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All Natural Remedies for Parasites

by Helen Kimber(more info)

listed in colon health, originally published in issue 42 - July 1999

Look around you, the people you know, those you work with and those you live with all busy going about their daily lives. Little do they realise that their bodies are probably hosts to an amazing array of parasites.

Parasites have gained a reputation as ugly, hideous creatures that devour their hosts with vengeance, deriving nourishment and protection without giving anything back – a reputation that is justified.

Systemic Results of Parasitic Infection

The word parasite comes from the Greek 'parasitos' which means one that stands at the meal of another. Parasites can live and reproduce for many years in humans sucking blood, leaching nutrients and gradually taking over!

As more and more research on parasites is carried out it can be seen that they are not just grotesque creatures of the underworld, but they have a complex life cycle and are a great deal more powerful than anyone imagined.

Parasites are responsible for many ill health conditions including diarrhoea, gastrointestinal upset, vaginal irritation, joint pain, nervous diseases, immune dysfunction and chronic fatigue. Long term, undetected infestation can cause many systemic problems. For the very old, very young or immunocompromised, a parasitic infection can be extremely problematic.

Figure 1 (above) shows the systemic results of parasitic infections.

Table 1 (below) lists some of the signs and symptoms of parasitic infections.

Table 1: Signs and Symptoms of Parasitic Infections

   Abdominal pain and cramps
   Low back pain
   Pruritus ani
   Autoimmune disease
   Chronic fatigue
   Skin itching
   Depressed secretory IgA
   Weight loss
   Abdominal distension
   High fever
   Blood in stools
   Food allergy
   Inflammatory Bowel Disease
   Crohn’s Disease
   Increased intestinal permeability
   Irregular bowel movements
   Foul smelling stools
   Rectal bleeding

Reproduced with kind permission from GSDL

Parasites are not fussy as to whose body they live in. Just because we live in an advanced technological environment does not mean we are safe from these microscopic invaders.

Statistics from America suggest that at least one in ten Americans is a home to protozoa, roundworms, tapeworms or flukes. More often than not they can be host to more than one type! The chances are that in the UK these figures are very similar.

Unfortunately all too often, as with many unpleasant things, people prefer to keep their head in the sand and forget about their "nasty neighbours", but when parasites take up long term residence in the human body the consequences can be catastrophic.

It is not known how many parasites there are – probably millions. Some like mites, ticks and fleas live on the surface of our body, or those of our pets. Others live inside us – trematodes, tapeworms, amoebas – sucking the life blood from intestines, liver and other essential organs.

Some parasites will only live on a particular host. For example, the pork tapeworm is very selective as to where it resides and will only mature in humans.

Tapeworms can live for up to 10 years inside a person's intestines and can grow up to 10 feet in length. Each tapeworm segment comes complete with male and female organs which makes reproduction extremely simple and very proliferative – they can produce up to a million eggs per day!

The larvae of pork tapeworms can migrate throughout the body to various organs – the muscles, heart, eyes, liver, brain, etc. where they can cause seizures.

Testing for Parasites

Great Smokies diagnostic laboratory is renowned for its expertise in gastrointestinal testing and offer comprehensive parasitology profile tests.

These simple stool tests can be carried out in the privacy of the patient's home and have easy to follow instructions. Results are usually returned to the practitioner within two weeks and positive results are not only confirmed by naming the parasite but also by electron micrograph.

Great Smokies screen many thousands of patients for parasites and in approximately 30% of the samples tested parasites are found to be present.[1]

Blastocystis hominis

Blastocystis hominis is one of the most common parasites that often go undetected due to poor laboratory technique. At Great Smokies, Blastocystis is found in 20% or more of clinical specimens.[2]

Blastocystis has been associated with many chronic conditions including irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue and arthritic complaints. Blastocystis organisms have even been found in synovial fluid of the knee[3].

Blastocystis can cause cramps, vomiting, sleeplessness, nausea, weight loss, anorexia, dizziness, lassitude, flatulence and puritus. Some people carry this pathogen for many years and are asymptomatic; however, for many people suffering from gastrointestinal illness, once this parasite has been identified and eradicated, there is a definite improvement of symptoms. Therefore, it is believed that Blastocystis hominis is a weak pathogen, contributing to, or causing illness in those whom may be susceptible.

Electromicrograph of Blastocystis hominis

Electromicrograph of Blastocystis hominis

Electromicrograph of Giardia lamblia

Electromicrograph of Giardia lamblia

Dientamoeba fragilis

Dientamoeba fragilis is another common parasite, which often goes undetected. Symptoms include diarrhoea and abdominal discomfort. The organism lives in the colon and transmission is often from pinworms[2] as the dientamoeba trophozoite can often be found in the eggs of these helminths.

