Most of us think that parasites that affect our human digestive system are common only in developing countries. But, according to the CDC or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, millions of people are affected by parasitic infections in the United States every year (CDC, 2017).
Symptoms can be serious, and include abdominal ache and/or pain, loss of appetite, bloating, diarrhea, dizziness, fatigue, gas, nausea, rash or itchiness around the anal area, restlessness, sleep deprivation or difficulty sleeping, blood or mucus in stools, vomiting, and/or weight loss. The symptoms vary, but they cause a great amount of discomfort and pain.
I will share more information about these parasites, as well as anthelmintic herbs that can be used to support their elimination. Anthelmintic herbs expel worms and parasites from the body.
Types of Parasitic Infections
Four common parasitic infections include toxocariasis, a roundworm found in dog and cat feces; cysticercosis, a tapeworm found in pork; chagas, a protozoa transmitted through insects; and cytomegalovirus, a virus transmitted through bodily fluids (CDC, 2017).
These types of infections can occur in areas where there is poor hygiene. In many cases they are more prevalent in lower-income areas, but not all. The challenge to the American healthcare system is that these diseases are not well covered in medical school classes and textbooks, so many health care providers may not recognize them, despite the large number of cases.
For instance, Simon and McKay (2009) stated there are up to 2.8 million cases of toxocariasis, 170,000 cases of cysticercosis, 1 million cases of chagas, and 35,000 cases of cytomegalovirus.
It is important to seek medical attention if you feel you have a parasitic infection.
Anthelmintic herbs are effective and affordable, and they can be used to either kill or remove parasites or worms. There are 5 herbs that may be of use:
- Male fern, Aspidium filix-mas
Male fern is effective against tapeworms, such as cysticercosis. The part of the herb that is most useful is the root, and thus the herb is best consumed in the form of a capsule or extract (Weiss & Fentelmann, 2000).
- Pumpkin seeds, Curcurbita pepo
Pumpin sees are also effective anthelmintics against tapeworms and roundworms. But, pumpkin seeds have a weaker action than male fern. Pumpkin seeds are particularly safe due to their lack of toxicity (Weiss & Fentelmann, 2000), and are convenient because they are found more easily and can be consumed more readily. They can be eaten on their own, or added into any food, such as a salad, pasta, or baked casserole, for example.
- Garlic, Allium sativum
Garlic is a multi-faceted and cure-all herb. I have written of its many benefits before. I have described its properties as an alterative herb, which means it supports the healthy function of the body and it cleans the body. It also treats pinworms, threadworms, chagas infections, and can function as a tick repellant (Ulbricht, 2010; Weiss & Fentelmann, 2000).
- Wormwood, Artemisia absinthium
Roundworms, such as toxocariasis, and pinworms can be treated by wormwood. Thujone is one of the main active constituents within wormdwood. Thujone is also known as absinthol. If this makes you think of the liquor absinthe, it is because thujone is the basis of absinthe. The challenge with wormwood is that it has a very low therapeutic margin, which means that it is beneficial at a low dose, and can turn toxic if over consumed, even in slight amounts. For this reason, pregnant women, lactating women, children, and elderly should not consume wormwood.
However, wormwood has many therapeutic benefits, besides being an effective anthelmintic. It helps soothe the skin and calm irritations and treat bruises, sprains, and swellings. It is also a digestive tonic, increasing the production of bile and gastric juices, reducing spasms or cramping, and treating constipation, diarrhea, dyspepsia, flatulence and jaundice. It can be consumed as a tea, fluidextract, infusion, powder capsule, or tincture. Be sure to monitor the dosage carefully.
- Thyme, Thymus vulgaris
Thyme also contains thujone and is effective against worms. As opposed to wormwood, thyme can be consumed safely and readily as a spice in cooking, or as an herb fluid extract, tincture, or infusion (Braun & Cohen, 2005)
Three additional herbs that have anthelmintic actions are hyssop, Hyssopus officinalis, clove Eugenia caryophyllata, and elecampane Inula helenium (Castleman, 2001).
Be sure to consult a healthcare practitioner if you feel you may have a parasitic infection. It is important to get proper diagnosis and treatments. Herbs can be great remedies and complements to treatment. The more we look into herbs that have effective action against worms and other parasites, the more resources we will find.
Braun, L. & Cohen, M. (2005). Herb & Natural Supplement: An Evidence-Based Guide. Marrickville, Australia: Elsevier Mosby.
Castleman, M. (2001). The New Healing Herbs: The Ultimate Guide to Nature’s Best Medicines. Emmaus, PA: Bantam Books.
CDC. (2017). Parasites – neglected parasitic infections (NPIs). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved on April 2, 2018 from https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/npi/index.html
Simon, S. & McKay, B. (2009). Developing World’s Parasites, Disease Hit U.S.: Researchers Say Infections Spread by Bug Bites, Larvae Are Flourishing Along Border and in Other Pockets of Poverty. The Wall Street Journal, Aug 22. Retrieved from http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB125090339313750961?mg=reno64-wsj&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB125090339313750961.html
Ulbricht, C. E. (2010). Natural Standard: Herb & Supplement Guide- An Evidence-Based Reference. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Mosby.
Weiss, R. F. & Fintelmann, V. (2000). Herbal Medicine, 2nd ed. Stuttgart, Germany: Georg Thieme Verlag.
Author’s own: Thyme, Thymus vulgaris