Artemisia for the treatment of Malaria
In this presentation we get a bird’s eye view into the malaria business: Here we get a look into how Big Pharma views natural medicine. Can it be that personal gain is more important than the lives we say we care so much about? (39:18)
The large family of Artemisia plants have been used as herbal medicine for millenniums in all regions of the world.
Artemisia annua came under the spotlight during the Vietnam War. Viêt-Cong who operated in swamps and rain forests lost more soldiers by mosquito bites than by American bullets. As a last resort they spoke to their Chinese older brother and Mao Tse Tong, in spite of the traditions, instructed some scientists to see if there was some hidden information kept in archives. And actually, wild Artemisia has been used for millenniums in several regions of China and is still used to treat fevers and malaria. It was easy to acquire tons of this dried herb for Viêt-Cong. Taken as an infusion it worked wonders. The Americans, faithful to their less efficient pills, never knew what was going on.
After the war everything was forgotten. All this had only a folkloric interest because we had an effective and cheap drug: chloroquine. However by 1990 severe resistances against this drug became apparent. Some scientists took the stick of the pilgrim and came back from China with the information concerning this grass, but were not able to convince the WHO of its benefits. It is only ten years later that a pharmaceutical company established an agreement with the Chinese. But to launch on the market a cheap and accessible herb to every horticulturalist/farmer didn’t interest either party. In 1983, the Chinese had published an Artemisia annua analysis and found artemisinin, a peroxide which when used in-vitro was super-efficient against Plasmodium (infectious agent of malaria).
A kind of trade agreement was concluded for the use of this molecule by the Western Companies. But it turned out that artemisinin was not soluble in water, it was hardly bio available and it started its own metabolism of elimination by using the cytochrome CYP 3A4 leading to a half lifetime of 3 hours in the blood. Soon came the phenomena of resistance for the monotherapy to artemisinin, and in a way more pronounced, against the liposoluble and hydrosoluble derivatives: artemether and artesunate. What to do? Somebody had the idea to bring out from cellars and attics old molecules as amodiaquine, mefloquine, the unsalable lumefantrine, some of them already forbidden in several countries.
To read more visit this link – Efficient but Banished.
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