Giardia lamblia

Giardia lamblia is another interesting resident of our intestines. It can hide in the gastrointestinal tract for many years causing few, if any symptoms. However, Giardia can also cause diarrhoea, fatigue and anorexia. Giardia may also cause an alteration in the permeability of the mucosal membrane, which can affect the immunity of the gastrointestinal track, resulting in an increased susceptibility to secondary infections, and cause malabsorption of fats, fat soluble vitamins and other essential nutrients.

Giardia lamblia can be widely distributed throughout the body. It can attach itself to the walls of the intestines via a sucking disc that may cause gastro-enteritis, form resistant cysts and spread from host to host by faecal-oral routes; children, food, water or sexual partners.[2]

A study in the Journal of Nutritional Medicine showed 27% of patients studied with chronic fatigue had Giardia infection. 21% were cured after the Giardia infection was eradicated.[4] Obviously ruling out Giardia is of prime importance when dealing with conditions such as chronic fatigue.

Prior to the introduction of antibiotics and "designer" drugs, people used to use plant preparations to rid themselves of parasitic infections. Home treatments for worms were a common practise for both livestock and family members. Today we still worm our livestock and our pets on a regular basis; however, worming ourselves as a matter of course is not something we tend to think about.

Eradicating Parasites

Although anti-parasitic drugs are effective they are very powerful pharmacological agents and should not be taken without careful consideration.

Natural Alternatives for Eliminating Parasites

As more and more people become aware of the potential hazards of parasites and the essential need to eradicate them, natural herbs and nutrients are becoming popular and successful alternatives.

It has been reported that dietary fibre may reduce the rate of Giardia lamblia by inducing mucous secretion and reducing the attachment of the trophozoites.[5] Fibre may also affect the growth of beneficial bacteria and provide an environment, which is detrimental to pathogens.

Approaches that help to restore the gastrointestinal immune system, improve bowel flora and improve digestive processes should all be considered in a regime for eliminating parasites.

Botanicals have a long history of use as anti-parasitic agents and today their popularity is returning, as more people turn away from orthodox treatments of pharmaceutical drugs.

Quassia Amara (Picrasma excelsa)

The active constituents in Quassia are a group of alkaloids known as quassinoids. Quassinoids have been shown to be rapid and potent inhibitors of protozoal protein synthesis, disrupting both replication and essential metabolic processes.[6-7]

Historically Quassia has been used as a stomach bitter for indigestion, amoebic dysentery, giardiasis, malaria, pinworms, ascarides and gallbladder pain.[6],[8],[9]

Artemesia annua (Chinese Wormwood)

Artemesia annua, also known as sweet wormwood and Chinese wormwood, is found in many parts of the world and has been used traditionally for treatment of fever in China for over two thousand years. It was not until the early 1970s that the potential for treating malaria was recognised and the active constituent artemesinin isolated by Chinese scientists.[10] Since that time Artemesia has become a popular alternative to conventional anti-malarial treatments, being effective but without the associated side effects of anti-malarial drugs.

Malaria is the world's number one parasitic killer affecting 2 million people every year and in areas of rural Africa, one in twenty children under the age of five are killed by this parasitic infection.

Travellers abroad to malaria hot spots may prefer to take Artemesia as opposed to pharmaceutical anti-malaria treatments.

Hydrastis canadensis (Goldenseal) and Berberine

hydrastis has been shown to have potent anti-protozoal and broad-spectrum anti-bacterial effects.[11] The active constituents in Hydrastis are the isoquinoline alkaloids berberine and hydrastine. Much of the scientific research has been carried out on berberine, which has been shown to be an effective anti-microbial agent against many intestinal pathogens such as Giardia lamblia and Entamoeba histolytica.

Juglans nigra (Black Walnut)

The primary active constituent in Juglans nigra is a naphthoquinone known as juglone. Found in the unripe hulls of Black Walnut, juglone exerts anti-fungal, anti-helminthic, anti-viral and anti-bacterial effects.

Allium sativa (Garlic)

Garlic has long been used traditionally to treat bacterial, viral and protozoal diseases. Research has identified the active constituents in garlic and substantiated the anti-bacterial, anti-protozoal, anti-viral and anti-fungal effects.

The most important anti-microbial constituent in garlic is diallyl thiosulphinate, or allicin.[12] Allicin is responsible for the characteristic odour of garlic and is not present in appreciable amounts in deodorised preparations.

Research suggests allicin exerts its anti-bacterial and anti-fungal activity primarily by inhibiting microbial RNA synthesis.

