Youyou Tu was one of the people awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for her discoveries using artemisinin to treat malaria. Malaria is a life-threatening blood disease caused by parasites and is transmitted to humans by the anopheles mosquito. Once bitten, parasites multiply in the host’s liver before infecting and destroying red blood cells. Fever, chills, and infection can result and may even lead to death. Artemisinin has significantly reduced the mortality rates for patients suffering from malaria, therefore improving health and reducing suffering for millions.
Youyou Tu, in China, turned to traditional herbal medicine to find a solution to the rising cases of malaria. Using artemisinin, the active component from Artemisia annua (sweet wormwood), she was the first to show that this component was highly effective against the malaria parasite, both in infected animals and in humans. Artemisinin represents a new class of antimalarial agents that rapidly kill the malaria parasites at an early stage of their development, which explains its unprecedented potency in the treatment of severe malaria.
The impact of this discovery was huge. Over 200 million people are infected with malaria each year and artemisinin is used in all malaria-ridden parts of the world. When used in combination therapy, it is estimated to reduce mortality from malaria by more than 20% overall, and by more than 30% in children. For Africa alone, this means that more than 100,000 lives are saved each year.
There is also ongoing research to determine artemisinin’s effect on cancer. Traditionally it has also been used for treating parasites, fungus such as candida, and even certain bacteria. Consult with a nutritionist or naturopathic doctor before using artemesinin.
Photo from here, with thanks.