Artemisinin or Qinghaosu is the active principal of the Chinese medicinal herb Artemisia annua. It has been used as treatment of fevers in China for more than 1000 years. The antimalarial value of Artemisia annua was first documented in Zhou Hou Bei Ji Fang (Handbook of prescriptions for emergency treatments) written as early as 340 AD by Ge Hong of the Eastern Jin Dynasty. The active antimalarial constituent of this plant was isolated in 1971 and it was named artemisinin. The WHO accorded high priority to the development of fast acting artemisinin derivatives for the treatment of cerebral malaria as well as for the control of multi-drug resistant P. falciparum malaria.
Artemisinin is a rapid parasiticidal of the asexual stages; it is anti-gametocyte and blocks sporogony. It produces ultra-structural changes to the growing trophozoite parasite. A whorl is produced in the food vacuole and the parasite’s mitochondria proliferated. This reduces parasite's survival. Endoperoxide bridge is essential for its anti-malarial activity. The compound is activated by the intra-parasitic haem to irreversibly decompose, generating free radicals that alkylate and oxidises proteins and lipids. The membrane of the parasite is damaged by lipid peroxidation and channel proteins’ inactivation. Parasites clearance times are shorter than with chloroquine and also symtomatic response.
Artemisinin fights cancer aggressively. This report and others are causing much excitement in the naturopathic community. Artemisinin seems like the perfect approach for ACC patients, since no chemotherapy has yet produced consistent results. Close analysis reveals a few important details a patient should consider before investing in the promised Artemisinin cure. Artemisinin has a unique chemical structure that prevents cancer resistance. The active molecule in artemisinin reacts with free iron, releasing highly-reactive free radicals that destroy cells harboring free iron. (The iron in our red blood cells is not free iron. Rather, it is strongly bonded to resist the effects of Artemisinin.) Most cancer cells have high rates of iron intake, due to their greedy appetite for blood to support their rapid growth. Thus, if cancer developed resistance to Artemisinin, its blood supply would diminish resulting in tumor death.