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Artemisinin Vs Wormwood 

Artemisinin Vs Wormwood 

Disclaimer: This content has been produced purely for informational and educational purposes only and is never intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical guidelines including diagnosis, advice, and treatment. 

The main differential fact about artemisinin vs wormwood is that artemisinin comes from a non-poisonous species of the genus Artemisia called Artemisia annua or sweet wormwood that grows in the temperate regions of Asia and is globally established as an effective drug for treating malaria including its highly drug-resistant strains, whereas wormwood is a poisonous species of the genus Artemisia called Artemisia absinthium that grows in the temperate areas of Northern Africa and Eurasia and popularly used in some alcoholic beverages. 

In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about artemisinin vs wormwood including their medicinal properties and uses, toxicity, and possible health risks. So, let’s get started.  

Table of contents 

  • What is artemisinin? 
  • What is wormwood? 
  • Artemisinin vs wormwood 
  • Artemisinin vs wormwood: medicinal properties and uses 
  • Artemisinin vs wormwood: toxicity 
  • Artemisinin vs wormwood: possible health risks and precautions 
  • Final words 

What is artemisinin? 

Artemisinin, also known as qinghaosu in the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), is a group of drugs that are derived from the extracts of the Artemisia annua plant commonly known as sweet wormwood. Artemisinins have been widely used globally to help manage and treat symptoms of malaria and even its drug-resistant variations, particularly those caused by Plasmodium falciparum for the last four decades. 

Artemisinin was first discovered by Chinese lady pharmaceutical chemist Tu Youyou in the year of 1972. She first recognized artemisinin as an active compound in the Artemisia annua plant commonly known as sweet wormwood and isolated it from the dried leaves and flower clusters through distillation. It is used to treat malaria successfully and soon this discovery became globally popular as a breakthrough in the field of tropical medicine for saving millions of lives affected by malaria. She shared the Nobel Prize in 2015 in physiology and medicine for this discovery.  

What is wormwood? 

Wormwood, botanically known as Artemisia absinthium, is a species of the plant genus Artemisia and is widely used in alcoholic drinks such as absinthe, vermouth, as well as some others. The oil of this herb contains a naturally occurring chemical called thujone, which might have poisonous effects on the human body. 

Though this herb is endemic to Northern Africa and Eurasia, today it is widely grown in Canada and the United States as an ornamental plant and used as an ingredient in alcoholic beverages since it has an incredible ability to excite the central nervous system.  

Wormwood is also used in medicine for treating and managing various diseases, particularly those that are related to the digestive and excretory systems such as dyspepsia and anorexia, but there is lack of evidence to support these uses.  

Artemisinin vs wormwood 

Though both artemisinin and wormwood come from the same genus of plants called Artemisia they belong to two separate species and each one has its own different characteristics. Let’s take a look at the various characteristics of artemisinin vs wormwood including their medicinal properties, uses, toxicity, and possible health risks:  

Artemisinin vs wormwood: medicinal properties and uses 

Artemisinin - Artemisinin is best known for its proven anti-malarial properties and has been recognized as the first-line method to treat and prevent malaria globally. Scientists are still working to know the full potential of this natural ingredient and its derivatives and apart from the potent antimalarial actions, it has been shown several other therapeutic properties such as antipyretic, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant to name a few. Because of these medicinal properties artemisinin has been found to be useful to treat and prevent diverse health conditions such as fever, arthritis, allergies as well as others. 

Wormwood - Though wormwood is best known for its use in the alcoholic drinks absinthe and vermouth, it shows several medicinal properties such as anti-inflammatory, antiparasitic, and antioxidant. These properties can help alleviate pain, fight parasitic infections, and reduce oxidative stress in the body which is often found associated with several serious health conditions like Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, and even various types of cancer. People also use wormwood for various gastrointestinal issues such as stomach upset, loss of appetite, abdominal spasms, gallbladder problems, and liver issues. It is also used as a popular tonic to stimulate sweating and increase sexual desire in traditional medicines.  


Artemisinin vs wormwood: toxicity 

Artemisinin comes from sweet wormwood that doesn’t contain any toxic components while wormwood contains alpha and beta thujone that has been considered to have poisonous actions that can affect the central nervous system and can cause seizures and even death. 

Artemisinin vs wormwood: possible health risks and precautions 

Artemisinin is possibly safe and well tolerable for most people in recommended doses and very rare cases of side effects have been reported with nausea, vomiting, skin rash, cough, and tremors. While wormwood should be used with caution since it contains thujone which may cause serious side effects including kidney failures and seizures. Wormwood should be used in medicine only after making it thujone free. Besides, wormwood may also interact with other medications such as heart medications like warfarin and anti-seizure medications like gabapentin and increase the risk of bleeding and seizure. 

However, both artemisinin and wormwood should be taken only under medical supervision to ensure safety and recommended doses especially if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking any medication for underlying health issues.  

Final words 

The plant genus Artemisia is a large genus that holds around 400 species belonging to it. Sweet wormwood and wormwood are the two most prevalent species that belong to this genus. Artemisinin is a group of drugs that are derived from sweet wormwood which is a non-poisonous species, while wormwood is a poisonous one because of its constituent thujone. 

If we compare artemisinin vs wormwood - though both have several medicinal properties and uses, artemisinin is more efficient in terms of health benefits and offers better safety for human use since it doesn’t contain any poisonous compound.

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