Anti-SARS-CoV-2 Potential of Artemesia

Artemisinin is derived from an ancient plant native to china called qinghao. This plant has literally saved millions of lives. Artemisinin has pharmacological effects beyond being the miraculous cure for malaria since the 1960’s when quinine (another plant) became ineffective. The same enzymatic pathway that the plant targets make it a broad spectrum anti-viral, an effective immune system modulator, and even a cancer preventative and therapy. The goddess Artemisia was the mythical protector of the wild and of childbirth. This plant that bears her name has not been given the credit that is due. The indifference of western health agencies and drug companies along with China’s isolation up until recent times has kept this ancient, powerful medicine concealed from the west.

Artemene is pure artemisinin isolate along with a small amount of wild crafted crushed leaf of a sister plant, artemesia absinthium, thus creating an optimal healing compound that honours ancient wisdom while incorporating the technology of modern science. Other compounds in the whole plant enhance the effectiveness and absorption of the primary active ingredient, artemisinin. Artemene is ancient medicine for modern times.

Artemesia plants (there are many naturalized varieties) have been used in some form or other for centuries and its rediscovery in the 1970’s won the nobel prize – but not until 2015. Safe, and well tolerated it has been used by millions of people from pregnant mothers, to children and the elderly for the treatment of malaria. First as a ‘folk’ cure and then reluctantly acknowledged by the west as superior in its effect and safety to the west’s pharmaceutical, mefloquine. The taste of the plant is extremely bitter so it is difficult to obtain a therapeutic dose of artemisinin from the plant alone so capsules of artemisinin isolate combined with leaf are ideal.

Most importantly artemisinin and the family of plants that contain it are approved by Health Canada as a Natural Health Product and recognized as safe when used as recommended. Approved as NHP Schedule 1- Isolate, 63968-64-9.

In a recent study artemisinin and dihydro-artemisinin were shown to inhibit viral replication in infected monkey kidney tissue by as much 60-80% as well as normalize immune response. So not only does it prevent the virus from taking hold in the body by a significant amount, it also prevents the runaway immune response that causes damage to the lungs. Because it has virtually no side effects it can be taken for long periods (1-3 months) safely. Dihydro-artemisinin is the naturally occurring metabolite of artemisinin when digested in the body. 


For example, artesunate effectively inhibits a wide range of DNA and RNA viruses, including human cytomegalovirus (HCMV), human herpes simplex virus (HSV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and polyomavirus BK.14 Clinical trials focusing on the antiviral efficacy of artesunate suggested that it shows promise for the treatment of patients with HCMV and HSV-2 infection.15,16 Dihydroartemisinin also showed inhibitory effects on viruses such as HCMV and Zika virus.17,18 In addition, artemisone was proven to be a potent inhibitor of HCMV and had synergistic antiviral activity in combination with other approved and experimental anti-HCMV agents.19,20 Considering the broad-spectrum antiviral effects of artemisinins, it is necessary to systematically explore the anti-SARS-CoV-2 potential of artemisinins, which consists of multiple FDA-approved drugs and drug candidates at the late stage of pharmacological development, and predict their therapeutic efficacy based on a physiologically based pharmacokinetic (PBPK) modeling.

ACS Infect Dis. 2020 Jul 31 : acsinfecdis.0c00522.

Published online 2020 Jul 31. doi: 10.1021/acsinfecdis.0c00522

PMCID: PMC7437450

PMID: 32786284