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What Are the Medical Uses of Artemisia Annua?

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  • Written By: Britt Archer
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 15 March 2014
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The purported medical uses of artemisia annua include treatment for malaria, infections, fever, inflammation, bleeding, headaches and cancer, particularly some lung and thyroid cancers. The ingredient in artemisia annua that helps treat malaria is artemisinin, and it works as well as the traditional treatment of quinine in many cases, but it remains unproven if it also works on quinine-resistant malaria cases. Some studies of artemisinin show that the herb holds promise as a treatment for certain infections, including African sleeping sickness.

Artemisia annua is also known by the names absinthium, annual wormwood, sweet wormwood, Sweet Annie and Qing Hao. Chinese medicine has long made use of this herb in the treatment of malaria, inflammation and fevers. In cases of malaria treatment, however, the likelihood of recurrence increased more than if the traditional quinine treatment had been employed. A modern day study has shown that artemisia annua can be helpful for patients who suffer from persistent bladder infections.

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In Chinese medicine, different parts of the plant are used for different medicinal purposes. The seeds are given as a remedy for indigestion and excess gas. The leaves are used to make a poultice or dressing to treat nosebleeds and abscesses. The leaves are also used outside of the medical field to provide flavor to vermouth, and their oil has been used to give a pleasant aroma to some perfumes. The plant also has been used in the winemaking process in China, and crafters around the world enjoy the plant for its pleasant aroma, including sprigs in wreaths, bouquets and other homemade decorative items.

Artemisia annua is not recommended for people who take anti-seizure drugs because the herb can cause seizures. People with gastrointestinal problems or ulcers also should avoid the herb because it creates excess acid in the stomach. Side effects of this herb can include dermatitis, a loss of appetite, stomach pain, nausea and diarrhea. The plant’s pollen has been known to cause allergic reactions, which can include headaches. Patients who want to add artemisia annua to their healthcare regimen should consult their physician because of the associated risks and the herb’s allergic properties. Diabetics and pregnant women also should exercise caution and consult their physicians before using this herb.

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