Artemisinins are derived from extracts of sweet wormwood (Artemisia annua) and are well established for the treatment of malaria, including highly drug-resistant strains. Their efficacy also extends to phylogenetically unrelated parasitic infections such as schistosomiasis. More recently, they have also shown potent and broad anticancer properties in cell lines and animal models. In this review, we discuss recent advances in defining the role of artemisinins in medicine, with particular focus on their controversial mechanisms of action. This safe and cheap drug class that saves lives at risk from malaria can also have important potential in oncology.