Posted to Subscribers on 3 September 2010

Once in a while, I dedicate an article to someone whose role in my life acts as an added incentive to research, write, or reach out. This post is dedicated to Grégoire Mutshail Mutomb Kangaji in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Dear Subscribers,

Almost back to normal now! Mercury is, of course, still retrograde and can I ever feel it! So, to honor the repeat and redo energy, let me clarify a couple of statements made about mosquitoes. There are, as mentioned, several thousand species of mosquitoes, 2700-3500 depending on which source is right. These species belong to three genera: Aedes which needs flood water for their eggs to hatch; Anopheles mosquitoes that breed in oxygenated water, fresh or sometimes salty; but relatively still; and Culex which breeds in stagnant water. There are 460 species of Anopheles mosquitoes, 100 of which transmit malaria, so while my numbers may have confused a few people, they were correct. I'm not an entomologist so my intention was not to write about insects so much as to raise awareness of the hazards posed by them. This includes about 700 million infections a year spread by mosquitoes, by female mosquitoes who need a meal of blood in order to produce eggs. Males live on nectar and plant juices.

The complexity of mosquito anatomy and secretions are also not my area of expertise nor purpose for writing but sometimes an anecdotal remark is startling enough to fire up some synapses and that, of course, is my purpose for writing. Otherwise, I could hibernate and enjoy the dilemma of which is more real, wakefulness or sleep. The truth is, I think we need to answer that question while the world we see with our physical eyes is still here.

Meanwhile, I want to continue the medical odyssey and dwell a bit on artemisia. I vividly remember the first time I looked up this word. At that time, I (vividly) recall reading that there were 178 species. Wikipedia now says 200-400 and some sources push that up to 500. This sounds like par for the course in this world of ever changing "facts" and constant shuffling of boundaries. In any event, several of these species are highly regarded medicinal plants, and one of them might possibly be the most in demand medicinal plant in the world, certainly it is the most sought after in Africa but it is in huge demand throughout the tropics now that artemisinin has come to replace quinine and its cousins.

Artemisia: The Words

Hardly a day goes by that someone doesn't write me about artemisinin or artemisia of one type or another. So, feet first in the deep end of the pool, here we go.

Artemisia gets its name from Artemis, goddess of the hunt and twin sister of Apollo. Obviously, she was drop dead gorgeous even if unswayed by men. If you are a Jean Shinoda Bolen follower, you know that Artemis was one of the three virgin goddesses, meaning she was strong, not defiled by lust, jealousy, or the complications of interactions between genders (my apologies to Ms. Bolen for the liberties I have taken with her work.)

Artemisinin is a compound isolated from the world's foremost antimalarial plant, Artemisia annua. For all intents and purposes, it is a drug; i.e., it is not an herbal supplement. It is made from the leaves of the plant but because of poor bioavailability, what is marketed is often semi-synthetic. Not being a pharmacist, I don't want to discuss the drug, just the various herbs that generate email questions. However, the easiest way to understand the present hoopla about artemisinin is to look at the history of quinine, considered to be the active constituent of cinchona bark, the South American plant used as a parasiticide, sometimes called Jesuit's bark. Quinine is only found in nature in cinchona bark but it is synthesized and like some wormwoods, it found its way into beverages like tonic water.

Artemisia Annua

A. annua is also known as Sweet Annie, Sweet Wormwood, Annual Wormwood, Oriental Wormwood, etc. Technically speaking, it should not be called wormwood, that is, not the noun alone, since wormwood generally refers to Artemisia absinthium. We could, however, call A. annua Chinese wormwood since the herb comes originally from China where it is known as Qing Hao. It first appeared in Chinese herbal literature in 168 B.C. and became known as effective against malaria with publication of a "Handbook of Prescriptions for Emergency Treatment" in 340 A.D. In 1967, the Chinese military began systematic research of traditional herbs used to combat malaria; out of the 200 anthelmintics studied, Qing hao was the only one regarded as effective, clearing parasites out of the body faster than imagined. This conclusion has been supported by Doctors for Life in South Africa as well as other researchers. It is not impossible at all to clear the infection in six days but this does not imply immunity since we are not talking about infections similar to those one only contracts once in a lifetime. With parasitic type infections, reinfection — or more correctly recrudescence — is more the rule than the exception.

To give you an idea of how important this plant is, people in Africa are growing it or begging for the seeds in order to grow it. I am trying to launch a campaign to have every family in Africa growing a plant within three years. It's easy to grow and easy to process as a whole herb. It prefers poor, dry soil, and is so resistant to disease that one might say it is disease-free. Moreover, contrary to pharmaceutical derivatives, some using GMO components, the herb is extremely well tolerated. It is soothing to the stomach, supports blood, and the taste is quite agreeable. It is grown from seed planted in the spring or by division of root stock in autumn. It is harvested before flowering and some sources believe it best to avoid excessive finger pressure on the leaves. I use very clean clippers and a basket to catch the snipped leaves.

