By Hillary Thing & Daisha Sen
There are many powerful benefits found through the use of wormwood in modern herbal medicine. New benefits held within its constituents continue to be revealed. Scientifically known as Artemisia annua, sweet or annual wormwood is also called by the common English name of sweet annie. This towering beauty grows in the Community Medicine Garden here at the clinic. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it’s called qing hao.
Artemis, of Greek Mythology, known as the goddess of the hunt, nature and light bringer seems fitting to be associated with this plant that’s been utilized in Traditional Chinese Medicine for over sixteen hundred years. Its sun-kissed flowers brighten their surroundings, while their trichomes sequester artemisinin, which has been successful in therapeutically going after unwelcome bacteria, fungus, parasites, viral, and even some cancer cells.
A Long History with Humans
As mentioned above, Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners have been employing the medicinal properties of qing hao for over sixteen hundred years (1). While it was historically used to treat fevers, hemorrhoids, and excess summer heat, it was later proven to be an effective alternative treatment for malaria. Artemisinin is the main and most well-known anti-malarial constituent extracted from the leaves and flowers.
Used to treat fevers at least as far back as the fourth century, it wasn’t until the 523 Project, beginning in 1967 that the plant was researched in a lab. The top-secret research project’s directive was to find new treatment for malaria. Artemisinin was isolated and identified a few years later. The project was named 523, after the date of May twenty-third, on which the People’s Republic of China began it (2). This isolated compound is currently used in combination therapies with other treatments to eliminate malaria.
Research into an artemisinin derivative called artesunate, has found potential for its effectiveness in treating Babesia equi infections. It was found to inhibit the growth of infection through an in vitro study (3). Studies into artemisia annua and derivatives of artemisinin have found them to have potential in treating COVID-19 (4).
Studies and clinical trials have shown artemisinin to be effective in combination with chemotherapy in eliminating cancer cells. (4) It’s also been found to improve pain levels in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis as a complementary treatment. (5)
The terpenes (aromatic oils) in the leaves and flowers of this annual wormwood lend their sweet scent for use in essential oil production and aromatic wreaths. (6) The aromatic oils are also an excellent mosquito repellant, which is why this herb is an ingredient in our Welcome to the Woods Insect Repellant Spray or Lotion.
Habitat and Growing Cycle
This self-seeding annual can be found in gardens, woodlands, slopes, riverbanks, disturbed, and rocky areas. While it prefers sun, it can grow in varying soil conditions, anywhere from dry to rich and moist soil. The feathery seedlings, who can take up to a month to appear above ground in late spring, grow to around three feet wide and between four to six feet tall. The sweet wormwood in our garden often towers over seven feet tall!
Here in the Northeast, their tiny yellow flowers show-up in late Summer. The medicinal constituents are most potent when these sunny buds open up. (7) Seeds mature in early Autumn.
Here at the Clinic
According to Chinese medicine, Artemisia annua is bitter and acrid in flavor, and has a cold temperature. These qualities enable it to reduce fever from epidemics and sunstroke. Sweet wormwood is one of the top herbs for malaria in traditional herbal medicine worldwide, and it is used to help fight many types of protozoa (malaria, babesia), bacterial (Lyme), parasitic (worms and helminths), and viral infections.
Sweet Annie enters the Kidney, Liver and Gallbladder meridian systems and supports detoxification. This is a winning combination for treating the root causes of complex chronic illness. It has anti-toxin properties which makes it one of the best herbs for the treatment of auto-immune conditions, both for clearing the inflammation of a flare, and for treating the underlying toxin-infection matrix.
It is used for many types of fever conditions, sweating and temperature dysregulation; skin eruptions such as hives, rashes and petechiae; headaches, dizziness, eye conditions, and photophobia; and many more symptoms depending on the infection or auto-immune presentation.
It is a well tolerated herb and may be used in high doses when a strong effect is needed. It is safe for children, in pregnancy and sensitive people. However, occasionally an individual may be allergic to this herb.
When paired with Bupleurum root (chai hu), it helps to release infections that have become “stuck” inside the body and helps to bring infections to complete healing and resolution. This is a key strategy for preventing latency due to suppressive antibiotics, which may lead to unwanted recurrence of infection.
It is a leading herb in the following Bloom & Reveal formulas:
- Exterminator (for Lyme and tick-borne infection)
- Liberate (for Babesia infection)
- Para Dice (for Parasitic infection)
The Powerful Potential of Constituents
The isolation and study of the sesquiterpene, artemisinin eventually resulted in a Nobel Prize being awarded to the woman who led the 523 Project team, Tu Youyou. She was one of the researchers who tested their newly found treatment on themselves before testing it on patients (8).
Research into the treatment of parasites and cancers with a combination of artemisinin and flavonoids found in Artemesia annua, such as quercetin, have shown a lot of potential. Quercetin and other flavonoids extracted from the plant have been found to be effective against the malaria-causing parasite, Plasmodium falciparum. They were effective both synergistically and individually.
We will most likely continue to learn more about the constituents of this powerful herb’s uses and benefits.
1. Ancient Chinese Methods Are Remarkably Effective for the Preparation of Artemisinin-Rich Extracts of Qing Hao with Potent Antimalarial Activity. Colin W. Wright, Peter A. Linley, Reto Brun, Sergio Wittlin, Elisabeth Hsu. 2, s.l. : Molecules, 2010, Vol. 15.
2. From bark to weed: The history of artemisinin. Faurant, C. 3, s.l. : Parasite, 2011, Vol. 18. 10.1051/parasite/2011183215.
3. Artesunate, a potential drug for treatment of Babesia infection. Youn-Kyoung Goo, M. Alaa Terkawi, Honglin Jia, G. Oluga Aboge, Hideo Ooka, Bryce Nelson, Suk Kim, Fujiko Sunaga, Kazuhiko Namikawa, Ikuo Igarashi, Yoshifumi Nishikawa, Xuenan Xuan. 3, s.l. : Parasitology International, 2010, Vol. 59.
4. An overview of the anti-SARS-CoV-2 properties of Artemisia annua, its antiviral action, protein-associated mechanisms, and repurposing for COVID-19 treatment. Fuzimoto, Andrea D. 5, s.l. : Journal of Integrative Medicine, 2021, Vol. 19.
5. Artemisinin and Its Synthetic Derivatives as a Possible Therapy for Cancer. Enrique Konstat-Korzenny, Jorge Alberto Ascencio-Aragon, Sebastian Niezen-Lugo, Rosalino Vazquez-Lopez. s.l. : Medical Sciences – MDPI, 2018.
6. Effect of Artemisia annua extract on treating active rheumatoid arthritis: A randomized controlled trial. Min Yang, Min-yang Guo, Yong Luo, Ming-dong Yun, Jiao Yan, Tao Liu, Chang-hong Xiao. s.l. : Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine volume, 2017, Vol. 23. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11655-016-2650-7.
7. Jorge Ferreira, Jules Janick. New Crop FactSHEET – Annual Wormwood (Artemisia annua L.). Purdue University – College of Agriculture. [Online] 2009. https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/CropFactSheets/artemisia.pdf.
8. Reisen, Andrea. Artemisia – Herb of the Year 2014. Jacksonville : International Herb Association, 2014. 9781-4507-8836-690000.
9. Women who changed science. The Nobel Prize. [Online] 2015. https://www.nobelprize.org/womenwhochangedscience/stories/tu-youyou.