of aspirin may cause an increased and serious risk of bleeding in the gut. Long-term blood loss may lead to iron deficiency anaemia, and aspirin also appears to reduce body levels of folic acid, vitamin C and zinc.

Over the past few decades, reports on the efficiency of vitamin E as a possible alternative to aspirin have been oddly low-key. Vitamins cannot be patented and lack the material pulling-power of synthetic drugs.

A recent study, by a team at Cambridge University, confirmed that vitamin E lowers the risk of heart attacks by 75 per cent but it barely made headlines. Is it any wonder, then, that medics are unfamiliar with its usage and continue to dole out aspirin, regardless of its side-effects?

Like other antioxidants, vitamin E protects against damage from free radicals caused by pollution, radiation, fried and burnt foods or sunlight.

Free radicals are responsible for damage to cells lining our arteries and trigger a build-up of fatty deposits which may eventually clog them up. The beauty of vitamin E is that it works with vitamin C to prevent irritation to our blood vessels and therefore reduces the formation of cholesterol plaque.

Also, vitamin E keeps the blood thin and further guards against heart attacks and strokes by decreasing platelet adhesion (platelets are tiny particles which clot blood in wounds). You can protect your heart and arteries by taking a good multi containing adequate B vitamins and antioxidants (A, C, E, selenium), eating green vegetables, fruit, wholegrains and oily fish (or omega-3 rich fish oil capsules).

Take moderate exercise, don't smoke and don't eat sugar, excess red meat or toxic fats found in heated oils and trans fats such as margarine.

If you are on anti-clotting medication, you must work with both your doctor and nutritionist to establish safe levels of vitamin E because it is so effective at thinning blood. Choose a formula containing mixed tocopherols such as Cardi-E from Nutri (Freephone 0800-212742).