Besides malaria, the Chinese use the herb for fever, chills, headaches, and nosebleeds. In Hubei Province, the leaves are marinated in rice wine and eaten as a salad. In most cases, this would probably not provide a pharmacologically sufficient dose so the next question ought to be how to reach a medicinally adequate dosage and which form of delivery best assures this.

Since this herb is very, very much in demand, rather a lot of studies have been done, using everything from very weak infusions, 9 grams of dried leaf to a liter of boiling water, to more traditional preparations using leaf juice to capsules, tablets, extracts in various menstruums, to the essential oil. Mild aquaeous infusions were 70-80% effective in African adults, but recrudescence was 35-40% by day 28. This is absolutely to be expected because exposure is often ongoing.

One of the problems of the research stems from the belief that artemisinin is the primary active constituent. The studies therefore focus on the amount of artemisinin and its bioavailability using different methods of delivery. Ironically — or perhaps not surprisingly — the pure plant juice was found to be more effective than artemisinin, 6-17 times more effective, in vitro. Findings such as this have a tendency to dry up research funds since artemisinin can be synthesized and probably patented using some novel GMO components whereas the whole plant puts the cure in everyone's backyard, exactly what is needed in rural areas of the tropics where the infection rates are the highest.

There is ostensibly a war on malaria with all the accompanying press about eradicating it by the year whatever, but the truth is, the will to achieve this goal is weak as is the will to accomplish this with a natural product that is easily grown and that requires no pharmaceutical processing. Footnotes to studies often suggest that testing the herb in combination with a drug would elicit more research funding, but why do this when all the smaller clinical studies are consistent? Moreover, they have been consistent for nearly two thousand years — and resistance to the herb has not been noted, even over 30-year observation periods, whereas the same cannot be said for pharmaceuticals.

Unfortunately, the problem is bigger than this because mosquitoes have captured the imagination of the military. It is very tempting to speculate that people who have an interest in military history might be fixated on the mission aborting potential of massive epidemics spread by mosquitoes. The revenge appears to be coming in the form of genetically manipulated mosquitoes that are intentionally released on unsuspecting populations with unwelcome consequences. It is for this reason that I am taking my time and yours to present this material. Obviously, it seems irrelevant to many people living in temperate or even cold climates, but as pointed out in the previous post on mosquitoes, malaria exists where it is not expected and many other conditions are also spread by mosquitoes. It should be clear to everyone who is tuned in that the hype around these mosquitoes will be that they are engineered to combat malaria or dengue fever whereas the truth may be more or less similar to the truth about GMO corn or soybeans.

Once in a while I feel like I am shouting at the wind. This year hardly any subscribers ordered citronella oil or the amulets or pendants for personal use outdoors. Everyone who works outdoors, picnics, hikes, or camps should be mosquito aware.

Screens and/or mosquito netting are important in many areas so insect repellents and barriers are the first line of defense but my personal experience is that for all intents and purposes, practically everyone has some level of parasitic infection so periodic dosing makes as much sense as brushing your teeth and flossing. While the researchers debate the active ingredients and best delivery methods, we can be proactive since whatever they report is apt to be what the pharmaceutical companies want published. Herbalists usually understand their herbs through a mixture of long study, clinical experience, and perhaps intuition. The preferred use in China is fresh plant material that is juiced, using old-fashioned methods such as pounding, not machines. Cold water infusions of A. annua are probably better than those made with boiling water. Extraction in alcohol or glycerin are also excellent and stretch the effective shelf life of the plant. All of these preparations have demonstrated results that are superior to artemisinin alone. In vivo mice experiments show a 50% reduction of parasitaemia after four days using the whole plant whereas the artemisinin alone was no better than the placebo. In my own work, I have seen dramatic results within hours using A. annua in combination with other herbs. To be absolutely honest, I never tried it by itself, but my lab makes it in both alcohol and glycerin extract form as well as in combination using the blends I formulated. Synergy is an important concept in herbal medicine and it is the only explanation offered for why the whole herb works better than the synthetic alkaloid.

A few years ago, Drs. Lai and Singh from the University of Washington showed that artemisinin also has anticancer properties. The explanation for this is open to quite a lot of speculation, but I know that the vast majority of caregivers for dogs said that the artemisinin and/or Artemisia annua gave more significant therapeutic results than anything they tried, their main regret being that they began treatment with these only after other treatments failed.

This subject is so important that I am going to continue, not with more on malaria and A. annua, but with more on antiparasitic herbs and tiny things that are sometimes fatal.

Many blessings,



Copyright by Ingrid Naiman 2010


Parasite Protocols for Children || Blood Parasites || Types of Parasites
Miniature Snakes || Fashions in Medicine || How Parasites Die || Spirochetes
Moss amd Mosquitoes || Mosquito Bites || Artemisia Annua || Wormwood || Bitter Taste





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Copyright by Ingrid Naiman 2010

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