Currently, there are no effective treatments against COVID-19. Medications commonly used against malaria or Ebola, as well as antiviral drugs, are being considered for repurposing. Herbal treatments used in Traditional Chinese Medicine were explored to treat coronavirus infections during the SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV outbreaks. Initial studies in China showed the alcoholic extract of sweet wormwood (Artemisia annua) was the second most potent herbal medicine used on the 2005 SARS-CoV.
COVID-19 is caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2), a positive-sense single-stranded RNA virus that is contagious in humans. Like the SARS-related coronavirus strain implicated in the early 2000’s SARS outbreak, SARS-CoV-2 is a member of the same subgenus. SARS-CoV-2 is unique among known beta-coronaviruses in its incorporation of a polybasic cleavage site, a characteristic known to increase pathogenicity and transmissibility in other viruses. So there are similarities between those two viruses.
What is Artemisin Anua aka Sweet Wormwood?
Annie Price, 2020 had this to say: “Artemisia absinthium is an odorous, perennial that belongs to the Asteraceae or Compositae family, more commonly known as the daisy family. This artemisia plant releases an aromatic odor and has a spicy, bitter taste. Many species of the artemisia family tend to have medicinal properties. It’s related to Artemisia vulgaris, or mugwort, another medicinal herb. The wormwood plant is native to Europe and parts of Africa and Asia. Today, it also grows wild in the U.S., most commonly along roads or paths.
The common name is Sweet wormwood. Others are;
- sweet annie,
- sweet sagewort,
- annual mugwort
- annual wormwood, is a common type of wormwood native to temperate Asia but naturalized in parts of North America.
So Wormwood or artemisin anua can be used either fresh or dried. All the aerial portions (stem, leaves and flowers) of the plant have medicinal uses and wormwood tea is commonly consumed for a range of ailments. The essential oil is extracted from the leaves and flowering tops by steam distillation. One study conducted by A. Rezaeinodehi and S. Khangholi, 2018 to investigate the composition of essential oil of wormwood (Artemisia absinthium L.) growing wild in Iran found that it contains at least 28 components representing 93.3 percent of the oil.
The main components are β- pinene (23.8 percent) and β- thujone (18.6 percent). Thujone is the potentially poisonous chemical found in wormwood. Distilling the herb in alcohol increases the thujone concentration, which is what makes absinthe such a debatable liquor of choice.
Wormwood’s biologically active compounds include according to Annie Price, 2020:
- acetylenes (trans-dehydromatricaria ester, C13 and C14 trans-spiroketalenol ethers, and others)
- ascorbic acid (vitamin C)
- azulenes (chamazulene, dihydrochamazulenes, bisabolene, camphene, cadinene, sabinene, trans-sabinylacetate, phellandrene, pinene and others)
- flavonoids (quercitin 3-glucoside, quercitin 3-rhamnoglucoside, spinacetin 3-glucoside, spinacetin 3-rhamnoglucoside, and others)
- lignins (diayangambin and epiyangambin)
- phenolic acids (p-hydroxyphenylacetic, p-coumaric, chlorogenic, protocatechuic, vanillic, syringic and others)
- thujone and isothujone
- sesquiterpene lactones (absinthin, artabsin, anabsinthin, artemetin, artemisinin, arabsin, artabin, artabsinolides, artemolin, matricin, isoabsinthin and others)
Studies on health benefits:
Artemisinin is an extract isolated from the plant Artemisia annua, or sweet wormwood. Artemisinin is therefore an herbal drug currently the most powerful antimalarial on the market. No doubt about that and it is made from this herbal plant being by conventional practitioners and conventional pharmaceutical drugs. So you that, most powerful pharmaceutical drugs are derived from herbal plants. This drug decreases the number of parasites in the blood of patients with malaria.
This is what the WHO had to say: “Artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) are recommended by WHO as the first-and second-line treatment for uncomplicated P. falciparum malaria as well as for chloroquine-resistant P. vivax malaria. ACTs combine an artemisinin derivative1 with a partner drug. The role of the artemisinin compound is to reduce the number of parasites during the first 3 days of treatment (reduction of parasite biomass), while the role of the partner drug is to eliminate the remaining parasites (cure)”.
Recent experiments have shown that artemisinin is effective against the malaria parasite because it reacts with the high levels of iron in the parasite to produce free radicals. The free radicals then destroy the cell walls of the malaria parasite. There are hundreds of scientific studies that have been published on this plant and malaria treatment.
Some research suggests that it may show promise in future cancer treatments. Research indicates that the compound could inhibit the growth of tumors and metastasis. Recent studies asserted that artemisinin can battle iron-enriched breast cancer cells similar to the way it eliminates malaria-causing parasites, making it a potential natural cancer treatment option for women with breast cancer.
