Dried whole plant Artemisia annua as an antimalarial therapy

PLoS One. 2012 Dec 20;7(12):e52746. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0052746. Epub 2012 Dec 20.


Drugs are primary weapons for reducing malaria in human populations. However emergence of resistant parasites has repeatedly curtailed the lifespan of each drug that is developed and deployed. Currently the most effective anti-malarial is artemisinin, which is extracted from the leaves of Artemisia annua. Due to poor pharmacokinetic properties and prudent efforts to curtail resistance to monotherapies, artemisinin is prescribed only in combination with other anti-malarials composing an Artemisinin Combination Therapy (ACT). Low yield in the plant, and the added cost of secondary anti-malarials in the ACT, make artemisinin costly for the developing world. As an alternative, we compared the efficacy of oral delivery of the dried leaves of whole plant (WP) A. annua to a comparable dose of pure artemisinin in a rodent malaria model (Plasmodium chabaudi). We found that a single dose of WP (containing 24 mg/kg artemisinin) reduces parasitemia more effectively than a comparable dose of purified drug. This increased efficacy may result from a documented 40-fold increase in the bioavailability of artemisinin in the blood of mice fed the whole plant, in comparison to those administered synthetic drug. Synergistic benefits may derive from the presence of other anti-malarial compounds in A. annua. If shown to be clinically efficacious, well-tolerated, and compatible with the public health imperative of forestalling evolution of drug resistance, inexpensive, locally grown and processed A. annua might prove to be an effective addition to the global effort to reduce malaria morbidity and mortality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antimalarials / administration & dosage
  • Antimalarials / chemistry
  • Artemisia annua / chemistry*
  • Artemisinins / administration & dosage
  • Humans
  • Malaria / drug therapy*
  • Malaria / pathology
  • Mice
  • Parasitemia / drug therapy*
  • Plant Leaves / chemistry
  • Plants, Medicinal*
  • Plasmodium chabaudi / drug effects
  • Plasmodium chabaudi / pathogenicity


  • Antimalarials
  • Artemisinins
  • artemisinin