What’s orange, may be able to extend your life, and is probably already in the back of your medicine cabinet? Ibuprofen. A recent study found that regular small doses of the pill extended the lives of animal subjects by up to 15 percent. Not only did the animals live longer, but they also lived healthier, and scientists believe the same effect could be seen in humans.

In the study, scientists gave a number of species doses of ibuprofen that would be comparable to the recommended human dose. They first began their tests on baker’s yeast, but then moved on to worms and flies. Results showed that over time this extended the test subjects’ lives by 15 percent, which when translated into human life is about an extra dozen years of life.

"We are not sure why this works, but it's worth exploring further," explained Dr. Michael Polymenis, one of the collaborating researchers who had taken part on the study, in a press release.

Ibuprofen interferes with the ability of yeast cells to pick a universal amino acid called tryptophan. This molecule is essential for human life, and ibuprofen’s effect on it results in longer healthier lives.

While the findings are exciting, Polymenis explained to Medical Daily in an email that he did not recommend anyone take ibuprofen regularly without first consulting a physician.

“We just need more research to examine and understand these properties,” Polymenis said.

This study was the first to show that relatively safe drugs are capable of extending lifespans, and according to Polymenis, ibuprofen may not be the only drug with this unique capability.

“This study was a proof of principle to show that common, relatively safe drugs in humans can extend the lifespan of very diverse organisms. Therefore, it should be possible to find others like ibuprofen with even better ability to extend lifespan, with the aim of adding healthy years of life in people," Polymenis said.

Ibuprofen is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug. It was first created in England in the 1960s and is listed on the World Health Organization’s “list of essential medication.” The drug is used to reduce fever and treat pain or inflammation. It’s commonly used as a quick and easy treatment for minor ailments such as headaches, toothaches, back pain, arthritis, and menstrual cramps.

“Our institute is interested in finding out why people get sick when they get old. We think that by understanding those processes, we can intervene and find ways to extend human health span, keeping people healthier longer and slowing down aging. That's our ultimate goal," concluded Dr. Brian Kennedy, CEO of the Buck Institute, in the press release.

Source: Polymenis M, et al. PLOS Genetics. 2014.