The modern and advanced world where we live today knows no bounds for moving forward gracefully. Over time, we have embraced several changes and have achieved countless impossible feats. Now, we stand at a place where our ancestors could not have even imagined reaching back in those days. Unfortunately, due to the lack of resources and technology.  

We now have some of the best and most efficient drugs in our pharmacological world. That are not just centered on treating one kind of disease but rather address a given dimension of diseases. That could be catered to easily through the prescription of these drugs when needed. Artemisinin is one of such drugs that cater to multiple illnesses and diseases. 

What is Artemisinin Used For? 

Artemisinin

Before we dive into the more detailed part of this topic. We must learn more about what we are dealing with. Artemisinin is a medicine that you can extract from the sweet wormwood plant. It was popular among the Chinese herbalists as a beneficial medicine back in the later 20th Century era. [1]

However, back then, the most popular use of Artemisinin was to treat malaria. Which is exactly how it became famous among the other populations. [2]

In today’s world, Artemiknisn has found its applications for treating several illnesses apart from the usual resistant cases of malaria. It may be effective in treating hepatitis, cancer, COVID19, and some other infectious illnesses. All these claims prove that it is indeed a useful drug that has limitless potential. When it comes to keeping an individual healthy and disease-free! [3]

They also use it for treating several other infectious diseases such as schistosomiasis. And the treatment of some cancers, which we shall discuss in the preceding sections. 

Artemisinin is effective against all Plasmodium genus malaria-causing protozoal organisms. The drug is especially effective in treating infections caused by chloroquine-resistant parasites and infections caused by multidrug-resistant P. falciparum, the deadliest of the malaria protozoans [3].

Is Artemisinin The Same As Chloroquine? 

Artemisinin

Artemisinin, Chloroquine, and Primaquine belong to the category of popular drugs commonly used for treating malaria. The only difference is that once the causative variant of malaria has been identified. Only then is the appropriate drug prescribed to the patient. [4]

While all these drugs claim to eradicate and finish off malaria, they do so in different manners. The prescription of these drugs is also subjective to the patient’s conditions, which may change from person to person, and also on the severity of the malarial attack. [5]

Artemisinin is for treating those cases of malaria that are caused due to Plasmodium falciparum. Such cases of malaria are usually straightforward to treat and are uncomplicated. On the other hand, chloroquine is for treating malaria cases caused by non-Falciparum species. This species category includes Plasmodium malaria, Plasmodium vivax, and Plasmodium ovale. [6]

Both these drugs are different in their respective mechanisms of action. They are used for totally separate species as well, thus signifying that they are indeed different from each other, despite being helpful to treat the same illness. [7]

Artemisinin Combination Therapy (ACT) – An Overview 

Artemisinin Combination Therapy (ACT) is a treatment protocol that they use to combine different drugs with Artemisinin to increase the efficiency and response of the original drug itself in treating cases of uncomplicated malaria in patients. [8]

Although we now know malaria as a highly treatable and common disease, there is no doubt about the fact that it could turn life-threatening in no time. Moreover, it also exists in regions around as an endemic disease is enough to continue all ongoing research to ensure that the researchers and experts are up-to-date with all the recent advances in the treatment protocols to ensure proper protection and treatment of all the affected patients. [9]

The most commonly employed drugs that are involved in the Artemisinin Combination Therapy (ACT) include artemether-lumefantrine, artesunate-mefloquine, and dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine. Note that all these drugs, such as artemether, and artesunate, are all derivatives of the original Artemisinin. [10]

This combination therapy is a first-line treatment plan for uncomplicated cases of Malaria that are caused by Plasmodium falciparum species. Through extensive research, it has been seen and found that using combination therapy is much safer and well-tolerated by the human body. It is also an efficient means of increasing the effectiveness of the drugs against malaria. [11]

Artemisinin Combination Therapy (ACT) was also safe for pregnant women in their first trimesters. 

Artemisinin For Cancer 

Artemisinin

It turns out that malaria is not the only illness that is being useful in treating through the usage of Artemisinin. Moreover, it is also diseases like cancer that could benefit from its usage. [12]

It has been found that multiple types of cancers benefit in different ways from using Artemisinin. Artemisinin benefits cancer patients in different ways by affecting different pathways involved in the pathogenesis and development of a given type of cancer. [13]

It helps stop the progression of any cancer by inhibiting the growth of cancerous cells. It also kills these cancerous cells. The efficacy of Artemisinin against cancer was effective ten times more than the targeted chemotherapy that required multiple sessions for doing the same. [14]

How To Take Artemisinin For Cancer?

