It is one of the oldest medicinal plants in Eastern Europe and is being researched for its effects against malaria and cancer – Sweet Wormwood (scientifically Artemisia annua). We will show you what this special medicinal plant is about and what role it plays in European and traditional Chinese medicine.
Artemisia annua – a brief overview
Sweet wormwood is a herbaceous plant from the sunflower family. In addition to completely bare stems, small, cup-shaped yellow flowers are formed on the panicles. Depending on the region, sweet wormwood reaches a height between half a meter and one and a half meters. The leaves of the medicinal plant are harvested, usually before the flowering period.
The plant grows in warm summer regions with a higher proportion of rain. This applies to large parts of China and northern India, in Europe sweet wormwood grows mainly in Romania and Bulgaria. It is also found in Austria, South Tyrol or along the German Elbe.
The main ingredients of sweet wormwood
The leading ingredient in sweet wormwood is artemisinin. Artemisinin has been the focus of research expeditions over the past few decades, with positive findings in areas such as malaria and cancer treatment. Several hundred ingredients can be found in the plant, and the most important in addition to artemisinin are:
- Beta sitosterol
- various essential oils
Many of these additional ingredients have been scientifically well researched and are associated with many different effects on the human body. Flavonoids are valued for their antioxidant effect, menthol and essential oils are attributed relaxing properties with their pleasant smell. The effect of artemisinin will be described below.
Different types of wormwood
Sweet wormwood should not be confused with ordinary wormwood which is known as kitchen spice. Traditional roast goose in the fall can rarely do without this spice. In fact, Artemisia vulgaris is also said to have calming effects, especially in terms of digestion and bloating. However, this species should not be confused with sweet wormwood, which has significantly higher healing properties due to the presence of artemisinin.
Use in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) – Nobel Prize in Medicine
Artemisia annua is an integral part of traditional Chinese medicine and has been used for healing for many centuries. The anti – malarial effect has been scientifically proven and the WHO has recognized the plant as a malaria drug since 2002. A revolutionary study on the successful treatment of malaria with the active ingredient artemisinin was published in the 1970s by a Chinese scientist Tu Youyou . Her discovery is in 2015. received the Nobel Prize in Medicine.
The effect of artemisinin in the body affected by malaria is unique. Artemisinin is used together with the Artemether derivative. If the active ingredients enter the bloodstream, due to the high proportion of iron in the blood in this disease, they break down into various free radicals. Free radicals attack malaria cells and kill them.
Use in European medicine
Since malaria does not actually exist in Europe, the scientific focus on our continent is in another area. Here, researchers have studied the effects of artemisinin and other ingredients on cancer over the past few years. In fact, there are a growing number of studies suggesting the beneficial effects of artemisinin and its derivatives in cancer therapy.
Here, the principle of action is similar to that used in the fight against malaria. Here, too, harmful cancer cells absorb free radicals, which, however, depend on the production of reactive iron. Currently, no scientist is able to make full-fledged medical statements, but it seems that support for conventional cancer therapy is reasonable. The advantage here is that the medicinal plant rarely causes side effects.
Artemisia annua in laboratory tests against COVID-19
The Mac Planck Institute in Potsdam is examining sweet wormwood for its antiviral effect Covid-19 .
Professor Peter H. Seeberger, director of the Mac Planck Institute for Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam, says: “Given the similarities between Covid-19 and Sars-CoV-2, plant extracts and artemisinin derivatives must be tested for the new Corona virus.”
A new clinical study should show whether plant extracts make corona flow mild. The study is scheduled to begin in Mexico in the fall of 2020. year under the direction of prof. Seebergera.
Sweet wormwood is a miraculous medicine that has not been given importance as a medicinal plant for a long time. This has changed over the last few decades, its effectiveness against malaria has been scientifically proven and it has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine. Sweet wormwood has proven to be a loyal companion of every herbal pharmacy in the fight against many other diseases.