Artemisia Herb Treats Dengue Fever and Malaria

artemnisia (wormwood) for dengue fever

Photo by Dr. Relling

By Case Adams, Naturopath

Research is increasingly showing that the herb sometimes called Wormwood (Artemisia annua) inhibits both malaria and dengue fever – two of the most lethal mosquito-borne infections around the world.

Malaria infects over 200 million people a year worldwide and kills somewhere around a million people a year.

Dengue fever infects between 50 and 350 million people a year and dengue outbreaks are increasing. It is estimated that about 25,000 people die from dengue fever. Some 100 countries have dengue outbreaks each year today, compared to single digits during the 1970s.

In the most recent study, botany researchers from the University of Delhi found that an extract derived from the leaf of the Artemisia annua plant kills the parasites associated with the malaria and dengue fever infections.

The researchers found this by applying the Artemisia extract against the parasite larvae derived from the mosquito species Anopheles stephensi-female (malaria) as well as larvae derived from Aedes aegypti (which transmits dengue fever).

The extract showed “strong larvicidal activity against both of these vectors,” according to the researchers. This means the Artemisia killed the parasites.

The researchers then separated the extract into fractions, and found that three fractions also had significant killing activity against both types of larvae. The researchers found that the active compound from these purified fractions were Artemisinin, Arteannuin B and Artemisinic acid.

This study confirms previous research that has found the Artemisia plant significantly treats malaria.

A 2011 study from the Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine conducted a clinical trial with 220 malaria patients that used three different Artemisia extract formulations – Artemisinin-piperaquine, dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine phosphate and artemether-lumefantrine.

They found that parasites were cleared from the patients for all three formulations in an average of 65 to 67 hours.

In another study, from Tanzania, researchers tested Artemisia tea with malaria patients. At seven days, the Artemisia tea resulted in a 70% cure rate. A 2004 German study found similar results – a 74% curate rate after seven days.

It should be noted that this 2004 study found Quinine had a 91% cure rate at seven days. The researchers suggested that Quinine would be the preferable medication.

But sometimes Quinine is not available, and some malaria species (five different protozoa species are responsible for malaria) are resistant to Quinine.

Quinine is a natural product as well. Quinine is derived from the bark of the Cinchona (Cinchona officinalis) tree. This has been used for many conditions for centuries in South America. Today the drug chloroquine is most used for malaria, though natural quinine is still also in use.

In addition, it should be mentioned that the clinical studies noted above utilized Artemisia tea rather than ingesting the whole herb plant.

Indeed, research has established that Artemisia’s active constituents are better assimilated by the digestive tract when the whole leaves or whole plant are eaten.

Researchers from Massachusetts’ Worcester Polytechnic Institute used a laboratory model that duplicated gastric digestion, and measured the digestive availability of Artemisia dried leaves. They found there was a significant digestive absorption opportunity for Artemisinin and associated flavonoids when the dried leaves were consumed in the model.

The researchers also tested powdered dried leaves either encapsulated or tableted, and found that the encapsulated versions only allowed for 50% of the availability of the Artemisinin. Testing of the tablets found these had similar availability as the dried leaves.

The researchers concluded that:

“This study provides evidence showing how both artemisinin and flavonoids are affected by digestion and dietary components for an orally consumed plant delivered therapeutic and that artemisinin delivered via dried leaves would likely be more bioavailable if provided as a tablet instead of a capsule.”

Artemisia grows in temperate climates, often in regions that have dengue fever outbreaks. The Wormwood name is also applied to other Artemisia species as well.

REFERENCES:
Sharma G, Kapoor H, Chopra M, Kumar K, Agrawal V. Strong larvicidal potential of Artemisia annua leaf extract against malaria (Anopheles stephensi Liston) and dengue (Aedes aegypti L.) vectors and bioassay-driven isolation of the marker compounds. Parasitol Res. 2014 Jan;113(1):197-209. doi: 10.1007/s00436-013-3644-4.

Weathers PJ, Arsenault PR, Covello PS, McMickle A, Teoh KH, Reed DW. Artemisinin production in Artemisia annua: studies in planta and results of a novel delivery method for treating malaria and other neglected diseases. Phytochem Rev. 2011 Jun;10(2):173-183.

Weathers PJ, Jordan NJ, Lasin P, Towler MJ. Simulated digestion of dried leaves of Artemisia annua consumed as a treatment (pACT) for malaria. J Ethnopharmacol. 2014 Feb 3;151(2):858-63. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2013.11.043.

Song J, Socheat D, Tan B, Seila S, Xu Y, Ou F, Sokunthea S, Sophorn L, Zhou C, Deng C, Wang Q, Li G. Randomized trials of artemisinin-piperaquine, dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine phosphate and artemether-lumefantrine for the treatment of multi-drug resistant falciparum malaria in Cambodia-Thailand border area. Malar J. 2011 Aug 10;10:231. doi: 10.1186/1475-2875-10-231.

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Blanke CH, Naisabha GB, Balema MB, Mbaruku GM, Heide L, Müller MS. Herba Artemisiae annuae tea preparation compared to sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine in the treatment of uncomplicated falciparum malaria in adults: a randomized double-blind clinical trial. Trop Doct. 2008 Apr;38(2):113-6. doi: 10.1258/td.2007.060184.

Wootton DG, Opara H, Biagini GA, Kanjala MK, Duparc S, Kirby PL, Woessner M, Neate C, Nyirenda M, Blencowe H, Dube-Mbeye Q, Kanyok T, Ward S, Molyneux M, Dunyo S, Winstanley PA. Open-label comparative clinical study of chlorproguanil-dapsone fixed dose combination (Lapdap) alone or with three different doses of artesunate for uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria. PLoS One. 2008 Mar 5;3(3):e1779. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0001779.

Mueller MS, Runyambo N, Wagner I, Borrmann S, Dietz K, Heide L. Randomized controlled trial of a traditional preparation of Artemisia annua L. (Annual Wormwood) in the treatment of malaria. Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg. 2004 May;98(5):318-21.

Räth K, Taxis K, Walz G, Gleiter CH, Li SM, Heide L. Pharmacokinetic study of artemisinin after oral intake of a traditional preparation of Artemisia annua L. (annual wormwood). Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2004 Feb;70(2):128-32.

Benakis A, Paris M, Loutan L, Plessas CT, Plessas ST. Pharmacokinetics of artemisinin and artesunate after oral administration in healthy volunteers. Am J Trop Med Hyg. 1997 Jan;56(1):17-23.

Case Adams is a California Naturopath with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies. “My journey into writing about alternative medicine began about 9:30 one evening after I finished with a patient at the clinic I practiced at over a decade ago. I had just spent the last two hours explaining how diet, sleep and other lifestyle choices create health problems and how changes in these, along with certain herbal medicines and other natural strategies can radically yet safely turn ones health around. As I drove home that night, I realized I needed to get this knowledge out to more people. So I began writing about health with a mission to reach those who desperately need this information. The strategies in my books and articles are backed by scientific evidence along with wisdom handed down through traditional medicines for thousands of years.”

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