Malaria, climate, and vector control

Climate changes that lead to an increase in warm and wet conditions and flooding can increase risk for malaria. Modern methods of vector control have focused on insecticides but more traditional methods involved drainage of wet areas or containers that might be a breeding area for the mosquitoes that can carry the disease.

Regarding treatment or herbal preventatives, there is a plant that has been found effective as a whole herbal product or as an extract. Use of the whole plant may be more effective due to synergistic – additive – benefits of the various phytochemicals found in the plant. The extract artemisinin is used in combination with two other chemicals and is sold as a pharmaceutical treatment for malaria however availability can be a problem in areas where the infectious disease is common such as Sub Saharan Africa and resistance to the treatment is developing in some types of the malaria infection. (WHO Q & A on artemisinin resistance)

The plant however feasibly could be grown in nearby northern Africa as it is native to the region. The plant is commonly known as wormwood or Chinese Absinthe. It has traditionally also been used in the production of the alcoholic beverage called Absinthe. Some of the other phytochemicals that might have synergistic medicinal benefits include terpenes, flavonoids, coumarines, and beta-caryopyllene which can act as a non-euphoria inducing CB2 receptor agonist (more on beta-caryophyllene: mybiohack). Coumarines are used in cardiovascular disease treatments. 

The Artemesia group all likely have artemisinin content. The absenthium species also has thujone which has mental effects and can lead to seizures if taken in excess. It inhibits GABA activity, which is calming within the brain. Artemesia annua, Sweet Wormwood, or Sweet Annie, is the species used for tea, or to extract artemisinin. It is less bitter and does not have the thujone. 

So use of the whole plant in the form of dried, ground or crumbled leaves makes good sense for the synergistic – additive- benefits of the herbal medicinal plant rather than having a limited supply of one specific extracted phytonutrient – the artemisinin.  Use of the dried leaves has been found beneficial for the treatment of malaria either in the form of a tea or in a prepared capsule of the powder. About ten grams per day in a powdered capsule or made into a tea with a liter of water is mentioned as beneficial treatment for active cases of malaria when used several days in a row: (Absinthe chinoise/Chinese Absinthe – reference is in French – an auto-translation into English for those without the function available:

Less, 3-7 grams made into an infusion, or strong tea,  is recommended as a safe amount for thujone content, if Artemesia absenthium is used.

Malaria is a disease that can be treated but which also can cause relapses and which frequently leads to death. It is a leading cause of death in problem areas which include Sub-Saharan Africa. (WHO malaria report 2017) Going into business in nearby regions to produce herbal tea leave or powdered capsules of the dried leaves of wormwood/Chinese Absinthe, or Sweet Wormwood makes sense from a life saving perspective and possible as a cost saving perspective.

The herbal plant phytonutrients may also be beneficial as a preventative if taken regularly instead of waiting until malaria infections are present. If grown in a nearby region and processed as dried whole leaves production facilities could be fairly simple compared to the chemical processing to make an extract of only the artemisinin portion of the whole leaves. If some of the wormwood/Chinese Absinthe crop was also used to produce an alcoholic Absinthe then that might also subsidize the production of the plant for use as an herbal medication in the form of tea leaves or powdered capsules.

Another simple solution to help reduce malaria in areas where it is more of a risk is to reduce the amount of wet areas where mosquitoes grow as larva. Drain ditches and empty any old containers that collect water because they may also be breeding space for infectious mosquito larva. Insecticides on bednets or sprayed on the interior of housing is placing young and pregnant and chronically ill people more at risk from the toxic insecticides and are only helpful against insects that are already present. Draining breeding areas of water prevents mosquitoes from multiplying in the first place.

Health tips for controlling mosquitoe populations in areas where they may carry diseases such as malaria, yellow fever or zika:


Malaria and climate change

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

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