Written by Klara Rombauts, Arne Heyerick and the CAM-Cancer Consortium.
Updated August 21, 2013

Artemisia annua

Abstract and key points

  • Artemisia annua is a plant containing chemical compounds considered to have anti-cancer activity.
  • There is currently no evidence in humans to support the use of A. annua against cancer.
  • Artemisia annua is generally considered to be safe but cases of severe adverse effects with higher doses have been reported.

Artemisia annua L. is a common type of wormwood that belongs to the family of the Asteraceae. It is native to temperate Asia but naturalized throughout the world.

Artemisinin is an ingredient of A. annua. Artemesin and its semi-synthetic artemisinin derivatives (including dihydroartemisinin, artesunate, artemether and arteether) are used for the production of combination therapies for treatment of malaria (ACTs = Artemisinin-based Combination Therapy).

Animal studies suggested that artemisinin and related compounds inhibit tumour growth and metastasis. However, there is no evidence from clinical trials at the moment that the anticancer effects from animal studies translate into benefits for cancer patients. No clinical trials of A. annua and only one randomised clinical trial of artesunate are available.

Experiences from malaria treatment indicate a good tolerability of artemisinin-based drugs. However, there are two case reports with severe adverse effects when artemisinin-based drugs were used at higher doses.

Citation

Klara Rombauts, Arne Heyerick, CAM-Cancer Consortium. Artemisia annua [online document]. http://cam-cancer.org/CAM-Summaries/Herbal-products/Artemisia-annua. August 21, 2013.

Document history

Summary assessed as up to date in August 2013 by Barbara Wider.

Summary fully revised and updated in August 2012 by Klara Rombauts.

Summary first published in March 2011, authored by Klara Rombauts and Arne Heyerick.

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