The premise is that Cancer cells can also be rich in iron since they commonly soak it up to facilitate cell division. So the researchers in a 2012 study tested samples of breast cancer cells and normal breast cells that had first been treated to maximise their iron content. The cells were then treated with a water-soluble form of artemisinin, an extract of wormwood.
The result demonstrated that, the normal cells showed little change, but within 16 hours, almost all of the cancer cells were dead and only a few normal cells were killed. Bioengineer Henry Lai believes that because a breast cancer cell contains five to 15 more receptors than normal, it absorbs iron more readily and hence is more susceptible to artemisinin’s attack.
A 2015 review conducted by AK Das looked at 127 investigations into the effects of antimalarials on cancer, also suggested that artemisinin could have anticancer properties. It similarly notes that there has not yet been enough research in humans to understand the true effects. In another 2012 conducted by Lai et al, the authors had this to say on artemisinin compounds “compounds are promising potent anticancer compounds that produce significantly less side effect than traditional chemotherapeutic agents”.
The authors reported that simple compounds of artemisinin are less potent and break down more quickly than traditional cancer treatments. This could mean that people who use this therapy in the future require high, frequent doses. Despite the lack of high-quality, large-scale research into the effects of artemisinin on cancer in humans, some scientists remain hopeful. According to MedicalNewsToday, A group of researchers looked at all of the research, conducted between 1983 and 2018, into the effects of artemisinin and its derivatives on cancer, and they reported the following:
- Several studies suggest that artemisinin and its synthetic forms can target cancer cells when combined with chemotherapy.
- Artemisinin may produce fewer side effects than traditional cancer treatments.
- Study sizes tended to be small, which means that their results are less reliable.
- Researchers need further studies to know how safe artemisinin is for humans and how artemisinin affects cancer cells.
- They also need further studies to determine how artemisinin interacts with cancer drugs. According to the researches published in “Life Science”, artemisinin, a “Sweet wormwood” or “Artemisia Annua” derivative, was used in Chinese medicine and it can kill 98% of lung cancer cells in less than 16 hours. The herb used by itself reduces lung cancer cells up to 28%, but in combination with iron, “Artemisia Annua” successfully and completely “erases” cancer, and in the experiment this herb had no impact on healthy lung cells.
Wormwood is used to eliminate intestinal worms, including pinworms, roundworms and tapeworms. Pinworms are the most common worm infection in the U.S. with pinworm eggs spread directly from person to person. Roundworms, or nematodes, are parasites that also infect human intestines, and tapeworms are long, flat worms that infect animal and human intestines.
A 2018 animal study by Beshay indicates that wormwood induced worm paralysis, death and ultrastructural alternations. This study was a trial to find an alternative to praziquantel by assessing the activity of the crude aqueous extract of the medicinal herb Artemisia absinthium against H. nana. In vitro, the extract was used against adult worms at concentrations of 1 and 5 mg/ml, in comparison with 1 mg/ml of PZQ. The times of worm paralysis and death were determined
Another study conducted this time in Sweden by Waller et al 2001 demonstrates that for the purpose of deworming farm animals, a combination of wormwood, mugwort, chicory and common tansy are believed to have anti-parasite properties.
Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) causes inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract, which can lead to abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss and malnutrition. It’s estimated that 1.4 million Americans suffer from Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis (collectively known as inflammatory bowel diseases or IBD). On this condition,
One significant study conducted by Omer et al 2007, this time in Germany, a double-blind one examined the effectiveness of an herbal blend containing wormwood at a dose of 500 milligrams three times per day versus a placebo over 10 weeks in 40 patients suffering from Crohn’s disease who were already on a steady daily dose of steroids. This initial stable dose of steroids was maintained until week 2, after that a defined tapering schedule was started so that by the beginning of week 10 all the patients were steroid-free.
The authors found that there was a steady improvement in Crohn’s disease symptoms in 18 patients (90 percent) who received wormwood in spite of the decrease of steroids. After eight weeks of treatment with wormwood, there was almost complete remission of symptoms in 13 (65 percent) patients in this group as compared to none in the placebo group. This remission lasted until the end of the observation period, which was 20 weeks (12 weeks later), and the addition of steroids was not necessary.
The results were truly remarkable and suggestive of wormwood being able to decrease or eliminate the need for steroids in Crohn’s disease patients. Furthermore, results indicate that wormwood has positive effects on mood and quality of life, which is not achieved by other standard Crohn’s disease medications.
