Back in 2015 we covered the potential of an herb that was first used to treat malaria and now is known to be effective against cancer…
Well, the research just keeps piling up on the benefits of this little plant. Continue reading to discover this herb’s powerful anti-cancer benefits…
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A little herb with big health benefits
Artemisia annua is also known as “Sweet Annie,” sweet wormwood, or annual mugwort. It is related to a popular garden plant that sports beautiful, silvery foliage.
The active compound in this herb is artemisinin, which has been federally approved for treating malaria since the 1970s. (For more on the basics of how artemisinin works in the body, click here.)
Research continues to reveal the anti-cancer benefits of artemisinin, especially in the treatment of leukemia and colon cancer.1
A study published in the July 2017 issue of the journal Anti-Cancer Drugs shows that artemisinin can also interfere with androgen receptor expression in prostate cancer cells, preventing them from binding the hormone to the cells and proliferating.2
The natural compounds in artemisinin work in a variety of ways to prevent cancer.
Research published in the journal Phytotherapy isolated polyphenols from artemisinin and found they were effective in preventing breast cancer cells from adhering to endothelial cells (those that line blood vessels).3
There are also two powerful derivatives of artemisinin that are useful in the fight against cancer: dihydroartemisinin (DHA) and artesunate (ART).
New research about the
cancer-fighting powers of DHA
Dihydroartemisinin (DHA) is the active metabolite—substance necessary for metabolism—of artemisinin found in malaria drugs. In addition to its anti-malarial action, DHA has been found effective against a number of cancers. . .
Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)
NSCLC is an aggressive type of lung cancer that can quickly metastasize. It has low long-term survival rates and, in many cases, a propensity to come back when you think it’s gone.
But a study published in the November 2016 issue of the journal Oncotarget found that DHA can inhibit the spread of NSCLC. The compound targets the cancer cells’ glucose metabolism so they can’t grow and thrive.4
“Despite improvements in surgical procedures and chemotherapy, pancreatic cancer remains one of the most aggressive and fatal human malignancies, with a low 5-year survival rate of only 8%,” according to another Oncotarget article, also published in 2016.5
Effective prevention and treatment strategies are needed if we’re to overcome this deadly disease… and DHA is promising.
The Oncotarget study found that DHA suppresses the spread of pancreatic cancer cells. It can also prevent angiogenesis, the creation of new blood vessels that cancer uses to spread to other parts of the body. The compound also promotes apoptosis (natural cell death) of pancreatic cancer cells.6
The researchers concluded that DHA may help to improve existing and future treatments for pancreatic cancer.
According the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, and second only to lung cancer in the number of deaths it causes in men.7
The good news is that research published in April 2017 shows DHA is effective at stopping prostate cancer cells both in vitro (cultured in a lab) and in vivo (in live subjects).
Researchers found this derivative of artemisia induced apoptosis and cell-cycle arrest in prostate cancer cells, making it a possible treatment that doesn’t damage healthy cells, unlike chemotherapy or radiation.8
Glioblastomas are highly malignant tumors found in the brain and spine. They’re formed in the glial, or supportive tissue, of the brain and central nervous system. It’s the same kind of brain cancer with which Senator John McCain was recently diagnosed.
Glioblastomas are difficult to treat because the tumors can contain many different kinds of cells, all of which may respond differently to various types of treatment. Some cells may respond well while others, not at all.
But new research shows that when DHA is combined with transferrin, a protein that binds with iron in the blood, it can stop the spread of glioblastoma cells.9
This effect may occur because cancer cells eat up all available iron in their vicinity so they can rapidly divide. Cancer cells can contain as much as 1,000 times more iron than regular cells.
Artemisinin and transferrin are chemically attracted to iron, so this combination can knock out iron-rich cancer cells without harming nearby healthy cells.
ART is a powerful cancer fighter
Artesunate (ART) is a semi-synthetic derivative of artemisinin that’s traditionally used to treat cases of severe malaria.
Breast and ovarian cancer
Breast cancer is the most common kind in women. Ovarian cancer affects fewer women but is still deadly. New research suggests that breast and ovarian cancer cells are susceptible to the power of ART.
An in vitro study found that ART inhibits the growth of these cancer cells, can prevent their spread, and depending on the cell type, can induce apoptosis.10
And because ART does not cause side effects when treating malaria or cancer cells in vitro, it’s a promising source of treatment.
Another study, this one published in February 2016, found that ART also decreased ovarian tumor growth in a mouse model. When ART was administered in higher doses it also triggered apoptosis in the cancer cells.11
How to get artemisinin
into your cancer-fighting arsenal
Artemisinin and its derivatives are powerful allies in the fight against cancer. But it must be concentrated to get the full effects. You can’t simply grow sweet wormwood in your backyard and drink tea from the leaves and expect to get these kinds of results. (And please be clear that the garden varieties grown in the U.S. are not the same species as Artemisia annua used in medicine.)
The best way to boost your artemisinin intake is with a supplement.
- Choose a quality product from a source you trust.
- Look for dihydroartemisinin or artesunate compounds specifically.
- It’s possible for your body to build up a resistance to artemisinin. Take it in a “pulse” regimen—e.g. four days on, three days off—to help increase efficacy and avoid resistance.
The body of evidence showing artemisinin’s anti-cancer benefits continues to grow ever larger. And with no adverse side effects, it looks to me like a reasonable choice to use in your treatment plan. As always, I think it best to seek these treatments with the help of an alternative or integrative doctor.
Our last issue covered another alternative cancer treatment that gets little attention from conventional medicine. If you missed it, it’s running again just below.