Chinese healers have used the leaves of the artemisia plant as a medicinal tea for thousands of years. Lately, even mainstream medicine has crowned it as a highly effective treatment for malaria.
Now — even more exciting — the evidence confirms this powerful plant can heal cancer, too.
And because it’s an approved and recognized malaria treatment, this safe remedy should one day find its way into mainstream cancer treatment. I repeat, it “should,” but as you know, that’s unlikely if Big Pharma has anything to do with it.
Let’s take a close look at this herbal discovery…
Also known as sweet wormwood and annual mugwort, the Artemisia annua plant has developed a Western fan base as a potent malaria treatment.
This occurred mainly because the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) as the standard global malaria treatment. In fact, Wikipedia says artemisinin and its close relatives “possess the most rapid action of all current drugs” against the parasite that causes malaria. It’s nearly unheard of for a plant remedy to receive that kind of ringing endorsement from the gatekeepers of the medical establishment.
What is artemisinin?
Artemisinin is one of the extracts of the artemisia plant, along with artesunate and artemether. When manufacturers combine artemisinin with other drugs, it produces an effective and safe cure for uncomplicated cases of malaria. The WHO cautions against using it by itself because the malaria bug may develop resistance to it.
In the last few decades, scientific research proves we can add “cancer killer” to the list of artemisinin’s accolades.
As recently as 2020 a review of artemisinin research found that the compound has “cytotoxic effects against numerous cancer cell lines including colon, breast, leukemia, melanoma, central nervous system, ovarian, renal and prostate cancers.”
Here are just some of the results from the clinical studies in that review:
- Lung cancer patients lived longer: In a Phase II trial in advanced non-small cell lung cancer, some patients were treated with standard chemotherapy drugs while others were treated with standard chemotherapy drugs plus intravenous artesunate. Each treatment group consisted of 60 patients. The rate of disease control rate in the trial group (88.2 percent) was significantly higher than that of the control group (72.7 percent)
- Cervical cancer patients experienced less pain and less tumor growth: In a Phase I pilot study of advanced cervical cancer, ten patients with Stage III or IV cervical cancer were treated with dihydroartemisinin for 28 days. They experienced less pain and a reduction in tumor growth factors.
- Controlled spread of cancer: A phase I study of intravenous artesunate in patients with advanced solid tumor malignancies enrolled 19 patients who took progressively larger doses of artemisinin over the course of the study. The compound stopped the cancer from growing and spreading in more than a quarter of the patients (27 percent).
How does artemisia work?
Some folks call artemisia
a “cancer bomb!”
Regular readers of Cancer Defeated know that apoptosis is the process of programmed cell death that your body uses to rid itself of aging or damaged cells. Artemisia simply speeds up this natural process.
The plant contains two joined oxygen atoms that unhook when they’re near iron. Both cancer cells and malaria parasites use iron to grow, so they hoard it. In some cases, they store as much as 1000 times as much as normal cells. In so doing, they make themselves a target for artemisinin.
When artemisinin comes into contact with iron, it causes a chemical reaction that produces free radicals. These charged atoms attack cell membranes—and in the case of malaria cells, they destroy the parasite.
When people with cancer receive an artemisia compound, the free radicals “bomb” the cancer cells, causing them to wither and die!
Even the laboratory research is remarkable…
Artemisia successfully targets cancer cells
Chinese scientists invested a lot of time and money into researching medicinal plants in the 1960s. Their goal was to develop treatments that would free them from reliance on Western medicine.
Since then, Western researchers have picked up the torch and started conducting their own research on this amazing plant. The compounds it contains have been tested against several cancer lines. And so far, they’re proving to be champion cancer killers!
For example, two bioengineering researchers at the University of Washington have used artemisia extracts successfully to target breast cancer cells.
In an earlier story, I reported that research professors Henry Lai and Narendra Singh said the plant compound artemisinin is “highly toxic to the cancer cells, but has a marginal impact on normal breast cells.” In fact, their study results, reported in the 2001 issue of the journal Life Sciences, describe how the extract killed just about all exposed breast cancer cells within 16 hours.
And that’s not the only kind of cancer artemisia can beat down…
The September 2010 issue of the journal Phytomedicine reported that compounds derived from artemisia root sped up liver cancer apoptosis. The compound was also found to be toxic to ovarian and cervical cancers.
And a case study reported in the journal Archive of Oncology documented how a man with cancer of the larynx was successfully treated with artesunate, another extract of artemisia. After just two months of receiving artesunate injections and tablets, the man’s tumor shrank by about 70 percent!
Clearly the studies done so far indicate that it works! But you might be wondering…
Is artemisia SAFE to use?
In a word, yes. Unlike chemotherapy, which damages both cancer cells and normal cells, the various extracts of artemisia annua are non-toxic.
More than 4,000 case studies prove that this species of artemisia is one of Nature’s “smart bombs” that damages only cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed. This class of drugs has an excellent safety and tolerability profile, having been used to treat tens of millions of adults and children globally.
That being said, the website Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Cancer reports that prescription drugs derived from artemisinin are available for malaria treatment. No major side effects have been reported when these substances are used to treat malaria.
Higher doses are needed to treat cancer, and I’ve long hoped that U.S. doctors might legally be able to use prescription artemisinin off-label as a cancer treatment. But it appears this herbal “drug” is still only FDA-approved when used in combination with other drugs as a malaria treatment. That’s unfortunate, but not surprising thanks to Big Pharma’s corner on the cancer drug market.
You see, artemisinins are off patent and affordable at one dollar per dose. While this represents a boon for cancer patients who could be helped by these cancer-fighting compounds, it means a huge loss in profits for Big Pharma.
How to get artemisia
I’d suggest contacting an integrative or natural cancer doctor or clinic and ask if artemisia is part of their cancer protocol. You can also try a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner.
If you’re in the U.S. you likely won’t have access to pure artemisinin. The American Cancer Society website mentions that “thujone-free wormwood extract has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in foods and as a flavoring in alcoholic drinks” only.
However, the herbal extracts are available in capsules and liquid form to add to water. You can also use the whole herb to brew as a tea. I don’t know whether any of these options are good proxies for the artemisinin used in the clinical studies but they’re a start.
You can also find wormwood oil, washes, or poultices to apply to the skin.
- Ferreira, JS. 2004. Artemisia annua L: The hope against malaria and cancer. Medicinal and aromatic Plants: Production, Business and Application. Proceedings of the Jan 15-17/2004 Meeting. Mountain State University.
- Beckley, WV. Saputo, L. 2011. Artemesinin: A cancer smart bomb. NaturalNews. Available at http://www.naturalnews.com/033182_artemisinin_cancer.html
- Zhai DD, Supaibulwatana K, Zhong JJ. Inhibition of tumor cell proliferation and induction of apoptosis in human lung carcinoma 95-D cells by a new sesquiterpene from hairy root cultures of Artemisia annua. Phytomedicine 2010;17:856-861. Abstract available at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20362422