Artemisinin is a medicinal herb that is widely used to treat Malaria. Recent studies have shown that this “miracle herb” has anti-cancer effects and can also boost the immune system!
What is Artemisinin?
Artemisinin is a plant-derived compound, isolated from the Artemisia annua, sweet wormwood a herb employed in Chinese herbal medicine.
This compound (along with its derivative drugs), is the World Health Organization’s recommended treatment against malaria caused by Plasmodium falciparum (R).
The drug has been so effective in treating the disease, that the discoverer Youyou Tu had received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (R).
A number of semi-synthetic derivatives were also prepared from this herb for use in malaria combat programs, best among them include Artemether, Artesunate and Artenimol (β-dihydro-artemisinin, DHA) (R).
- About 90% effective in treating P. falciparum malaria
- Exhibits Anti-cancer effects
- Shows some Antimicrobial properties
- Side effects might include nausea, dizziness.
- Not much research for effects against cancer.
1) Anti-Malarial and Antimicrobial Effects
Artemisinin is about 90% effective in curing uncomplicated malaria caused by Plasmodium falciparum (R). However, the widespread use of drug monotherapy has resulted in the development of resistance in malarial parasites.
When this drug is used in combination with other antimalarial drugs, P. falciparum is highly unlikely to become drug resistant, hence WHO has recommended the use of Artemisinin Combination Therapies (ACT) (R).
Several combination therapies have shown high efficacy against sexual and asexual stages of both chloroquine resistant and sensitive P. vivax (R).
Artemisinin extracts have antimicrobial activity against periodontopathic microbes like Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans, Fusobacterium nucleatum subsp. animalis, Fusobacterium nucleatum subsp. polymorphum, and Prevotella intermedia (R).
In one Randomized controlled trial Artesunate combined with NP (a chemotherapy regimen of vinorelbine and cisplatin) could elevate the short-term survival rate of patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) (R, R2).
Long-term treatment of two metastatic uveal melanoma patients with Artemisinin in combination with standard chemotherapy showed a significant improvement (R).
Artemether treatment was beneficial in improving the quality of life of a 75-year old male patient with pituitary macroadenoma (R).
Artemisinin and Resveratrol possessed a synergistic anti-tumor effect (R).
It induced antiproliferative and proapoptotic effects in HPV-39 infected human cervical cancer cells (R).
Artemisinin and its derivatives have shown positive immune and anti-inflammatory effects as well (R). In lab experiments, they could inhibit IL-1β, IL-6, and IL-8 production from synovial cells of Rheumatoid Arthritis patients (R).
Acetone extract showed the greatest inhibitory effect on lipopolysaccharide-induced nitric oxide (NO), prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) and proinflammatory cytokine (R).
It also suppresses TNF-α expression and T-helper 1 (Th)/Th17 responses in a colitis animal model (R).
At the same time, it could selectively enhance the T-cell function both in mice (R).
4) Autoimmune Diseases
- Activator of the Nrf2 (R).
- Increases regulatory T Cells and suppresses the pro-inflammatory Th17 cells (R).
- Reduces NF-kB activity (R).
An appropriate dose depends on several factors like age, health condition, etc…
Most supplements for everyday usage contain 100mg of artemisinin.
No adverse effects were a single dose of 500 mg of artemisinin, which is enough when it comes to antimalarial activity (R).
Possible Side Effects
Side effects are similar to the symptoms of malaria: nausea, vomiting, anorexia, and dizziness (R).
A rare but serious adverse effect is an allergic reaction (R).
Artemisinin treatment can cause the red blood cells to rupture particularly in those with predisposing factors for anemia (R).