Has Antimicrobial and Antifungal Abilities
Wormwood has both antimicrobial and antifungal properties. For instance, one in vitro studies conducted by Blagojević et al 2006 demonstrated that the essential oils of wormwood have antimicrobial activity. The study postulated that wormwood oil exhibits a broad spectrum of antimicrobial activity against several bacterial strains, including E. coli and salmonella.
In the US, annually, salmonella is estimated to cause 1 million food-borne illnesses alone, with 19,000 hospitalizations and 380 deaths. E. coli is another concerning type of bacteria that can cause a range of issues from diarrhea to urinary tract infections to pneumonia and other illnesses. Its ability is not limited to bacteria alone. Kordali et al 2005 study demonstrates that essential oil distilled from the aerial parts of Artemisia absinthium inhibited the growth of a very broad spectrum of tested fungi (11 to be exact). The wormwood essential oil also showed antioxidant properties during testing. A 2003 study by Juteau et alconcludes that A. absinthium oil inhibits the growth of Candida albicans, a most common type of yeast infection found in the mouth, intestinal tract and vagina, and it may affect skin and other mucous membranes.
SIBO is the acronym for “small intestinal bacterial overgrowth,” defined as excessive bacteria in the small intestine, or small bowel. While bacteria naturally occur throughout the digestive tract, in a healthy system, the small intestine has relatively low levels of bacteria; it’s supposed to be at highest concentrations in the colon. The small intestine is the longest section of the digestive tract. This is where the food intermingles with digestive juices, and the nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream. If SIBO is indicated, malabsorption of nutrients, particularly fat-soluble vitamins and iron, can quickly become a problem. When in proper balance, the bacteria in the colon helps digest foods and the body absorb essential nutrients
Conventional treatment of SIBO is limited to oral antibiotics with varying rates of effectiveness. A 2014 study conducted by Chedid et al had 104 patients who tested positive for newly diagnosed SIBO take either a high dose of rifaximin or an herbal therapy daily for four weeks.
The herbal products were specifically chosen because they contained antimicrobial herbs like wormwood, oregano oil, thyme and berberine extracts, which have been shown to provide broad-spectrum coverage against the types of bacteria most commonly involved in SIBO. Of the patients who received herbal therapy, 46 percent showed no evidence of SIBO on follow-up tests compared to 34 percent of rifaximin users. Adverse effects reported among those taking rifaximin included anaphylaxis, hives, diarrhea and C. difficile colitis, while only one case of diarrhea and no other side effects were reported in the herbal therapy group.
The study concluded that herbal therapies are at least as effective as rifaximin for eradication of SIBO. Additionally, the herbal therapy with wormwood appears to be just as effective as triple antibiotic therapy for individuals who don’t respond to rifaximin.
Wormwood Interesting Facts
Annie Price, 2020, article titled “Wormwood: The Parasite-Killing, Cancer-Fighting Super Herb” provided some interesting facts about the wormwood:
The name wormwood is derived from ancient use of the plant and its extracts as an intestinal anthelmintic, antiparasitic drug that expels parasitic worms and other internal parasites from the body. In ancient Egyptian times, it was a commonly used medicinal plant, specifically for anal pain, and as an additive to wine. Later on it was used in European folk medicine to induce labor. The plant, when steeped into a strong wormwood tea, has been used traditionally in Europe as well as a bitter stomach stabilizer to stave off indigestion and loss of appetite.
A favorite alcoholic beverage in 19th century France, absinthe was said to be addictive and associated with a collection of serious side effects known as absinthism or irreversible damage to the central nervous system. Absinthe was made popular by some very well-known writers and artists, such as Ernest Hemingway, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Édouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso and Oscar Wilde. The manic depressive painter Vincent van Gogh was addicted to absinthe, and some say his continual drinking of it led to many of his paintings having a green or yellowish tint (due to the thujuone’s hallucinatory effects) — and that the wormwood actually enhanced his epilepsy.
Absinthe is an anise-flavored spirit derived from several botanicals. Absinthe ingredients include the flowers and leaves of wormwood, anise and fennel. It’s illegal in the U.S. as well as many other countries. However, it’s not banned in some European Union countries as long as the thujone content is less than 35 milligrams per kilogram.
Thujone is the potentially poisonous chemical found in wormwood. Distilling wormwood in alcohol increases the thujone concentration. Thujone-free wormwood extract is currently used as a flavoring in alcoholic beverages like vermouth. Wormwood, or its derivative chemical components, have famously been mentioned in many a novel, play and in other art forms, from Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” to John Locke essays to “Romeo and Juliet.”
There are several Bible references to this herb as well. The word “wormwood” appears several times in the Old Testament, translated from the Hebrew term la’anah (which means “curse” in Arabic and Hebrew).
It’s also spoken of in the New Testament in the Book of Revelation: “The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water — the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.” (Rev 8:10–11)
- Wormwood herb is not meant for long-term use.
