We all know and love herbs like garlic, oregano and cloves. What you might not know, though, is that these herbs and many others have been used for hundreds — sometimes thousands of years, to fight parasites like worms, flukes and microscopic protozoans that invade the digestive systems of humans and other animals.
In this video, we’re going to explore the latest scientific findings on ten herbs widely believed to fight parasites. We’ll examine their history, see what makes them effective at stopping parasite infestations, and see what the research has to say about how (or if) they work.
We’ve saved a surprise for last — a tenth plant you might not have heard of before! So stay tuned to the end of this video to find out about that unusual remedy.
That list is coming up …right now.
Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) has been used as an anti-parasite treatment for thousands of years. The herb’s distinctive aroma and herbal flavor make it a popular ingredient in tea, which is made from its yellow-green leaves and velvety white or greenish-silver stems.
In the 1800s, wormwood picked up a notorious reputation as the supposedly hallucinogenic ingredient in the popular alcoholic beverage absinthe. But while it’s never been proven to cause hallucinations, wormwood does contain the compound thujone, which helps calm the body’s nervous system, and has even been shown to alleviate arthritis pain and help heal burns.
The chemical thujone has also been used as an antiparasitic treatment as far back as ancient Egypt. It’s believed to be especially effective in treating intestinal worms. SBut while some studies have found that wormwood extract can help kill tapeworms and other parasites in certain animals, the evidence for this is mostly anecdotal in humans. Even so, wormwood remains a popular antiparasitic treatment, as it has been for centuries. Researchers have found that it may be effective against a wide range of parasitic infections, and could even potentially be used to fight malaria.
In addition to thujone, the plant also contains the antioxidant chamazulene, which is widely used in extract-based skin ointments. This compound may even help reduce your risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer. Artemisinin, another compound found in wormwood, may help fight inflammation. This compound seems to inhibit the activity of cytokines — inflammation-promoting proteins created by the body’s immune system — and may even serve as a helpful treatment for digestive disorders like Crohn’s disease.
So, whether wormwood turns out to be a broad-spectrum anti-parasite drug or not, the plant certainly won’t do you any harm at reasonable doses — and it may do your body good in a lot of different ways.
2. Garlic bulbs
Though it’s famous in fiction for scaring off vampires, garlic (Allium sativum) has also been shown to help fight a wide range of parasitic infections. As everyone who’s cooked with the herb knows, garlic’s real power is in its bulbs, which break up into small chunks known as cloves. These cloves add delicious flavor to many dishes — and also contain a compound called allicin, which is toxic to many types of bacteria, fungi and worms.
Research has shown that allicin is especially effective against giardia, an intestinal parasite that causes digestive distress. It’s also bad news for nematodes — parasites like hookworms, pinworms, and whipworms, which take up residence in the intestine and cause many types of digestion-related problems. More recent research has even found that garlic’s compound allicin can help kill cryptosporidium, an intestinal parasite that many people pick up in swimming pools and hot tubs.
So next time you bite into a delicious slice of garlic bread, remember you’re doing more than just making your stomach happy — you’re helping protect your whole digestive system against all sorts of uninvited guests.
3. Pumpkin seeds
Popular as a snack and as a topping for autumn pumpkin bread, pumpkin seeds (of the plant Cucurbita pepo) have gained a new form of popularity in recent years: as a treatment for parasitic infestations. PUnlike some dubious herbal remedies you hear about, pumpkin seeds’ efficacy against parasites is backed up by quite a few reliable scientific studies — in fact, scientists have even pinpointed several chemicals in pumpkin seeds that kill specific parasites in well-understood ways.
One group of these chemicals are known as tetracyclic triterpenes. These compounds have been proven effective at killing blood and liver flukes, both in humans and in other mammals. They’re effective at stopping the growth of parasitic flukes throughout every stage of their lifecycle, from egg to adult — and can significantly decrease the number of flukes in a person’s digestive system, even if the invaders are already quite numerous.
