A number of scientific studies show that herbal treatments for malaria are in most cases more effective than patent drugs in both treating as well as preventing malaria.

Local antimalarial herbal remedy Artemisia Afra contains the highest concentration of the flavone luteolin, a molecule with demonstrated antiplasmodial, anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties.

For thousands of years Chinese and other cultures have used herbs like Artemisia to treat malaria. Quinine was another very effective herbal remedy and olive leaf came to the fore in 1820 as a cheaper and more abundantly available alternative. Despite the onslaught of recent drug resistant malaria on a global scale, these natural remedies are still effective. When chloroquine resistance developed, many other drugs (1) were used and the most widely promoted of them was the Artemisinin Combination Therapy (ACT).

It was upheld as the standard treatment for malaria – until it failed. We need to understand more about why a plant extract would fail and not the use of 100% of the Artemisia leaf? Ironically, modern day science is discovering that these old fashioned dry leaf herbal remedies hold the key to banishing malaria. A cup of olive leaf tea – anybody?

How can we prevent and treat malaria more effectively?

It is said that every 30 seconds somebody in the world dies from malaria and we don’t yet have a vaccine that is guaranteed to prevent it. We do however, have some old fashioned plant-based options that still work. A number of scientific studies show that they are in most cases more effective than patent drugs in both treating as well as preventing malaria. No drug resistance has ever developed with these alternatives and there are no adverse side effects.

They are also free of contaminants like mercury and aluminium. More and more alaria patients are dying or suffering from severe complications as a result of the failure of modern anti-malarial drugs. Yet there are plant-based remedies available that can save their lives. Embracing a more integrative approach to malaria treatment can help to outwit the growing threat of drug resistance that is rapidly spreading around the world.

The famous African explorer Kingsley Holgate has suffered from over 30 bouts of malaria during his travels through Africa and donates mosquito nets to Africans to control the disease with chemically treated mosquito nets. Indeed! What about the bites you receive when you go out to the toilet at night or stand in the shower?

I heard his interview with Nancy Richards, the presenter of a radio show called Otherwise 18 years ago on SABC. It saddened me that people still supplied mosquito nets to Africans who use them as fishing nets! Meanwhile they chop down wild olive trees without knowing that the leaves from this tree can both prevent as well as cure Malaria.

During Nancy’s radio interview with me a few weeks later I spoke about Artemisia and herbal remedies such as Olive Leaf to help treat as well as prevent malaria. Now validated by modern science many years later, these have become tried and tested remedies for travellers who request alternatives to anti-malarial drugs, nets, sprays and chemicals.

For more than 20 years we have shared these anti-malarial strategies with people who request alternatives to anti-malarial drugs. Apart from olive leaves, people can grow their own Artemisia annua or Afra bushes and make tea or use the powdered dry leaves, mixed with honey to fight malaria. Known as wormwood, with a distinctive “herby” aroma it is also available in tablet, tincture or capsule form, used as a traditional medicine. Two decades later, a recent survey of scientific studies and trials based on Artemisia and Olive leaves supply ample proof that they are more than just anti-malarial drugs in their own right.

Artemisia prevents and cures malaria after standard treatments failed to do so

Anamed is an association that promotes the use of Artemisia, especially the tea that rural, impoverished people around the world can make themselves. Anamed provides Artemisia annua seeds and shares their expertise freely. As a tea or a whole leaf tablet Artemisia has always been a reliable, safe and cheap remedy for malaria. But chemically treated nets, patent drugs and the artemisinin / drug based combination therapy (ACT) were upheld as the standard treatments for malaria (2).

A lot of money could be made and so companies did their best to discredit the efficacy of Artemisia tea in order to promote their indiscriminate profiteering. Their recent failure to both treat and prevent malaria, especially the drug resistant strains bear testimony to the futility of trying to compete with natural medicine that grows on trees. During April 2017 an outbreak of incurable malaria in the Congo presented an opportunity to once again demonstrate  the efficacy of 100% Artemisia leaf. (3)

It is 40x more potent than artemisinin and much cheaper! In the Congo tablets made from the whole dried Artemisia annua leaves were used to successfully treat 18 cases of advanced malaria (symptoms that can include loss of consciousness, respiratory distress, convulsions, and pulmonary oedema and in this case, one child was already in a coma). The much publicised and over promoted ACT treatment had failed to cure them and none of the other standard drugs made any difference to what had become a near fatal situation.

None of patients even responded to artesunate, the frontline medication for severe malaria. Yet after five days on the Artemisia tablets all 18 of the patients fully recovered. Laboratory tests showed they had no parasites remaining in their blood. During 2017 over 100 other drug-resistant malaria patients were also successfully treated with the experimental  Artemisia tablets, thanks to the pioneering work of Professor Pamela Weather and her lab team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). “It’s a small study, but the results are powerful” she says. She won her argument. The ever increasing antimalarial resistance has spread from Southeast Asia to Africa.

It has become a severe problem (4) for medical staff in hospitals that overflow with malaria patients suffering from advanced stages of the infection. They could easily benefit from cheap, sustainable and very effective home grown herbs and help to create a local industry. Traditional medicine, we call it.

