Not long ago, we wrote in our malaria myths and facts article that malaria cannot be treated or prevented with herbal remedies. Now we have articles surfacing in the press that suggest wormwood tea may be an effective weapon against malaria. So what is the deal? Are herbal remedies legit? In this post, we will take a look at some of the recent press and offer our analysis.
The most effective malaria treatment comes from the wormwood plant
Ok, let’s be more specific. The most effective malaria treatment is a drug that is synthesized from a compound found in a certain variety of wormwood, Artemisia annua. Artemisinin is the name of the drug and it is found in many treatments, such as coartem, which is widely considered to be one of the most effective treatment options available today.
According to a recent article in Slate (and you can find this information in other journals as well), a tea brewed from this wormwood plant may be effective in the prevention of malaria. The article mentions that tea made with this particular variety of wormwood has long been used as a kind of treatment in China. It goes on to say that a recent study indicates that the same tea may be effective as a prophylactic.
All of this sounds well and good. This tea is, after all, an affordable option for many people that may not be able to afford standard prophylactic options. And let’s consider that it would be unreasonable to take many of the conventional malaria prophylactics on a long-term basis as they have side effects and are mostly intended for trips of varying lengths – not for life – so a tea sounds like a more sustainable option.
Here’s the thing, though. The tea may not be reliable on a consistent basis. It’s difficult to count on proper dosing and purity. When you take a drug like coartem, you know that you are getting the appropriate amount of the required drug. The same goes for any of the prophylactics that are currently recommended.
This is not to say that no one should drink this tea. For locals, drinking this tea is perfectly reasonable. It is affordable and it may help them prevent malaria while not presenting side effects. However, this is a blog for travelers and their health. We cannot in good conscience recommend using this tea as a suitable prophylactic or treatment when other options are available.
If you have any thoughts on this topic, please share them in the comments below. I think the the debate around the World Health Organization and locals’ use of wormwood tea is indeed controversial. When it comes to travelers, however, I think the approach is more straightforward.
Photo credit: wikipedia