Gentiana lutea (Gentian)

The active ingredients of Gentiana lutea include gentiopicrin, gentiopicroside and gentisic acid.[13]

Gentiana species have been employed for chronic indigestion and both hypo- and hyper-chlorhydria.[13],[14] Gentian is reported to have a choleretic, diuretic, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial action.[14],[15]

Patient Commitment

Using natural agents to eliminate parasites may take some time; this needs commitment from the patient. In some cases eradication may take three months or more.

Anti-parasitic herbal supplements are often best taken on a basis of every other two or three days; this enables the eggs to hatch and then the agent is taken to kill the newly hatched parasites. This cycle should continue for at least one month, after which the anti-parasitic agent can be taken less frequently – once or twice a week.

As well as taking anti-parasitic agents, it is important to ensure the immune system is well looked after. Taking immune boosters such as Cat's Claw, Echinacea and vitamins A, C with zinc will help patients to boost their immune system and prevent further invasion of these uninvited guests that will often outstay their welcome!


1. Great Smokies Diagnostic Laboratory, Parasitology Application Guide 1997.
2. Lee, et al., Trends in Intestinal Parasitology Part II – Commonly Reported Parasites and Therapeutics. Practical Gastroenterology Vol XV1 No 10.
3. Lee, et al., Annals of Rheumatic Disease. March 1990.
4. Galland L, Journal of Nutritional Medicine 1990.
5. Leitch GJ, et al., Am. J. Trop. Med. Hyg. 1989;41(5):512-20
6. Kirby GC, O'Neill MJ, et al., In Vitro studies on the mode of action of Quassinoids with activity against chloroquine-resistant Plasmodium falciparum. Biochem. Pharm., 389(24):4367-4374, 1989.
7. Cabral JA, McChesney JD, Milhous WK, A new anti-malarial quassinoid from Simaba guianensis. J. Nat. Prod., 56(11): 1954-61, 1993.
8. Moore M, Los Remedios: Traditional Herbal Remedies of the Southwest :39-40, Red Crane Books, Santa Fe NM. 1992.
9. Felter HW, Lloyd JU, King's American Dispensatory Vol 11: 1614-1615. Eclectic Medical Publications, Portland OR, 1983.
10. Trevett A, Lalloo D, A new look at an old drug: artemesinin and qinghaosu. Papua New Guinea Med. J., 35(4):264-9, 1992.
11. Johnson CC, Johnson G, Poe CF, Toxicity of alkaloids to certain bacteria, Acta. Pharmacon. Toxicol., 8:71-8, 1952.
12. Hughs BG, Lawson LD, Anti-microbial effects of Allium sativum L. (garlic), Allium ampeloprasm L. (elephant garlic), and Allium cepa (onion), garlic compounds and commercial garlic supplement products. Phytother. Res.,5:154-158, 1991.
13. Kondo Y, Takano F, Hojo H, Suppression of chemically and immunologically induced hepatic injuries by gentiopicroside in mice. Planta Medica, 60(5): 414-6, 1994.
14. el-Sedawy AI, Hattori M, et al., Metabolism of gentiopicroside (gentiopicrin) by human intestinal bacteria. Chem. Pharm. Bull, 37(9):2435-7, 1989.
15. Moore M, Medicinal Plants of The Mountain West, pp 79-80 Museum of New Mexico Press, Santa Fe NM, 1979.

Further reading:

Guess What Came to Dinner Anne Louise Gittleman – Avery Publishing 1993.
Uninvited Guests Keats Good Health Guide – Hermann Bueno, MD 1996.
Nutri News No 53.
Parasites – The Enemy Within. Helen Kimber, BSc (Hons) PGCE & Amber Ackerson, N.D.
National Geographic Vol 192
, No 4 Parasites – Looking for a Free Lunch, Jennifer Ackerman p79-91.


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    Thank you, George.

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About Helen Kimber

Helen joined Nutri Ltd in February 1997 as a Senior Nutritionist. She graduated 1988 with a BSc in Catering and Applied Nutrition, gained a PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate in Education) specialising in nutrition and anatomy, and has recently completed the Register of Nutritional Therapists' (RNT) update course. She is now a member of the board of the CENCP (Collegiate of European Certified Nutritional Practitioners), an independent team which is working towards establishing recognised standards in nutritional therapy. She can be contacted at Nutri, Tel: 01663 746559. Nutri Ltd is a supplier of nutritional supplements to health care professionals and agents for Great Smokies Diagnostic Laboratories. For more information on nutritional supplements to help with liver detoxification, or Great Smokies functional tests, please telephone 0800 212 742 and ask for department PHED1

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