In South Africa our Artemisia Afra subspecies has also been used to successfully treat not only malaria, but a number of parasite-borne diseases. Artemisia Afra contains the highest concentration of the flavone luteolin, a molecule with demonstrated antiplasmodial, anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties. I personally have used a parasite tincture (5) that contains 25% Artemisia Afra as a cure for leishmaniosis tropicana (fever, vomiting and diarrhoea that is usually fatal) after being bitten by infected sand flies in Zanzibar. Furthermore, when tested for bilharzia (I had it unknowingly for 20 years) we treated it with the anti-parasite combination of Artemisia, olive leaf, cloves and ivy leaf. After 1 week no more parasites were present in my blood. There were no side effects – apart from stimulating my appetite!

Olive leaves can also cure and prevent malaria and are considered safe for pregnant women

When quinine lost favour as the earliest treatment for malaria, olive leaf tea became a popular substitute in the 1820′s. Later on chemists isolated a compound they called oleuropein that protects leaves against the lacey-winged olive fly that attacks the fruit. By 1906, scientists claimed that olive leaf extracts were superior to quinine (6), the primary treatment for malaria at the time. A case report from a clinic in Mexico announced a complete cure of a full-blown case of malaria in

34-year-old woman after taking two olive leaf supplements every six hours for six months. There are a host of other valuable phytochemicals present in 100% olive leaf products, such as the anti-malarial agent cinchonine. No wonder it worked!

In 2002 my husband Jim was relieved of malaria within a few days using only olive leaf tablets (7) made from 100% olive leaf. He was on holiday in China, and the breakout occurred on top of a high mountain we had climbed. That night, in the remote hotel, his fever broke loose and he became delirious.  Luckily we had olive leaf tablets in our first aid bag and he took 2 every 2 – 4 hours. The next morning he was able to climb down unassisted. A few weeks later his malaria backlash was once again alleviated using only the olive leaf tablets. We were then at home and could get the proper diagnosis. He recovered fully. Olive leaf, as in the case of Artemisia is more potent as a 100% dry leaf remedy.

So ideally one needs to munch up the whole leaf to receive the most benefit!

Now that malaria has developed resistance to many of our present day drugs, clinicians may once again turn to olive leaf (8) remedies. Many scientific studies have been performed throughout Europe and the United States to show that olive leaf extracts have strong antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial, and anti-parasitic activity.  Olive leaf does not harm beneficial bacteria as is the case with regular antibiotics and they also help to eliminate biofilms that shield off colonies of bacteria, causing drug resistance.

In our village complex we have a number of African gardeners who visit their families in Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi once a year. Before they leave, they come to me for their bottle of anti-parasite tincture. It contains olive leaf, Artemisia, cloves and ivy leaf. None of them have ever had malaria since taking “Madam’s muthi” and they also give it to their families back home. Whenever they feel the need to “clean their blood” they ask for this tincture. I show them the Olive Trees and the Artemisia plants in our complex and tell them to make their own tea. But no, some of them say that they no longer test positive for HIV / AIDS and offer to pay for the medicine because it makes them feel good. (It tastes terrible, so that boosts credibility!)

A group of four cyclists who travelled from Cape to Cairo also used the anti-parasite tincture during their epic journey and told us that it also helped to prevent tummy bugs as well as colds and flu. Although they travelled through mosquito infested countries along the way and were bitten a lot, nobody got malaria. Herbal remedies are medicines in their own right. They also have side effects as well as contra-indications that need to be respected.

Artemisia can be used as a solo remedy for preventing and treating malaria but it is not safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Neither are regular drugs. A safer alternative is to use olive leaf tablets, extracts or tinctures. They have been used to good effect by pregnant women, babies and breastfeeding mothers under the supervision of Naturopaths and Doctors of Integrative Medicine. Although anecdotal, no reports of malaria have been declared. Not even from the babies and toddlers who were given olive leaf tablets – crushed with honey, to make the medicine go down!

For many years the missionaries and their families who visited Mozambique used these 100% olive leaf tablets and never got malaria. Olive leaf has a number of other therapeutic effects, including lowering blood pressure, improving insulin functionality, warding off colds and flu and eradicating viruses, microbes and parasites. It does not wipe out beneficial gut flora. Unlike many of the popular anti-malarial drugs, no drug resistance has been reported with olive leaves. Seven olive leaves are used for 1 olive leaf tablet (9), so when making tea or tinctures (10) one needs to bear that in mind as a dosage guideline. The most studied active components of olive leave are oleacin and oleuropin but in nature, the synergy from the entire leaf or plant component is always more effective than its mere extracts. At the time, during the pioneering work over 20 years ago we did not even know that the whole leaf contained cinchonine – one of the most potent anti-malarial we have in nature.

Going back to the original plant source opens up a new vista of therapeutic possibilities.

Artemisia and Olive leaf used as a 100% dry leaf remedy is worth considering to help overcome the threat of worldwide malaria epidemics. It is sustainable and can help impoverished communities to generate a lucrative income. What would Hippocrates have done?

Disclaimer: This information is not intended for personal (layman-based) diagnosis or treatment of specific illnesses. Please ask a knowledgeable practitioner if you are pregnant or sensitive to some of the ingredients mentioned or if you have epilepsy, heart problems, autoimmune conditions, etc.