Different Artemisinin dosages are effective for a given purpose. It is freely available as an oral tablet, a suppository, or an injection. 

Depending on the patient’s condition and the severity of the given condition, the physician decides the route of administration for the drug. 

In extremely severe cases, a suppository or intravenous line is usually helpful since it helps in the rapid absorption of the drug across the body. For cancer, Artemisinin therapy is usually meant to mimic chemotherapy, and so it is given through similar intravenous routes. [15]

Artemisinin For COVID19

As far as the major killer and havoc-causing disease like COVID19, Artemisinin was helpful to play some role in managing this disease as well. [16]

Artemisinin was helpful in decreasing the severity of the viral infection in the patients who suffered from COVID19. Thus, its efficacy was registered to such an extent that it was found that if patients started Artemisinin therapy in the very initial stages of their disease, the rates of hospitalization among COVID19 patients could drastically drop. [17]

This study mentioned above was done during the pandemic days when hospitalization was at its peak and hospitals ran out of beds due to the increasing number of cases each day. 

Artemisinin-piperaquine combination was useful to be an effective regimen that they use in the treatment of COVID19. 

Side Effects

Artemisinin

There are obvious side effects of using a drug like Artemisinin. It is not only about this drug but any other drug that could have the same impact on the health and overall well-being of a person when used carelessly or for prolonged periods without getting any significant benefit out of it. [18]

The most common side effects of Artemisinin include dizziness, nausea, and vomiting. Some patients often complain about losing their appetite out of weakness and sometimes due to nausea itself. 

They also find that Artemisinin also has a few serious side effects. These serious side effects include prolonging the QT interval and the sudden, unexpected onset of arrhythmias. Both these events could turn out to be life-threatening if they are immediately taken care of and intervened accordingly. [19]

Supplements 

Yes, you did read that correctly! Remember how we mentioned earlier that the Chinese herbalists discovered Artemisinin as early as the 20th century? 

Well, it turns out that the search was not their only stop. They made sure that people had become aware of this useful plant-derived drug and used it to make the most of its benefits. [20]

Even today, there are herbal supplements of Artemisinin available in the market that claim to do a lot for the people who consume it routinely. 

These Artemisinin supplements claim to provide several benefits to those who consume them. The major ones include using them as potent antioxidants and treating minor ailments and diseases such as cough, common cold, and stomach and bowel upset. [21]

However, there is currently no reasonable or authentic literature to support these claims. 

The Bottom Line

So, it turns out that Artemisinin is indeed a drug that could do wonders to an otherwise poor patient suffering from an uncomplicated malaria case. 

However, now we also know that the potential of this fantastic drug does not end here – in fact, it goes way beyond this. Artemisinin has significant instructions in treating life-threatening illnesses such as cancer, COVID19, and even some initial forms of hepatitis. 

But it is always best to use a drug only when it has been prescribed by a doctor and not just because some other person told you that it would help solve several other problems for you as well. 

The other application of Artemisinin, which is popular among herbalists, is its property of resolving several minor illnesses such as the common colds and cough. However, due to the lack of scientific research and claims in this field, it is better to steer clear of such places where there is no authenticity established as of yet. 

Disclaimer: This article is only a guide. It does not substitute the advice given by your own healthcare professional. Before making any health-related decision, consult your healthcare professional.

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Dr Andleeb Asghar, Pharm.D

Dr Andleeb is a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D) graduate with real-life experience working in health and wellness-related companies. She has also published various research papers in the health and medical field. Currently, she takes joy in creating health-related content for a wide range of audiences, which is a craft she has been perfecting for over five years. She enjoys diving deep into published research papers and journal articles to source helpful content for her readers. LinkedIn

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  • Dr Andleeb is a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D) graduate with real-life experience working in health and wellness-related companies. She has also published various research papers in the health and medical field. Currently, she takes joy in creating health-related content for a wide range of audiences, which is a craft she has been perfecting for over five years. She enjoys diving deep into published research papers and journal articles to source helpful content for her readers. LinkedIn

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Dr Andleeb is a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D) graduate with real-life experience working in health and wellness-related companies. She has also published various research papers in the health and medical field. Currently, she takes joy in creating health-related content for a wide range of audiences, which is a craft she has been perfecting for over five years. She enjoys diving deep into published research papers and journal articles to source helpful content for her readers. LinkedIn