Artemisinin And Cancer: A Chemopreventive Herb

artemisinin and cancer

Artemisinin And Cancer

Artemisinin comes from the plant Artemisia annua (or sweet wormwood), and although it’s most well-known for it’s anti-malarial effects, it also has lots of other health benefits including recently discovered anti-cancer properties [1].

One of the curious quirks of cancer cells is that they contain higher than normal levels of haem (iron stores), and this makes them susceptible to artemisinin’s activity.

Certain compounds in artemesinin have been shown to react and bind with the haem, releasing cytotoxic free radicals which cause these cancer cells to die.  This is one of the ways in which artemisinin and cancer have an interesting connection [1a].

The special attraction to haem also means that non-cancerous cells, with their much lower levels of iron, are safe from artemisinin’s effects.  This makes artemisisin an excellent choice when looking at anti-cancer herbs, because it has low toxicity against healthy cells within the body.

Artemesinin’s Cancer-Fighting Properties

1  Anti-proliferative

Artemesinin inhibits the growth of cancer cells and tumours.  It’s growth-inhibiting properties have been demonstrated in a wide number of different cancers, including gastric cancer, colorectal cancer, melanoma and neuroblastoma [2a][2b][2c][2d].

2  Anti-metastasis

Artemesinin limits the spread of cancer cells around the body.  This was seen in a 2009 study of human melanoma cells, in which artemisinin reduced the cancer’s ability to migrate to new areas [2].

3  Anti-angiogenic

The herb also reduces the formation of new blood vessels within tumours, which are an important part of tumour growth.  In a 2014 study of liver cancer, artesunate was found to decrease vessel development and density, suppressing the blood and oxygen supply to cancer cells [3].

4  Enhances Other Anti-Cancer Drugs

Artemisinin can also enhance the action of other chemopreventive drugs, such as doxorubicin.  Artemisisin and its derivatives can help to overcome drug resistance of cancer cells during chemotherapy treatment.  This was shown in a 2002 study using conventional cancer drugs, pirarubicin and doxorubicin [4b].

Artemisinin’s Other Health Benefits

So our understanding of artemisinin and cancer is expanding all the time, but what about it’s other healing benefits?  Let’s take a look…

  • Anti-malarial – The artemisinin-derived drug artesunate is a well-known and powerful anti-malarial treatment.  In third-world countries it’s considered the first line of defence against the disease.  Artesunate inhibits and damages important proteins inside the malaria protozoan which are necessary for its survival.
  • Immunoregulatory – In various autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and MS, T-cells in the immune system can become autoreactive and continually proliferate. Artemisinin-based compounds have the ability to suppress the proliferation of these T-cells and ease the autoreactive loop [5a].  Artesunate has also been shown to provide anti-allergic benefits in  conditions such as asthma and other related airway disorders [5b].
  • Anti-viral – Artemisinin has been found to possess anti-viral properties.  A 2013 study found that artemisinin derivatives were able reduce the release of hepatitis virus from host cells [6a].
  • Anti-inflammatory – Artemisinin can help to relieve inflammation by acting on the inflammatory cascade within the immune system, relieving symptoms associated with autoimmune disorders [7][7a].

Artemisia Annua Tea Infusion

artemisinin and cancer

If you’re interested in artemisinin for health reasons, you can either take the herb in supplement form or by making a herbal tea.  Indeed, artemisia have been used in this way for hundreds of years by Traditional Chinese Medicine.  The leaves contain healing flavanoids which provide antioxidant benefits, as well as the compound artemisinin and cancer protective properties [8a][8b].

The tea should always be drunk fresh, as it will lose its antioxidant content over time.  A 2011 study looking at artemisinin tea infusion found that the most concentrated brews were made using boiling water, and infusing for 2-5 minutes [8].

Please note: Artemisia tea can be strong and bitter tasting, so you may want to add stevia or honey to your cup.  Or try lifting the flavour with other ingredients, which are listed below.


1  Put 1 teaspoon of dried artemisia tea leaves into an infuser and place it in a cup.

2  Pour over freshly boiled water and leave to infuse for 5 minutes, before drinking.


1 teaspoon peppermint leaves

juice of half a fresh lemon

If you have your own artemisinin experiences and recommendations, please get in touch and share in the comments below!

And for more on natural anti-cancer treatments, see 14 Powerful Natural Remedies For Cancer and also 3 Super Healing Anti Cancer Teas.


  1. Janet February 19, 2018 at 11:30 pm - Reply

    The 2015 Nobel Prize winner who did research related to Artemesinin (but for use in treating malaria) found that using heat destroyed the medicinal properties. So this would mean make a cold infusion but do not pour boiling water over it to make tea.

    • superhealinglife February 20, 2018 at 11:36 am - Reply

      Hi Janet, thanks for your comment. It’s certainly a confusing topic, with Professor Tu’s work and more recent research, such as the study I referenced in this article, seeming to conflict each other. I guess, fingers crossed, future research into artemisinin will give us more info.

Leave A Response »