Anticancer Drug From Aromatic Herb of Wormwood

February 18, 2014

Artemisia absinthium Artemisia annua
Artemisia absinthium Artemisia annua

Wormwood, perennial aromatic herb, is native to North America, Europe, Asia, and North Africa. Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) has grooved, and angled stems bear silky, fernlike leaves, and small, drooping, yellow flowers.

Wormwood leaves yield a bluish green volatile oil, which is used to make absinthe, a green alcoholic drink, which has strong and bitter flavor. Absinthe has antihelminthic properties, and may be used medicinally to treat intestinal worms. But, the excessively use of absinthe may have a fatally toxic effect, such as, convulsion and kidney failure.

There are many varieties of wormwood from Artemisia family. Artemisia annua, which is known as sweet wormwood, or Qing Hao (Chinese), has been used for centuries as herb, in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), to treat malaria, dysentery, and many diseases.

Since the discovery of artemisinin, an active compound isolated from sweet wormwood, in early 1970s, several scientific studies have focused on its anti-parasitic effects. Scientists also studied artemisinin semi-synthetic derivatives, in which include, dihydroartemisinin (DHA), artemether, arteether, and artesunate. The effects of artemisinin has being investigated in diseases, such as, infections, cancers and inflammation.

Some studies have been reported, both in vitro, and in vivo, the anticancer activity of artemisinin, and demonstrated its cytotoxic effects against a variety of cancer cells. Artemisinin had shown its inhibitory effects on cancer cell growth, and anti-angiogenetic activity. A study found that artemisinin, might be used as a potential chemotherapeutic agent, in melanoma (skin cancer) treatment. (Buommino E, et al. 2009)

Dihydroartemisinin (DHA), a semi-synthetic derivative of artemisinin, isolated from Artemisia annua, has been shown to possess promising anticancer activities, and induced cancer cell death. A study had shown that, DHA can inhibit proliferation, and induce apoptosis. The result provided evidence for further studies of DHA, as a possible anticancer drug, in the clinical treatment of lung adenocarcinoma. (Lu YY, et al. 2009)

Artemisinin had been shown to kill cancer cells in vitro selectively, and slowed the growth of tumors in rats. A study resulted that artemisinin, and its semi-synthetic analogs, could be inexpensive, and effective cancer agents. (Singh NP, et al. 2004)

While another study found that, artemisinin was a relatively safe compound, and caused no known side effects, even at high oral doses. The study indicated that, artemisinin might be a potent cancer chemoprevention agent. (Lai H, et al. 2006)

All images from Wikimedia

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