But that’s only one way in which pumpkin seeds fight parasites. They clap contain a group of chemicals called cucurbitins, which can paralyze parasites like worms, making it harder for them to attach to intestinal walls, and stay out of the way of the body’s digestive cycle. Research has shown that curcubitins make it easier for people to eliminate parasites from their intestines through ordinary digestive activity, dramatically reducing the parasite burden on the body.
Next time you carve a pumpkin for Halloween, don’t throw away those seeds! Salt them, roast them, and enjoy them as a healthy, all-natural anti-parasite remedy.
Cloves are the aromatic flower buds of a tree (Syzygium aromaticum) native to Malaysia. They’ve been used for centuries as a flavoring for food and drinks, as well as in traditional medicine, both to soothe toothache pain and to fight parasites. Some evidence even suggests that clove oil may help manage blood sugar, reduce fever, and mitigate excessive blood clotting .— though these claims remain inconclusive.
When it comes to fighting parasites, the main active ingredient in cloves is eugenol, a chemical compound that stops parasites from spreading by breaking down the hard casing around their microscopic eggs. Scientific studies have found that eugenol is especially effective at killing intestinal protozoan parasites like Blastocystis and Giardia, as well as the blood fluke liver parasite Schistosoma.
While it’s a good idea to take many of the health claims about cloves with a grain of salt, a growing number of scientific studies continue to confirm its effectiveness against parasites. And, like most of the herbs on this list, it’s a delicious ingredient that certainly won’t do your body any harm in reasonable amounts.
Everyone knows papaya (Carica papaya) as a delicious tropical fruit, native to Central America and Mexico. What you might not know is that papaya contains a whole arsenal of parasite-killing chemicals — each specific to a different part of the plant. In fact, what we’re about to tell you might even change your thinking about which parts of papaya are worth eating!
The flesh (a.k.a. fruit) of the papaya contains a class of powerful enzymes known as cysteine proteinases. These enzymes break down the proteins that are essential to the lives of many parasitic worms — killing off, in some cases, a whopping 97 percent of all worms in a subject’s body. While these particular results have only been produced in pigs so far, plenty of anecdotal evidence attests to papaya’s anti-parasitic effects in humans, and we can expect to see this confirmed scientifically in future studies.
But it’s not just the fruit itself that fights parasites. Papaya seeds also contain a collection of fatty acids that have been shown to kill intestinal worms like Trypanosoma. Unlike the results above, the effects of papaya seeds have been demonstrated in humans, who’ve experienced dramatic reductions in parasite activity as a result of eating papaya seeds or consuming papaya seed extract.
Next time you buy a papaya, consider getting it in whole form, instead of sliced. And consider eating some seeds along with the fruit — giving your body a one-two punch against many different kinds of parasites.
6. Oregon grape root
The Oregon grape plant (Mahonia aquifolium) flourishes throughout the American Northwest. While its small purplish fruits aren’t particularly tasty, they’ve been cultivated for their seeds for hundreds of years. People have used the ground-up seeds to make jelly, dye, and even wine — and today, researchers are discovering a new use for them: killing digestive parasites.
This plant’s other common name, “holly-leaved berberry,” lends its name to the seeds’ active antiparasitic chemical: an isoquinoline alkaloid known as berberine. Although the Oregon grape is native to the Americas, people have been extracting berberine from other plants for thousands of years — most notably in traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine, which has used it to treat infections of the digestive system for centuries.
Modern scientific research has shown that traditional Ayurvedic doctors were right: berberine does indeed kill many different kinds of pathogens, including intestinal parasites like coccidian protozoa, which commonly infect chickens. While these results haven’t been replicated in humans so far, berberine’s widespread use as a treatment for intestinal diseases suggests this chemical likely to be just as effective at killing parasites in human digestive systems as it is in birds.
Every lover of Italian cuisine knows oregano (Oreganum vulgare) — that herb whose flavor is such an essential ingredient in many Mediterranean dishes. It might surprise you to learn, however, that this delicious plant is also scientifically proven to reduce the activity of digestive parasites, as well as some viruses, bacteria and fungi.
Oregano essential oil contains a number of chemicals known as phenolics, which exhibit powerful antiparasitic activity. In particular, the chemicals carvacrol and thymol, which occur naturally in oregano, have been scientifically shown to reduce the reproductive rate of the protozoan parasite Cryptosporidium.