- Using wormwood for longer than four weeks or at higher than recommended doses may lead to nausea, vomiting, restlessness, insomnia, vertigo, tremors and seizures
- Wormwood products that contain thujone, like absinthe, can be unsafe when taken by mouth. Absinthe effects/thujone effects can include restlessness, difficulty sleeping, nightmares, seizures, dizziness, tremors, muscle breakdown, kidney failure, vomiting, stomach cramps, urine retention, thirst, numbness of arms and legs, paralysis, and death.
- It has to be avoided by pregnant or breast-feeding. There have been documented abortifacient and emmenagogue effects of wormwood.
- For those allergic to ragweed and other plants in the Asteraceae/Compositaefamily, then wormwood may cause an allergic reaction.
- For those with porphyria (a group of disorders that result from a buildup of natural chemicals that produce porphyrin in the body), then you should know that the thujone present in wormwood oil might increase the body’s production of chemicals called porphyrins, which could make your porphyria worse.
- For those with epilepsy or any other seizure disorder, the thujone in wormwood cause seizures, especially in people who have a tendency toward seizures.
- Wormwood is not recommended for people with kidney disorders. The oil might cause kidney failure. It should be avoided by kidney patients
- It’s not advised to even use the essential oil in aromatherapy since it contains an extremely high amount of thujone, which is a convulsant and neurotoxin.
- It should not be combine with any anticonvulsant, which is a medication used to prevent seizures. Since these medications and wormwood can both affect brain chemicals, this herb may decrease the effectiveness of anticonvulsants.
In conclusion and Recommendation
- The plant was one of the major herb used in 2005 by the Chinese in the management of
SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV outbreaks so we could draw some inference here for the novel covid-19. It is also antiviral agent as well, Romero et al 2006
- The effect of Artemisia plants on hypertension is well described in the scientific literature (Pierre Lutgen, 2019). Meaning that, it could also support patients with high blood pressure. Pierre Lutgen, 2019 had this to say: But we are lacking an understanding of the mechanism for the hypotensive effects as we still do for the antimalarial effects. It is a polytherapy and each attempt to isolate one molecule and to claim that the efficacy of the plant is due to this monotherapy has failed. This is for example in malaria infections the case for quinine and its derivative chloroquine or for artemisinin and its derivative artesunate. Even for artemisinin alone the mechanism of action has not been fully elucidated and five hypotheses are still in debate.
- A recent 2020 results by Munyangi et al registered for five cases in the province of Maniema, RDCongo document for the first time on a scientific and medical basis the antidiabetic effect of Artemisia herbal tea. This happened in the context of large scale clinical trials with Artemisia annua and Artemisia afra herbal tea, trials which successfully documented the efficacy of these plants against malaria and schistosomiasis, as well as other beneficial health effects.
- Interesting, in a 2015 study aim to investigate hypolipidemic and anti-inflammatory effects of Artemisia vulgaris extract in hypercholesterolemic rats concludes that Artemisia vulgaris extract has hypolipidemic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant properties; it may serve as a source for the prevention of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular diseases
- It’s used to eliminate intestinal worms, especially roundworms and pinworms, and it’s the source of the key ingredient for the herbal drug artemisinin, which is the most powerful antimalarial on the market.
- It’s also been shown to kill cancer cells and treat anorexia, insomnia, anemia, a lack of appetite, flatulence, stomach aches, jaundice and indigestion.
- Specifically, this herb has been proven to beat malaria, kill breast cancer cells, get rid of parasites, treat Crohn’s disease, contain antimicrobial and antifungal abilities, and treat SIBO.
- In 2005, Herbal treatments used in Traditional Chinese Medicine were explored to treat coronavirus infections during the SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV outbreaks. Initial studies in China showed the alcoholic extract of sweet wormwood (Artemisia annua) was the second most potent herbal medicine used on the 2005 SARS-CoV and this is the same plant the Madagascan have also employ in this novel coronavirus era being in the same family. Maybe, there could be a breakthrough here! My only issue with artesiminin anua from the scientific analysis had to with the numerous side effects.
- It is time for Africa to also raise little David high enough to also challenge Goliath as we wait for the clinical trial on the herbal product itself. But from the scientific analysis on the ingredient artemisinin anua; the plant has numerous health benefits.
>>>the author is an honorary Professor of Holistic Medicine-Vinnytsia State Pedagogical University, Ukraine and currently, LLB law Student. He is the formulator of FDA approved Nyarkotey Hibiscus Tea for Cardiovascular Support and wellness, Men’s Formula for Prostate Health and Women’s Formula for wellness. 0241083423/0541234556