Artemisinin (Wormwood)

Artemisinin (Wormwood)

Artemisinin is an herb that has been used by the Chinese culture for thousands of years.  It has also gained acceptance for the clinical treatment of drug resistant falciparum malaria, and more recently, it has been found to be helpful for various forms of cancer.

The mechanism of action with this herb

Both cancer cells and the malaria parasite will sequester iron, often accumulating as much as 1000 times more iron than normal cells might store.  Artemisinin contains two oxygen atoms that are capable of breaking down in the presence of this high concentration of iron, thus creating highly reactive free radicals that are capable of killing the malaria parasites as well as the cancerous cells.

Studies with arteminsinin and cancer

For breast cancer- in order to test artemesinin on breast cancer cells, bioengineers Henry Lai and Narendra Singh of the University of Washington, Seattle, enriched segregated normal breast cells and radiation-resistant cancerous cells with holotransferrin, a compound normally found in the body that carries iron to the cells. Then the team dosed the cells with artemesinin. The pair reports in the 16 November issue of Life Sciences, almost all the cancer cells exposed to holotransferrin and artemesinin died within 16 hours. Lai hypothesized that, since breast cancer cells contains five to 15 more receptors than normal cells, it will absorb iron more readily and is therefore more susceptible to artemesinin’s attack.  Read more about this study.

For other cancers- Artemisinin is also undergoing additional research and testing for the treatment of various cancer cells, with some Chinese scientists demonstrating that artemisinin has significant anticancer effects against human hepatoma cells.  It has also been shown to reduce blood vessel formation and expression of vascular endothelial growth factor in some tissue cultures.   More recently, pharmacological evidence demonstrates that the artemisinin-derivative dihydroartemisinin has the ability to target human metastatic melanoma cells.

Artemesinin could be a consideration for people for whom conventional treatments have failed, or by those who wish to avoid the toxicity of conventional treatments.  With its unique ability to target cancer cells, Artemisinin may offer those suffering with cancer the possibility of using a natural reatment that is both inexpensive and readily available

Dr Len Saputo on the use of Artemisinin for cancer

Artemisinin Supplements:

Dosage:  dosing with Artemisinin can be tricky. This is because the intestines have the ability to build up a resistance to absorbing this herb after 3 only days of treatment. Therefore it is recommended to take the herb for a few days on, and then a few days off as this resistance is easily reversibleWith this in mind, an approximate dosage would be 2 – 200 mg tablets, taken 3 times per day for 3 days and then stopping treatment for 4 days. Continue with this on and off again cycle, or take as directed by your holistic health care provider.   This supplement should be taken 1/2 hour before a meal but it is best absorbed when taken with a small amount of natural fats such as 1 tsp of hemp oil, flax oil, or unrefined coconut oil. Those with a sensitive stomach may prefer to take their dosage with a small-sized meal that also includes some healthy fats. 

  • Taking iron at the same time as the Artemisinin will negate its effectiveness.
  • Some people have reported elevated liver enzymes with artemisinin but this appears to reverse upon stopping treatment. Monitoring this might be something to think about, as well as taking steps to detoxify the liver while taking artemisinin.
  • Artemisinin can be combine with sodium butyrate, high dose vitamin c therapy, resveratrol,  bio-available curcumin, garlic, vitamin d, and iodine therapy.

Additional Resources

Link to Studies available at

Article on Artemisinin and cancer

Nutricology Artemisinin, Vegicaps, 90-Count

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