Artemisia annua L. Traditional Uses

Artemisia annua L.

Historical and ethnobotanical studies


Benjamin A. Elman
Rethinking the Twentieth Century Denigration of Traditional Chinese Science and Medicine in the Twenty-first Century
Prepared for the 6th International Conference on The New Significance of Chinese Culture in the Twenty-first Century: "The Interaction and Confluence of Chinese and Non-Chinese Civilization," co-sponsored by the Himalaya Foundation and the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation, and held at the International Sinological Center at Charles University in Prague, The Czech Republic, November 1-2, 2003. Texte repris in Benjamin A Elman, Science in China, 1600–1900, World Scientific, 2005

Abstract: Western scholars and westernized Chinese scholars have often essentialized the European history of science as the universalist progress of knowledge. When Chinese studies of the natural world, her rich medieval traditions of alchemy, or pre-Jesuit mathematical and astronomical achievements are discussed, they are usually treated dismissively to contrast them with the triumphant objectivity and rationality of the modern sciences in Western Europe and the United States. Many twentieth century scholars were rightly convinced that pre-modern China had no industrial revolution and had never produced capitalism. As the evidence of a rich tradition of natural studies and medicine has accrued in volume after unrelenting volume of Joseph Needham’s Science and Civilisation in China project after 1954, it has become harder and harder to gainsay it all as superstition or irrationality or inductive luck. Ironically, the long-term history of Western science has been decisively refracted when viewed through the lenses chronicling the demise of traditional Chinese natural studies, technology, and medicine. Study of pre-modern Chinese science, technology, and medicine has restored a measure of respect to traditional Chinese natural studies and thereby granted priority to research in areas where the received wisdom was suspect, based as it was on careless speculation about banal generalities. Scholars now build on those contributions to search beneath the surface of self-satisfied discourses about "Western science" and the self-serving appeals to Greek deductive logic upon which they were rhetorically based.


Elisabeth Hsu
The history of qing hao in the Chinese materia medica
Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 100 (6), 505-508. 2005

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Summary: Artemisinin is currently used for treating drug-resistant malaria. It is found in Artemisia annua and also in Artemisia apiacea and A. lancea. Artemisia annua and Artemisia apiacea were known to the Chinese in antiquity and, since they were easily confused with each other, both provided plant material for the herbal drug qing hao (blue-green hao). This article shows, however, that since at least the eleventh century Chinese scholars recognized the difference between the two species, and advocated the use of Artemisia apiacea, rather than Artemisia annua for ‘treating lingering heat in joints and bones’ and ‘exhaustion due to heat/fevers’. The article furthermore provides a literal translation of the method of preparing qing hao for treating intermittent fever episodes, as advocated by the eminent physician Ge Hong in the fourth century CE. His recommendation was to soak the fresh plant in cold water, wring it out and ingest the expressed juice in its raw state. Both findings may have important practical implications for current traditional usage of the plant as an antimalarial: rather than using the dried leaves of Artemisia annua in warm infusions, it suggests that fresh juice extraction from Artemisia apiacea may improve efficacy.


Alexandre Sanner
L’artémisinine et ses dérivés : apports de la médecine traditionnelle chinoise dans la lutte contre le paludisme chimioresistant et perspectives contemporaines
Thèse pour obtenir le grade de Docteur en Médecine présentée et soutenue publiquement dans le cadre du troisième cycle de médecine générale le 15 décembre 2008

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Youyou Tu
The discovery of artemisinin (qinghaosu) and gifts from Chinese medicine
Nature medicine 17(10):1217-20 · October 2011
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Bertrand Graz, Andrew Y Kitua and Hamisi M Malebo
To what extent can traditional medicine contribute a complementary or alternative solution to malaria control programmes?
Malaria Journal 2011, 10 (Suppl 1): S6
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This article is part of the supplement: Natural products for the control of malaria
Abstract: Recent studies on traditional medicine (TM) have begun to change perspectives on TM effects and its role in the health of various populations. The safety and effectiveness of some TMs have been studied, paving the way to better collaboration between modern and traditional systems. Traditional medicines still remain a largely untapped health resource: they are not only sources of new leads for drug discoveries, but can also provide lessons and novel approaches that may have direct public-health and economic impact. To optimize such impact, several interventions have been suggested, including recognition of TM’s economic and medical worth at academic and health policy levels; establishing working relationships with those prescribing TM; providing evidence for safety and effectiveness of local TM through appropriate studies with malaria patients; spreading results for clinical recommendations and health policy development; implementing and evaluating results of new health policies that officially integrate TM.