Another study found that oregano oil achieved the “complete disappearance” of the parasites Entamoeba, Endolimax and Blastocystis from adult human patients. And still another study showed that it’s effective at killing bacteria like Staphylococcus (the source of “staph” infections), as well as Acinetobacter, Pseudomonas, and other drug-resistant bacterial strains.
It’s important to note that ordinary dried oregano seasoning doesn’t achieve these effects. But with oregano essential oil or another highly concentrated form of the herb, you’ll be able to handle a parasite infection naturally, and get your digestive system back to normal.
For centuries, Native American peoples have been using the echinacea plant (Echinacea purpurea) — a relative of the daisy — to treat cold and flu, inflammation, migraines, and other common ailments. This herb gained a newfound popularity in the herbal supplement market, where it’s often paired with vitamin C as a natural remedy for the winter sniffles.
In addition to its well-documented anti-inflammatory properties, echinacea has also proven effective at disrupting several different stages of parasites’ life-cycles. When administered to patients infected with protozoan parasites known as trypanosomatids, echinacea extract made it harder for the parasites to move around and hold onto intestinal walls. It also helped prevent the parasites’ cells from dividing, slowing their growth and making it harder for them to reproduce.
Further research hints that echinacea may also be effective against certain bacteria and viruses. One study suggests that it may help inhibit the effects of flu and herpes viruses — and possibly even certain strains of coronavirus, as well as the bacteria responsible for strep throat and staph infections, among other disorders. This research is still in the very preliminary stages, but it’s exciting to think that the beloved echinacea plant may be even more powerful than we realized.
A flowering plant originating in Asia, ginger (Zingiber officinale) has been used as a spice, and a natural health remedy, in many different cultures across thousands of years. Most preparations of the plant start with its root, which has a distinctive tangy flavor, and serves as a delicious ingredient in everything from tea to soup to candy.
Ginger has also been scientifically shown to fight certain kinds of parasitic infestations. One study showed that a combination of ginger and cinnamon significantly reduced tissue damage caused by the common protozoan parasite Giardia, by killing its eggs and inhibiting its ability to reproduce. While these results were in rats, not humans, it’s likely that ginger’s effectiveness in other mammals’ digestive systems will translate to human patients as well.
Additional studies have confirmed ginger’s effectiveness at combating other digestive parasites, including Toxoplasma, Trypanosoma and Blastocystis, to name just a few. And it’s worth mentioning that even if you’re not concerned about parasites, ginger is well-known to support healthy digestion in a wide variety of other ways — preventing nausea, gas and other digestive issues, and for its appetite-suppressant effects, which can help with weight loss.
As promised, we’ve saved a surprise for #10. You might not have even heard of goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) before this video — but parasite researchers certainly have! This herb, native to Canada and the United States, contains the same chemical, berberine, that’s found in the Oregon grape plant we mentioned earlier in the video. This chemical compound has been scientifically proven to kill several different types of parasites with a high degree of effectiveness.
Some research suggests that berberine can actually cause digestive parasites to digest themselves, in a process known as autophagy (“self-eating”). One study says that berberine exhibits “significant antimicrobial activity against bacterial, viral, and fungal infections as well as parasites and worms.” — and while many of these claims remain to be proven in humans, researchers do recommend goldenseal extract for controlling parasitic infections in chickens and other livestock.
However, a word of medical caution here: the American Cancer Society (ACS) warns that goldenseal can cause a wide range of unpleasant symptoms, including “digestive complaints, constipation, diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting.” In other words, taking this herb for digestive problems may make those problems even worse, especially if it’s taken in high doses. For this reason, it’s advisable to take goldenseal only under the guidance of a medical professional who can advise you about reasonable doses.
That about wraps it up for our list of 10 herbs that fight parasites! As you can see, scientific debate continues on which of these herbs are most effective at killing different kinds of parasites, stopping them from growing and reproducing, or just making it easier for the digestive system to flush them out. But since all these plants have been used in traditional medicine for centuries, it’s likely that we’ll see even more lab results confirming their efficacy in years to come.