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What herbs and spices 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.

The alkaloid berberine can be extracted from the roots of several herbs, notably Berberis aquifolium (Oregon grape), Hydrastis Canadensis (goldenseal) root, and Coptis chinensis (goldthread).

Berberine has protostatic and protocial activity against E. histolytica, G. lamblia and B. hominis.

Allium sativum (garlic) and Juglans nigra (black walnut) have a long history of use as antimicrobials.

Allicin, a component of garlic, inhibits growth of E. histolytica in culture and may be responsible for the antimicrobial activity of garlic.

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