Huan Liu, Xiaofei Tian, Yongbing Zhang, Changsui Wang, Hongen Jiang
The discovery of Artemisia annua L. in the Shengjindian cemetery, Xinjiang, China and its implications for early uses of traditional Chinese herbal medicine qinghao
Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Volume 146, Issue 1, 7 March 2013, Pages 278-286

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Ethnopharmacological Relevance: Artemisia annua L., with the ancient name of qinghao, is a traditional Chinese herbal medicine. It has appeared in many ancient Chinese medical manuscripts, which describe its uses to include treatment of wounds, alleviating intermittent fevers, as well as enhancing the brightness of eyes and even improving longevity.
Materials and Methods: A sheaf of plant remains, including stalks and inflorescence intentionally placed in the corner of a tomb, have been recovered from the Shengjindian cemetery (about 2400-2000 BP on the basis of (14)C dating), Turpan, Xinjiang, China. The morphology of these materials was examined using a stereomicroscope and a scanning electron microscope. Ancient DNA was also extracted from these remains.
Results: By comparing the morphological and DNA characteristics with modern specimens, these plant remains were identified to belong to Artemisia annua L. Owing to its strong fragrance, these plant remains are suggested as serving to disguise the odor of the deceased.
Conclusion: This is the first material archaeological evidence to date despite numerous records of Artemisia annua in ancient Chinese texts as herbal medicine qinghao, though it seems to have been employed as odor suppressant, not for medical purpose.


Elisabeth Hsu
How Techniques of Herbal Drug Preparation Affect the Therapeutic Outcome: Reflections on Qinghao 青蒿 (Herba Artemisiae annuae) in the History of the Chinese Materia Medica

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Abstract: This chapter summarises an earlier study that detailed in chronological order the translation of all the entries on qinghao (and its synonyms caohao chouhao, huanghuahao, etc.) that Frederic Obringer and I could locate in the premodern Chinese materia medica (bencao) in the time period between 168 BCE and 1596. The aim of that study (Hsu in Plants, health and healing: Berghahn, Oxford, pp 83-130, 2010) was threefold: it aimed to make a contribution to ethnobotany, the history of Chinese medicine and herbal medical practice. It underlined, first and foremost, that ’herbal’ medications are not to be conceived of as ’natural’ ’herbs’ but as cultural artefacts: the entries on qinghao in the Chinese materia medica contained detailed information on the culture-specific transformation of plant parts into the drugs that the patient would then consume. This underlined that the so-called ’herbal’ medical practice depends not only on plant classifications that are culture specific, but also on practical interventions that treat the plant as a thing. Accordingly, the study of qinghao involved not merely attending to the cultural acquisition of knowledges (epistemologies) but also to the techniques and practices of intervening with perceived realities (ontologies). Second, the study highlighted that the practical recommendations of how to use the plant and its various parts changed over time; it remains, to date, one of the first longitudinal studies on a specific item of the materia medica in the history of Chinese medicine. Finally, it evaluated the identification of qinghao and other hao in terms of modern botanical taxonomies (as given in the Zhongyao dacidian 1986).


