Artemisia annua is an annual plant with small yellow flowers. The plant is also known as sweet wormwood, Qinghao, and sweet Annie.
Sweet Annie is native to China and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for millennia. It contains flavonoids, essential oils, and artemisinin. Artemisinin is an active compound credited for most of the plant’s health benefits.
Scientists only started studying sweet Annie’s many reported benefits in the 1970s. It’s still in the early stages.
Malaria is a deadly illness caused by parasites that mosquitoes carry. Advocates say that artemisinin can kill the parasites when they appear in the blood. Typically, antimalarial drugs that contain artemisinin from sweet Annie also include a partner drug. These medications are commonly used in malaria-endemic countries.
The FDA approved Coartem as the first drug derived from sweet Annie for use in the United States. Some doctors are concerned that artemisinin resistance could become a problem in countries where malaria is widespread. This could happen if parasites carrying malaria become resistant to the drugs.
Scientists continue to research sweet Annie’s effect on cancer cells. Lab studies indicate that artemisinins may be effective against the tumor cells of colon, breast, lung, pancreatic, and leukemia cancers. It may also slow the growth of ovarian cancer cells and fight colorectal cancer.
One study found that adding a form of artemisinin called artesunate to a chemotherapy regimen could boost short-term survival rates and slow cancer progression without side effects.
Experts consider artemisinins to be safe and inexpensive. It’s unlikely to cause as many adverse effects as other cancer treatments. However, further study is needed.
Sweet Annie’s uses are varied. Some are tied to its effects on symptoms of malaria, like fever and jaundice. Some claim that sweet Annie helps with these conditions because the plant helps treat the underlying causes.
Conditions it may help with include:
- joint pain
However, research can’t back up all claims.
Research does show that artemisinins have antifungal and antiviral properties as well. This could make sweet Annie useful in fighting conditions like:
- hepatitis B and C
- other viral infections
Sweet Annie may also have anti-inflammatory benefits that could be useful in combating inflammatory and autoimmune conditions, including symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
Sweet Annie is largely accepted as an anti-malarial drug. However, many other suspected benefits lack scientific backing. Science may have a long way to go when it comes to studying all of the effects and potential uses for sweet Annie and artemisinin. Sweet Annie’s track record could hint at positive results when those benefits are tested in the lab.