Journal / Botanical Encyclopedia

Sweet Wormwood

Sweet Wormwood

Artemisia annua
Sweet wormwood, also known as “Sweet Annie”, is a remarkable herb that has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine (the herb known as “Qing Hao”). This herb is known for its unique and distinct flavor, which is both sweet and slightly bitter.


March 19, 2024


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Artemisia annua, also known as sweet wormwood or qing hao in Chinese, has different names in Chinese and Western cultures. In Chinese, it is referred to as "qing hao," while in Western countries, it is commonly called sweet wormwood or annual wormwood.

In Eastern herbal medicine, Artemisia annua has a long history of use. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), it has been utilized for centuries to treat various conditions. It is particularly known for its effectiveness in treating fevers, digestive disorders, and malaria. The active chemical compound in Artemisia annua is called artemisinin, which is responsible for its antimalarial properties. Artemisinin is derived from the leaves and flowers of the plant.

In Western herbal medicine, Artemisia annua gained attention in the 1970s when Chinese scientist Tu Youyou extracted artemisinin from the plant and developed it into an effective antimalarial drug. This breakthrough led to the development of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs), which are now the primary treatment for malaria in many parts of the world.

Artemisinin is renowned for its potent antimalarial and anti-parasitic properties. It works by damaging the membranes of malaria parasites, inhibiting their growth and spread within the body. Additionally, artemisinin and its derivatives have shown promising results in treating other diseases, such as certain types of cancer.

Artemisia annua also contains various aromatic compounds, including terpenes and sesquiterpenes, which contribute to its distinct aroma. These aromatic compounds are believed to have potential health benefits, including anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. They may help reduce inflammation, fight oxidative stress, and support overall wellness.

In terms of shared aromatic compounds and antioxidant phenolic compounds with green tea, Artemisia annua contains compounds such as catechins and flavonoids, which are also present in green tea. These compounds are known for their antioxidant properties, which help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals and oxidative stress.

Regarding its history in the deployment of malaria drugs and anti-viral herbal medicines, Artemisia annua gained attention during the Vietnam War. North Vietnamese soldiers suffering from malaria were successfully treated with artemisinin-based medicines. This caught the attention of Western researchers, leading to further studies on the plant's antimalarial properties.

In the 20th century, artemisia annua was deployed as an herbal medicine in Africa by Mao Zedong's "Bare Foot Doctors." Chinese medical teams, including the "Bare Foot Doctors," were sent to African countries to provide healthcare services. They introduced artemisinin-based drugs as an effective treatment for malaria, contributing to the fight against the disease in Africa.

Overall, Artemisia annua has played a significant role in traditional Chinese medicine, modern medicine, and the fight against malaria. Its active compound, artemisinin, has revolutionized malaria treatment, and ongoing research continues to explore its potential uses in various other health conditions.