Artemisia annua is a plant with small yellow flowers. It contains flavonoids, essential oils, and artemisinin, which is a compound that many people think has health benefits. Other names for this plant include sweet Annie, sweet wormwood, and qinghao. It’s native to China and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for many years.

Malaria is a life-threatening illness. A parasite that mosquitoes carry causes this illness. People have found that artemisinin kills these parasites.

Some herbal remedies are made from the dried leaves of sweet Annie and sold as malaria treatments. However, the World Health Organization encourages people to avoid using these products to treat malaria. Instead, it recommends pharmaceutical drugs made from artemisinin and other compounds.

Antimalarial drugs that contain artemisinin usually also include another drug. People commonly use these medications in countries where malaria is common. In 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration also approved Coartem for use in the United States. This is the first artemisinin-based drug approved in the United States.

Some doctors are concerned that parasites carrying malaria could become resistant to artemisinin in countries where malaria is widespread.

More research is necessary to determine if sweet Annie is a useful treatment for cancer. Scientists continue to research sweet Annie’s effect on cancer cells. According to an article published in Trends in Pharmacological Sciences, artemisinin may be useful for treating leukemia and cancers of the:

  • colon
  • breast
  • lung
  • pancreas

It may also slow the growth of ovarian cancer cells and treat colorectal cancer. Artemisinin is generally considered safe. It probably causes fewer side effects than many other cancer treatments.

Some people believe sweet Annie can help treat:

  • hemorrhoids
  • constipation
  • indigestion
  • diarrhea
  • joint pain
  • colds
  • boils

Artemisinin has antifungal and antiviral properties. As a result, it might help treat a variety of conditions, such as:

  • hepatitis B and C
  • herpes
  • influenza
  • other viral infections

Artemisinin may also have anti-inflammatory benefits, which could be useful for treating inflammatory and autoimmune conditions. For example, it might help treat the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. More research is necessary.

Sweet Annie contains artemisinin, which is a compound in antimalarial drugs. Some research suggests it may also help treat several kinds of cancer. It may also be useful for treating some other conditions. More research is necessary to test its potential health benefits.