The 'First Choice' Alternative to Ivermectin: Expert

The bioactive compounds in this plant have demonstrated significant and important therapeutic effects

The 'First Choice' Alternative to Ivermectin: Expert
A sample of unprocessed sweet wormwood. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)
Marina Zhang
Because it shares properties with ivermectin, another Nobel Prize winner—sweet wormwood—is considered by some experts to be ivermectin’s natural equivalent.

Another Nobel Winner

Sweet wormwood, also known as Artemisia annua, is a green herb native to Southeast Asia that has feathery leaves and yellow flowers.

Sweet wormwood has been used for millennia in traditional Chinese medicine to treat malaria, fevers, viral and bacterial infections, and inflammation. The active ingredient in sweet wormwood is artemisinin, first isolated from the plant in 1972.

In recent decades, the World Health Organization has recommended artemisinin as a first-line treatment for malaria.

In 2015, artemisinin was awarded half of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for its success as a frontline treatment for malaria.

The other half of the award was given to ivermectin for its success in treating roundworm infections. Ivermectin is derived from a bacterium through a manmade process. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it became one of the most controversial drugs. Despite its reported benefits from many doctors, its usage has been largely discouraged.

Sweet wormwood is "a plant version that's already growing that has strong antiviral, anti-parasitic, anti-inflammatory properties," naturopath Dr. Jana Schmidt told The Epoch Times.

She also said it would be her "first choice” as an alternative to ivermectin.

Close-up of Artemisia annua. (Shutterstock)
Close-up of Artemisia annua. (Shutterstock)

'Acts Like a Bomb' Against COVID-19 Virus

What's unique about artemisinin and its derivatives is that it has a hydrogen peroxide bridge in its chemical structure.
Hydrogen peroxide is highly reactive, and studies suggest that it reacts with iron in what's known as the Fenton reaction.

Viruses and parasites require iron to proliferate. Some viruses and parasites infect only cells that store iron and sequester iron in infected regions.

A virus's or parasite's tendency to increase iron storage during an infection makes artemisinin a good treatment candidate.

Professor Jose Luis Abreu from The State University of Nuevo León, whose expertise is in business and plant science, reasoned that artemisinin "acts like a bomb." The concentrated iron storage attracts artemisinin activity, causing a greater increase in free radical production, leading to the powerful destruction of infected cells, parasites, and viruses.

Because cancer cells also store iron for proliferation, artemisinin has also been investigated for its anti-cancer properties.

Despite the potency of isolate artemisinin compounds, Abreu explained that consuming the entire plant rather than an isolate form would provide more benefits. Sweet wormwood also has potent amounts of phytochemicals, polyphenols, essential oils, and many other chemicals that assist with artemisinin's function and can produce a stronger synergistic effect.

Chemical structures of artemisinin and its derivatives. (Shutterstock)
Chemical structures of artemisinin and its derivatives. (Shutterstock)
Schmidt said sweet wormwood has many anti-SARS-CoV-2 properties similar to those of ivermectin.
Both are also low in toxicity, safe, and relatively cheap for consumption.

Shared Properties

Sweet wormwood can be likened to a second ivermectin because of the many properties and effects that the two substances have in common, such as the following disease-fighting traits.



  • Reduce inflammation by lowering levels of inflammatory cytokines such as IL-6 and TNF-alpha, according to a study published in Rheumatology (Oxford)
  • Inhibit cytokine storms, according to the Rheumatology (Oxford) study
  • Prevent the formation of thick scar tissues in the lungs



Despite their similarities, studies show that sweet wormwood and ivermectin don't act in the same location of the COVID-19 virus. However, they can complement each other.
Ivermectin binds with the strongest affinity to COVID-19 spike protein, preventing the virus from entering human cells, as shown in a study that compared ivermectin with other drugs, including remdesivir and hydroxychloroquine.

On the other hand, artemisinin and its derivatives have a low binding score to spike protein, as shown in the Journal of Biomolecular Structure and Dynamics study.

Ivermectin also has other antiviral properties that sweet wormwood doesn't have, including its ability to maintain mitochondrial health under hypoxic conditions.

The Madagascar Protocol

Abreu published a combination treatment protocol that includes ivermectin, sweet wormwood, and zinc. He named his protocol the Madagascar protocol (pdf), based on his observation that Madagascar, which has a higher consumption of both sweet wormwood and ivermectin, was significantly less affected by COVID-19 than the rest of the Western world.
Abreu said in an interview with Dr. Jennifer Hibberd that his Madagascar protocol was a combination of drugs and supplements because "there is no magic bullet."

Including as many drugs that work together without interference and competition in the protocol will give an individual a greater chance of reaping the most benefits.

Abreu pointed out that artemisinin has a property that he "has not seen" in any other plant or chemical: its potential to increase oxygen levels in the body.

The reaction between the hydrogen peroxide bridge and iron can lead to the production of oxygen, as demonstrated in the right corner of the diagram showing that interaction.

"When we get COVID, the oxygen goes down, causing hypoxia," Abreu said.

That's when artemisinin can help.

Hydrogen peroxide reacting with iron. (Courtesy of Prof. Jose Luis Abreu)
Hydrogen peroxide reacting with iron. (Courtesy of Prof. Jose Luis Abreu)

How to Take Sweet Wormwood

Artemisinin can be consumed in isolation through supplements, but consuming the sweet wormwood plant or drinking tea steeped with sweet wormwood provides added benefits.
The essential oils in sweet wormwood are both antibacterial and antifungal. The flavonoids in the plant may also increase the synergistic effects of artemisinin.
Studies from China have recommended that a person steep 4 to 9.5 grams of dried sweet wormwood in boiling water and drink it as tea. Abreu himself consumes the plant by steeping one gram of the leaf in hot water and drinking it. He sometimes drinks up to four servings in a day.

Schmidt has seen visible pulmonary improvements in people who have taken sweet wormwood as a treatment for COVID-19. She said many of her patients also breathe better after taking artemisinin.

However, it's worth noting that there have been no human studies published on the plant as a COVID-19 therapeutic.

Schmidt warned that despite their similar names, sweet wormwood is not synonymous with a similar plant commonly called wormwood, or Artemisia absinthium. Wormwood has a lower concentration of artemisinin compounds than Artemisia annua. It also carries alpha- and beta-thujones toxins.

Sweet wormwood isn't recommended for pregnant women or anyone taking seizure medications or blood thinners, according to Schmidt. People who are allergic to the plant may also experience adverse reactions.

Marina Zhang is a health writer for The Epoch Times, based in New York. She mainly covers stories on COVID-19 and the healthcare system and has a bachelors in biomedicine from The University of Melbourne. Contact her at