Artemisia to the rescue!
Having IC, I am always looking for alternatives to modulate immune system to help manage the disease and fight chronic UTI’s that often occur with the condition. I find it interesting that they are using Artemisia (ARS), especially since it’s often used for treating malaria. Artemisia annua is an herb traditionally used in Chinese medicine to treat fever, inflammation, and malaria. A compound in artemisia was shown to be effective in treating malaria in a clinical trial. So I wanted to dig deeper.
Another case study showed that artemisia was effective in treating chronic bladder infection. Other studies suggest it may be helpful for osteoarthritis. Artemisia also can prevent cancer cells from dividing in laboratory studies (clinical trials are needed to support this).
Artemisia annua is a member of the wormwood family and like many of the wormwoods has interesting medicinal properties. Interestingly, the bioactivity of ARS is not restricted to malaria treatment (Efferth, 2017). It can act in a multi-specific manner against tumors as well. The cellular response of ARS and its derivatives (dihydroartemisinin, artesunate, artemether, arteether) towards cancer cells include:
-oxidative stress response by ROS and NO
-DNA damage repair
-Various cell death models (apoptosis, autophagy, necrosis, etc)
-inhibition of angiogenesis and tumor related signal transduction pathways
-inhibition of signal transducers such as NF-kB, mTOR, etc.
Two bioengineering researchers at the University of Washington have exploited the chemical properties of Artemisia extracts to target breast cancer cells, which resulted in the ability of the extract to kill virtually all human breast cancer cells in 16 hours!
Not only does it appear to be effective, but it’s very selective. “It’s highly toxic to the cancer cells, but has a marginal impact on normal breast cells” (DNC News, n.d.). What is interesting about this compound is how it reacts with iron. When ARS comes in contact with iron, a chemical reaction occurs, creating free radicals that attack cell membranes, breaking them apart and killing the parasite. Since cancer cells need a lot of iron to replicate DNA when they divide, and they also feature greater concentrations of transferrin receptors than normal cells. Researchers have found that since Artemisia selectively kills cells that are high in iron, it can also be used to eradicate cancer cells, as seen in trials using breast cancer cells and leukemia cells.
Of the 800 or more articles on PubMed’s data base on ARS, only about thirty deal with cancer. Of those none are describing clinical trials of ARS in humans. Several doctors report anecdotal benefit in treating cancer patients but a careful examination of most of these stories finds them inconclusive. (There were other therapies co-administered which may account for the supposed benefits seen.) This is one of those therapies which shows great promise but which at this point is unclear whether it works with cancer. Because of unexpected cases of hepatotoxicity, combinations of ARS-type drugs with complementary and alternative medicines are not recommended, until controlled clinical trials will prove the safety of non-approved combination treatments.
DNC News. (n.d.). Artemisia annua: an old treatment for malaria—a new treatment for cancer. Retrieved (2018, June 7) from http://www.denvernaturopathic.com/news/artemisia.html (Links to an external site.)
Efferth, T. (2017). From ancient herb to modern drug: Artemisia annua and artemisinin for cancer therapy. Semin Cancer Biol, 46, 65-83. doi:10.1016/j.semcancer.2017.02.009