Here’s a blow to the idea that modern medicine is actually “modern.” Back in the ’70s, a research team on an archeological dig in China discovered a medicinal recipe dating back more than 2,000 years to 163 B.C. The recipe featured an extract from a leafy herb, called wormwood, that the ancients used to cure malaria, hemorrhoids, and parasitic infections. In subsequent tests, scientists discovered that the extract, which they named artemisinin, has remarkable anti-inflammatory and anti-parasitic properties. They also found that artemisinin cures malaria almost 100 percent of the time and that in combination with iron, destroys cancer cells.
Artemisinin works by releasing an avalanche of free radicals when exposed to an oxidizing agent like iron. The free radicals attack and kill iron-rich cells. Since cancer cells tend to contain much more iron than normal cells do, they are particularly attractive to artemisinin. When exposed to cancer cells artemisinin gets activated and sends out free radicals that attack those cells, destroying the cancer in the process. This effect can be amplified by sending additional iron to cancer cells. (Similarly, since the malaria parasite lives in iron-rich blood, when exposed to artemisinin, free radicals attack the blood and destroy the parasite in the process.)
The FDA hasn’t approved the use of artemisinin as an anti-cancer agent, as “research on artemisinin and cancer is still in very early stages.” And yet, plenty of studies out there support the effectiveness and relative safety of artemisinin. For instance, a 2005 study out of the University of Washington targeted cancer cells by “tagging” artemisinin to an iron-carrying glycoprotein that cancer cells readily absorb. The researchers found that by doing this, the artemisinin became “very potent and selective in killing [leukemia] cells.”
A more recent study, in 2006, found that artemisinin killed precancerous cells before those cells could develop into a breast tumor. In that study, rats were fed a substance known to cause breast cancer. Then, half the rats were fed a normal diet and the other half consumed food laced with artemisinin. After nine months, 96 percent of the rats fed the normal diet developed tumors, compared to only 57 percent of the rats fed artemisinin, plus their tumors were smaller and fewer.
Similar studies have found artemisinin to be highly effective in killing cancer cells that resist radiation and different forms of chemotherapy. In fact, a 2001 study published in Oncology found that by pre-loading cancer cells with iron and then administering artemisinin, the cancer killing effectiveness was almost 100 percent within 24 hours.
So what’s the catch? Skeptics claim that high doses can cause neurological effects and heart blockage — but those effects are extremely rare and show up only at very high doses. In fact, artemisinin has been used in Asia for decades now with virtually no evidence of toxicity. And in large-scale studies on monkeys who received enormous doses equivalent to 20,000 milligrams, no toxicity at all surfaced. So artemisinin appears to be much safer than most pharmaceuticals out there, and far, far, more benign than the typical chemotherapeutic agent — although it isn’t a standalone solution. Artemisinin needs to be part of an overall approach incorporating diet, enzymatic therapy, immune system building, supplementation, cleansing and detoxification. If you’re interested, Dr. Lam provides some guidelines for using artemisinin on his Insider’s Guide to Natural Medicine website.
Note: artemisinin/wormwood is a key component of my Liver Tincture formula. It would appear that you now have another good reason for doing a semi-annual liver detox that incorporates that formula.