What Is Artemisia Annua ?
Artemisia annua is not something many people have heard of, but it’s used as a well-established anti-malarial and is now making big waves in the field of potential cancer treatments.
Artemisia annua is known by several names that may make it more recognisable - sweet wormwood, sweet annie, annual mugwort or sweet sagewort. It’s native to Asia where they’ve used it as an herbal medicine and a tea for over 2000 years, but Artemisia has naturalised across the globe, including parts of North America.
It’s a common unremarkable plant to look at but inside its leaves, roots and flowers studies have shown it has a particularly high level of oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC). This is a way of measuring anti-oxidant capabilities.
It’s because Artemisia annua produces high phenolic compounds which in turn lead to big anti-oxidant activity. Researchers found five groups of phenolic compounds in the plant with over 50 different strands indicating its potential use as a strong anti-oxidant and possible future drug.
Artemisia Annua and Flavonoids
Flavonoids are a form of anti-oxidant found in many fruits and vegetable (and wine!) and are one of the compounds found abundantly in Artemisia annua. Diets rich in flavonoids have been associated with reduced risk of diseases.
Flavonoids are ‘anti-oxidant’ which describes their behaviour against free radicals that damage cells. Free radicals are unstable cells that roam and multiply around the body causing illnesses and disease. Anti-oxidants make them stable. Therefore anti-oxidants are one of the body’s defence lines against cell damage, including cancer development, heart disease and diabetes.
Artemisia and Malaria
Over the past few decades most studies around Artemisia annua have related to its anti-malarial properties.
A recent study has shown that flavonoids found in Artemisia annua help to suppress enzymes responsible for altering the absorption of the anti-malarial treatment Artemisinin into the body (Artemisinin is made from an Artemisia annua compound too). This is good news because resistance to Artemisinin appears to be growing worldwide with scientists searching for an alternative.
It appears that Artemisinin has anti-cancer properties of its own. One of its components interacts with iron complexes and brings about apoptosis of cancer cells; this is when the cell spontaneously dies rather than being destroyed by an agent, which leads us neatly to...
Artemisia Annua and Cancer
Studies have shown that compounds from Artemisia annua can inhibit cancer cell growth and that its flavonoids induce cell apoptosis.
A recent study into prostate cancer has shown that Artemisia annua can regress cancer in advanced metastasized prostate cancer.
The Study Details
A cancer patient took a long-term oral treatment of Artemisia annua capsules along with bacalitumide, the prostate cancer hormone treatment, and presented tumour remission. However, after seven months the tumour reoccurred. Scientists believe this indicates that the two compounds taken together promote considerable regression of prostate cancer. They encourage controlled clinical trials to further test the discovery.
So Artemisia annua is one herb to watch. Its proven anti-malarial properties and the emerging effect on cancer could prove a future treatment in the making.
Read more on Prostate Problems: