Parasites be gone!
C. writes ATH asking for advice on expelling a pork tapeworm, after trying a number of herb combinations, foods, and pharmaceuticals to no avail.
Tapeworms are ‘flat-ribbon worms’ whose eggs may be found in some raw or undercooked pork or red meat. They are also more prevalent in countries where overall hygiene is poor. Once infected, the tapeworm attaches itself to the intestinal wall and uses the incoming nutrition to feed itself and grow. Periodically, the ends of the tapeworm (containing eggs) will break off and be passed through the stool (thus a stool test being one way to diagnose the presence of tapeworms).
This particular case sounds fairly stubborn/advanced, so my first suggestion is to be sure to work with a healthcare professional for additional support and safe strategies. This is no less true in working with herbs, and I recommend that you find a qualified herbalist to guide you in specific protocols suitable for your situation. A good place to start for that is the American Herbalists’ Guild website which lists Registered Herbalists in your area or who can do remote consultations.
Having said that, here are a few, tried-and-true herbs that are indicated for parasites:
Aptly named wormwood (Artemesia absinthum) is a bitter herb that’s traditionally been used to expel worms in addition to promoting weak digestion and as a nervine tonic. Unfortunately, there are no modern clinical trials that can confirm wormwood’s mechanism of action, but it has been employed by herbalists for centuries for this purpose.
Wormwood has some potentially toxic constituents (e.g., thujone) when taken long term or in high doses, so administering under the care of a professional is preferred. Wormwood should not be used in pregnancy or lactation.
Another herb that’s commonly paired with wormwood to deal with internal parasites is black walnut (Juglans nigra). High in astringent tannins, the relevant plant part for this application is essentially the liquid that is extracted from the green walnut hull – the juice that stains the skin and stubbornly resists soap cleanup. Black walnut is a favorite as both an anthelmintic (anti-worm) and anti-fungal. Matthew Wood notes that “No insect will touch the leaves or husks of the walnut tree” (Wood, 2009).
Finally, one of my favorite herbs for fungal and/or parasitic infection that I have successfully used in my practice is andrographis (Andrographis paniculata). A traditional Ayurvedic herb, andrographis is a powerful bitter that has strong immune-enhancing properties as well as direct anti-parasitic properties. I like to include andrographis in my formulas when I want to stimulate the body’s ability to fight off an infection, itself, in addition to directly attacking the invader.
All of these herbs are strong and should not be taken long term. In general, efficacy is increased in using herbs in combination rather than singly. Additionally, for short periods of time relatively high doses may be necessary to expel worms permanently. As such, I can’t stress enough to be sure to work with a qualified professional to ensure safe administration and best results.
Wood, M. (2009). The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to New World Medicinal Plants. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books
Donna Koczaja, M.S., RH(AHG) graduated from Maryland University of Integrative Health (formerly Tai Sophia Institute) with a Master of Science in Therapeutic Herbalism and a Post-Master's Certificate in Clinical Herbalism. She earned Registered Herbalist status from the American Herbalists’ Guild in 2018. Originally educated as a mechanical engineer, she combines the rigor of her original scientific training with the traditional healing art of herbal medicine to partner with her clients to uncover the root cause of their underlying health issues. Also a Master Gardener since 2008, her primary interest is in inspiring others to improve their health and sense of wellbeing through the joys of gardening and the power of natural medicine.
Donna currently practices as the professional herbalist at the MUIH Natural Care Center (410-888-9048x6614) in Laurel, Maryland, and can also do remote consultations from anywhere!