African wormwood improves lung health; demand soars

African wormwood improves lung health

The global COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the way we think about hygiene and health. As a result, there is much focus on lung health. Plants can improve lung health and support lung function. Mother Nature has provided us with many plants that are used as natural remedies. African wormwood, of the Artemisia species, is one such bush. 

Also known as mhlonyane (Zulu and Xhosa), lengana (Tswana) and wildeals (Afrikaans), African wormwood is used to support lung function. “Medicinal plants such as Artemisia annua are being considered as possible treatments for COVID-19 and should be tested for efficacy and adverse side effects,” reads the World Health Organisation Africa (WHO) website.

Source of Health has a few products that contain African wormwood. Check out our Clear Lungs remedy for asthma, coughs, colds and flu. Alternatively, try our Elixir of Life tonic for a healthy immune system.

Medicinal uses of African wormwood

This plant is a popular herbal remedy, used in traditional practices in South Africa and around the world. The leaves can be dried before being eaten. It can also be mixed with raw honey to mask the bitter taste. The leaves may be boiled in water and the fumes inhaled. African wormwood is used to treat coughs, colds, influenza and fever – the main symptoms of COVID-19.

Although this plant has been linked to lung health, it should not be seen as the sole solution to COVID-19. It may support the body’s ability to fight disease and treat the symptoms but it is important to focus on a healthy lifestyle to support immune function.

The plant has received much media attention recently as a result of COVID-19. While an international campaign raised over R134-billion from governments and organisations to find a Coronavirus vaccine, the Madagascan president, Andry Rajoelina, boldly claimed that Madagascar has found a cure. A pre-made herbal drink, designed by the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research, included Artemisia and other herbs. 

Rajoelina says the bitter drink can both prevent and cure COVID-19. It has been distributed for free, or cheaply, to schoolchildren and those in need, across Madagascar. Although their claim is yet to be proven, through clinical trials, the nation has experienced a relatively low Coronavirus death rate. There has, however, been much criticism of his claims. 

Interestingly, initial studies in China showed the extract of Artemisia annua was the second most potent herbal medicine used on the 2005 Sars-CoV outbreak. The drink has subsequently been ordered by, and sent to, many African countries and scientific bodies. This news has resulted in soaring demand for this plant material, from traditional healers and herb traders.

It is an extraordinarily complex plant. Artemisia is also used to treat headaches, loss of appetite, malaria, intestinal worms, ear-ache and more. Another common practice is to insert fresh leaves into the nostrils to clear blocked nasal passages. The roots, known as inyathelo, can also be used to treat common colds and mild fevers. These uses show that Artemisia afra possesses antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. The maximum recommended dose is three grams (3g) of dried leaves, per day.

Some particularly important drugs have been discovered from this plant family. Such as Artemisinin – the well-known anti-malarial drug isolated from Artemisia annua. Known for their aromatic nature, modern research has focussed on the chemical compositions of their secondary metabolites*.  

More information about African wormwood

African wormwood is of low conservation concern and is not threatened. It is widely distributed across sub-Saharan Africa. It grows at altitudes between 20m and 2440m, often on damp slopes and along streams. 

The stems of African wormwood are thick and woody at the base, becoming thinner and more pliable towards the top of the plant. The leaves are soft and finely divided, like a fern. They have a grey-green colour and the undersides are covered with tiny white hairs. African wormwood emits a strong, sticky, sweet smell when the leaves are plucked.

Lesley Bremness states in his book, The complete book of herbs, that wormwood was mentioned +  in the ancient Greek text of Dioscorides for its internal worm-expelling properties. Native Americans use similar varieties of Artemisia to treat bronchitis and colds, while the Chinese still use wormwood, rolled up in the nostril, to stop nosebleeds.

*Secondary Metabolites are chemicals, naturally produced by plants. They serve diverse survival functions in nature. They are especially important for the human health and economics of our society. They include antibiotics, antitumor agents, cholesterol-lowering drugs, immunosuppressants, antihelmintic (worms) agents and other antiparasitics, herbicides, ruminant growth stimulators, agricultural fungicides, bio-insecticides, and others.  


  • Medicinal Plants of South Africa. Ben-Erik van Wyk, Bosch van Oudtshoorn, Nigel Gericke. Briza 2009. Pretoria.
  • South African National Biodiversity Institute
  • World Health Organisation Africa.
  • The Max Planck Institute (Germany)


To learn more about African medicines and traditional plant-based remedies, please do not hesitate to contact us. Source of Health is a manufacturer of Traditional African Medicines under the brand Isiphethu Sempilo. We use biomedicine processes to create herbal remedies, combined with scientific methods to ensure the finest quality and trustworthy herbal extracts.


Source of Health offers a range of herbal products that are effective as natural remedies for pain, depression, illnesses and more. The use of medicinal plants as part of traditional African healthcare is one of the oldest and most assorted of all therapeutic systems. It has been used through the ages to maintain health, as well as to prevent, diagnose, improve or treat physical and mental illnesses.


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