(NaturalHealth365) As creepy as it is to think that we may be harboring unseen, unknown organisms in our gastrointestinal tracts, the truth is: intestinal parasites are fairly common.
In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 13 percent of the United States population may have been exposed to the Toxocara parasite at some point in their lives. But wormwood, a plant valued by natural healers for its ability to destroy parasites, may be able to help.
Despite its unappealing name, wormwood – botanically known as Artemisia absinthium – is a beneficial and therapeutic herb with powerful antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory qualities. Not only does it have potent effects against intestinal parasites – but emerging research supports its ability to ease IBS (and even fight cancer!)
Wormwood combats parasites and pathogens – naturally
For centuries, wormwood has been recommended by holistic healers as a remedy for intestinal parasites such as roundworms, flatworms and threadworms (“pinworms”). In fact, wormwood is still known in parts of Europe as the “May Cure,” as it was traditionally taken in springtime as a revitalizing cleanse.
Wormwood owes much of its antiparasitic power to its content of a lactone called artemisinin. It also contains carotenoids, quercetin, flavonoids and vitamin C.
Wormwood is believed to stimulate the activity of macrophages vital to immune system defense, and is particularly efficient at killing parasitic larva.
Experts say that this versatile herb is also effective against pathogens, including E. coli, Salmonella, Candida albicans and giardia.
Note: an advantage to using wormwood is that parasites and microbes don’t normally develop resistance to it– a valuable “plus” that sets it apart from pharmaceutical antibiotics.
When used to kill parasites, wormwood is often combined with black walnut and clove oil for maximum benefit.
‘Super’ discovery: Scientists use wormwood to target cancer cells
Researchers have learned that artemisinin (wormwood) becomes toxic in the presence of iron – and they hope to exploit this fact – in order to help defeat cancer cells.
It turns out that cancer cells are dependent on iron to facilitate cell division – to a much greater extent than normal cells. In fact, cancer cells possess 5 to 15 times more iron-collecting receptors to help corral the mineral and funnel it into cells.
In a groundbreaking study published in Anticancer Research, scientists first enriched radiation-resistant breast cancer cells with holotransferrin – which helps carry iron into cells – then treated them with artemisinin.
And the results were breathtaking.
Almost all the holotransferrin-exposed breast cancer cells died within 16 hours – while leaving normal cells mostly unharmed.
Although more study is needed, these encouraging preliminary results caused researchers to point out wormwood’s potential use as an inexpensive and effective cancer treatment.
Other research has been promising as well.
In a 2012 study published in Anticancer Drugs, researchers found that artemisinin inhibited the proliferation of breast cancer cells and helped to mediate cell cycle arrest. And, additional animal studies revealed that artemisinin could slow the growth of implanted tumors.
Wormwood improves Crohn’s disease symptoms – and helps patients go steroid-free
Research has shown that wormwood can reduce the inflammation associated with certain gastrointestinal conditions – including Crohn’s disease and small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
And, one double-blind German study published in Phytomedicine showed that wormwood can also decrease or eliminate the need for steroids.
Crohn’s disease patients who were already being treated with steroids were given an herbal blend containing wormwood at a dosage of 500 mg three times a day for ten weeks.
By the end of the second week, the participants were able to begin tapering off steroids and by week ten were steroid-free. An amazing 90 percent of the patients experienced decreases in symptoms – while 65 percent (well over half!) experienced complete remission of symptoms.
Steroid drugs feature a long list of side effects – including headache, dizziness, trouble sleeping, mood swings, heartburn, depression and fatigue. Other reported adverse effects include vision problems, irregular heartbeat, loss of contact with reality and seizures.
The fact that patients were able to decrease or eliminate their use of steroids is quite a remarkable finding. Not only were the vast majority of the patients able to stop taking the steroids – but the researchers found that they also experienced improvements in mood and quality of life.
How should I take wormwood?
Dried wormwood is available in tablets and capsules, and may also be brewed into a tea to stimulate digestion and reduce gas and bloating.
To make tea, use half a teaspoon to 1 teaspoon of dried wormwood in a cup of boiling water, and steep for five to fifteen minutes. Due to its frankly bitter taste, the tea is best sipped.
Wormwood is also available as an essential oil (but is only for external use, and should never be taken by mouth).
Note: Wormwood is the primary ingredient in absinthe, a potent alcoholic beverage previously banned in the United States and now regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. And, while wormwood contains a toxic chemical known as thujone, the dried form of wormwood used in herbal remedies does not contain enough of the chemical to be harmful.
Still, you should only use wormwood under the supervision of an experienced integrative doctor – and don’t exceed the dosages advised, or use it for longer than four weeks at a time.
Also, don’t give wormwood to children unless a qualified medical professional advises it. And, if you are allergic to ragweed or other members of the aster family, don’t use wormwood.
The takeaway? Wormwood, when used correctly, can be a potent ally against parasites, pathogens and intestinal inflammation – and even shows promise against cancer. Despite its unfortunate name, wormwood should be neither underestimated nor dismissed.
Sources for this article include:
Food & Nutrition
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