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How does artemisia annua help treat parasitic infections?

Leopold D. Galland, MD
Internal Medicine
Among the herbs and spices that help treat parasitic infections, the most extensively studied is Artemisia annua (sweet Annie or qinghao), a plant that yields the lactone artemisinin (qinghaosu) which is the basis for a class of anti-malarial compounds widely used in Asia and Africa.

Artemisinin is thought to owe its anti-protozoan effects to its content of endoperoxides and to kill parasites through oxidation. Its activity, as examined in the treatment of malaria in monkeys, is enhanced by co-administration of cod liver oil, a fish oil rich in omega-3s and diminished by co-administration of vitamin E.

In addition to its antibiotic activity, artemisinin stimulates macrophages, an important component of the immune response to protozoan infestation.

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