A component called artemisinin found in a little-known Chinese herb appears to be 1200 times more specific against cancer than the current drugs.

Cancer has been wreaking havoc across the globe with virtually everyone feeling the devastating effects of this disease.

These days, chances are if you do not have cancer, you probably know someone who does. This is a clear indicator of the spread of this disease even in every corner of the universe.

For instance, in Canada, it estimated that a shocking 2 out of 5 people would develop cancer at one point in their lives!

Stats are also showing that the mortality and the rates of developing cancer have been on the rise over the past few years. To make matter worse, new research is also casting doubt on the two most used medical techniques of handling cancer i. e radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

In fact, scientists are linking chemotherapy with growth in cancer cells which tend to deteriorate the health of the patient.

A little-known Chinese herb gives hope

On a positive note though, there is a little-known Chinese herb that is casting some light at the end of the tunnel. We are talking of the chemical component artemisinin which is a derivative of wormwood (Artemisia annua L), a plant common in the world of Chinese Medicine.

According to studies published by Life Sciences, Cancer Letters,and Anticancer Drugs, this herb has the ability to destroy cancer cells 1200 times more specifically than the currently available drugs.

For starters, the main challenge when it comes to cancer is that it develops from normal cells. Thus, the only way to destroy cancer cells is to kill healthy cells as well. This approach is the one used in radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

The latter destroys 5 cells from every 10 cancer cells killed. Subsequently, they have very devastating effects that at times lead to death.

How artemisinin works

Now, researchers from the University of Washington led by Henry Lai did some tests on their artemisinin-based compound on human leukemia cells. According to the study, the artemisinin-based compound was very selective in destroying cancer cells.

In simple words, artemisinin is highly toxic in the presence of iron but quite harmless with no iron. So, this compound takes advantage of the cancer cell’s affinity to iron to destroy them. Artemisinin on its own was found to be very good at destroying cancer cells.

It is about 10 times better than chemotherapy. The researchers added a small chemical tag to artemisinin that signals that protein is needed. This way, the cancer cells will then be “tricked” to engulf everything, i.e the proteins, iron, and the toxic compound.

Once the cancer cells have been ingested them, the iron will react with artemisinin to produce free radicals that kill the cancer cells. The compound is selective owing to the fact that the cancer cells are very fast in multiplying, which calls for lots of iron.

Moreover, the cancer cells aren’t that good at freeing up the free-floating iron that is produced when artemisinin reacts with iron. The other advantage with this drug is that it is expected to work very well on most cancers unlike the general drugs in use today.

This is because the artemisinin works on the general traits of cancer cells, which is their high level of iron. Well, this compound out of the little known Chinese herb presents lots of hope towards the fight against cancer. We are not yet there though, as the compound is still undergoing trials before it can be released into the market.

That said, there is a future that is not bleak after all!


  1. https://www.washington.edu/

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