Chinese researcher wins Nobel Prize for malaria drug derived from “Sweet Annie”


In what could be described as a tribute to the efficacy of ancient plant remedies, Chinese scientist Tu Youyou was awarded half of the 2015 Nobel Prize for physiology and medicine for her discovery of artemisinin, now the world’s primary treatment for malaria.

According to a CNN report:

“She scoured ancient texts and folk manuals and traveled to remote parts of the country for clues, ultimately collecting 2,000 potential remedies. She whittled these down to 380 and tested each one on mice. One of the compounds tested reduced the number of malaria parasites in the rodents’ blood.”

“Derived from sweet wormwood [Artemisia annua, pictured above, and also known as “Sweet Annie”], its use as a treatment for malaria was first recorded 1600 years ago in China, when a manual recommended drinking juice extracted from the plant. Her discovery resulted in the drug artemisinin — humankind’s best defense against the mosquito-borne disease, which kills 450,000 people each year.”

We have three cousins of this plant growing wild here in Southern California: Artemisia california (“Coastal Sagebrush”), Artemisia douglasiana (“Mugwort”), and Artemisia tridentata (“Great Basin Sagebrush”). They are among 400 species of Artemisia worldwide, many of which are being analyzed as alternate sources of artemisinin since the content is low in Artemisia annua while the demand for anti-malarial medication is growing.

Here is a link to another 2017 study on the medicinal properties of the genus Artemisia.

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