The Plant, its Use and Principal Constituents
Artemisia annua L., sweet wormwood, is an annual herbaceous plant with a strong fragrance. A. annua is of Asiatic and eastern European origin and has also become naturalized in North America. The plant is widely used in traditional herbal medicine in countries in South East Asia. Herba Artemisiae annuae or Qing Hao is contained in the Pharmacopoeia of the Peoples Republic of China (1988). The official drug consists of the dried aerial parts of A. annua. The drug is collected in autumn when in full blossom, divested of the older stems and dried in the shade.
The drug is used to relieve fever and to stop malarial attacks. These ethno-pharmacological applications led to the isolation of the sesquiterpene lactone endoperoxide artemisinin (also named qinghaosu) (Fig. 4). Nowadays, artemisinin and semi-synthetic derivatives (dihydroartemisinin, artemether, arteether, artelinate and artesunate) are being developed as a novel class of antimalarial drugs, with activity against multidrug-resistant strains of Plasmodium falciparum and cerebral malaria (Klayman 1985, Woerdenbag et al., 1990, 1994a, Zhu and Woerdenbag 1995).
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