Alia Sadiq, Muhammad Qasim Hayat and Muhammad Ashraf
Ethnopharmacology of Artemisia annua L.: A Review
in Artemisia annua – Pharmacology and Biotechnology, Tariq Aftab, Jorge F. S. Ferreira, M. Masroor A. Khan, M. Naeem Editors, 2013
Abstract: Artemisia annua L. has been recognized as important ethanomedicinal herb since two millennia. It has been included in ancient pharmacopoeias of various Asian and European countries. World Health Organization has recommended Artemisia annua as antimalarial drug. Its most common ethnobotanical practice involves the use of whole plant decoction for the treatment of malaria, cough, and cold. Diarrhea is also reported to be cured by taking its dry leaves powder. Whole flowering plant is known to be antihelminth, antipyretic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, carminative, stimulant, tonic, and stomachic. The tincture was formally used to treat nervous diseases and crushed plants in liniments. Artemisia annua tea infusion has been used for the treatment of malaria in African countries. Artemisia annua contains vital compound known as artemisinin that provide structural chemical base for combinatorial treatment therapy for world antimalarial program. Research studies also report that artemisinin is effective for killing human breast cancer cells. Therefore, isolation and characterization of artemisinin has increased the interest in Artemisia annua worldwide. Several ethnobotanical uses in Africa claim that the Artemisia annua tea is also effective against HIV. Recently, research investigations are more focused to evaluate its antiviral potential against HIV, as it is highly emerging disease throughout the world. Therefore, scientific validation can provide the support to the concept of ‘‘ethnopharmacology in overdrive


Zhao Z and Liang Z
The Original Source of Modern Research on Chinese Medicinal Materials: Bencao Texts
Herald Scholarly open Access OA Journal of Alternative, Complementary & Integrative Medicine, 2017, 3: 045

Abstract: Bencao Texts, the unique name of the Chinese Traditional Materia Medica, record the knowledge of Chinese medicinal materials. Numerous Bencao Texts have been circulated since the end of warring states period. The paper outlines the contents and modern research of Bencao Texts. Also the impact of Bencao Texts on modern research of Chinese Medicinal Materials (CMMs) is described. Briefly, Bencao Texts can be mainly classified as main Bencao Texts in the past dynasties, theme of Bencao Texts and local Bencao Texts. Much research work on Bencao Texts has been carried out on the literature and textual study. Many lost Bencao Texts have been reconstructed by later generations of editors and the contents of extant Bencao Texts have been well studied. Inspired from Bencao Texts, the development of new drugs and resources, as well as the modern quality evaluation and safety of CMMs has achieved many results. The purpose of current paper is to arouse the attention to Bencao Texts and the intellectual property rights protection of the traditional knowledge recorded in Bencao Texts.
Keywords: Bencao text; Chinese Medicinal Materials; Intellectual property rights; Textual study


Zhongzhen Zhao, Ping Guo and Eric Brand
A concise classification of bencao (materia medica)
Chin Med (2018) 13:18

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Abstract: Books that record the sources and applications of medicinal materials are commonly known as bencao (materia medica) in China. Bencao (materia medica) literature review is the very first step in the standard authentication procedure of Chinese medicinals. As an important part of China’s cultural heritage, these various bencao (materia medica) texts represent centuries of accumulated wisdom in combating disease and preserving health. In this short review, bencao (materia medica) classics of China are broadly divided into three major categories in our routine practice: mainstream bencao (materia medica), thematic bencao (materia medica) and regional bencao (materia medica). The overall significance and current situation of exploration of bencao (materia medica) literature are summarized as well.
Keywords: Bencao (materia medica), Chinese medicinal authentication, Traditional Chinese medicine


Merlin Willcox, Gerard Bodeker, Geneviève Bourdy, Vikas Dhingra, Jacques Falquet, Jorge F.S. Ferreira, Bertrand Graz, Hans-Martin Hirt, Elisabeth Hsu, Pedro Melillo de Magalhães, Damien Provendier, and Colin W. Wright
.Artemisia annua as a Traditional Herbal Antimalarial
Chapter in: Willcox ML, Bodeker G, Rasoanaivo P, editors. Traditional Medicinal Plants and Malaria. CRC Press, 2019

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No abstract

Published online by La vie re-belle


 Rethinking the Twentieth Century Denigration of Traditional Chinese Science and Medicine in the Twenty-first Century
 World Scientific
 L’artémisinine et ses dérivés : apports de la médecine traditionnelle chinoise dans la lutte contre le paludisme chimiorésistant et perspectives contemporaines
 Alexandre Sanner
 To what extent can traditional medicine contribute a complementary or alternative solution to malaria control programmes?
 Malaria Journal
 Ethnopharmacology of Artemisia annua L.: A Review
 Pharmacology and Biotechnology

Etudes historiques, ethnobotaniques et ethnopharmacologiques

Ce dossier regroupe les études Etudes historiques, ethnobotaniques et ethnopharmacologiques concernant Artemisia annua L.

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