There is one exciting development for malaria treatment on the horizon: a plant called qinghao, or wormwood, in the West, also known as Artemisia annua by the Chinese.

This herb, which has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years to treat a variety of ailments, has been recognized as an anti malarial drug in China since the early Seventies. The Chinese have demonstrated that it is more rapidly acting than any other antimalarial, with no evident toxicity (Lancet, 1993; 341: 603-8; Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg, 1994; 88 (Suppl I): S9-S11).In some parts of southeastern Asia (particularly the eastern and western borders of Thailand) where the failure rates of treatment with high dose mefloquine alone in falciparum malaria now exceed 40 per cent artesunate taken orally with mefloquine over three to five days still remains highly effective (Lancet, 1992; 339: 821-4; J Infect Dis, 1994; 171: 971-7).

According to two separate studies, artemisia was found to be as effective as quinine in preventing deaths from severe malaria (New Eng J of Med, July 11, 1996; 335 (2): 124-126).

These herbs also seem to be faster acting than other anti malarials and there appears to be no evident toxicity, although individual responses may vary, as with all herbs (Lancet, 1992; 339: 649-50).

Other natural possibilities are extracts of cinchona bark, the natural source of quinine, which have been used in south America for centuries to treat malaria type fevers (New Eng J Med, 1992; 327: 1519-21.

But if you can get hold of an experienced Chinese herbalist, it might be prudent to take this herb, which has a better track record than most of the drugs on the market. However, it’s not registered and therefore not generally available in many countries. Biocare produces it as a general anti parasitic (telephone: 0121-433 3727).

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Written by What Doctors Don't Tell You

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