What Are Intestinal Parasites?
Intestinal parasites are typically caused by protozoa or helminths, the two major types of intestinal parasites.
Protozoa are single-celled organisms that can multiply within the body. The word helminth comes from the Greek word for worm. Helminths can't multiply in the human body, which means that they usually clear up with treatment without reinfecting you. The most common types of helminths are tapeworms and roundworms.
Symptoms of Intestinal Parasites
- Gas or bloating
- Nausea or vomiting
- Stomach pain or tenderness
- Fatigue or weakness
- Weight loss
- Passing a worm in your stool
Natural Remedies for Intestinal Parasites
If you think you might have intestinal parasites, it's important to see your primary health care provider to get a proper diagnosis and find out what kind of organism is causing your problems. This is done through various tests.
The following herbs, supplements, and dietary recommendations may also be a part of your treatment plan. Although they are widely used for intestinal parasites, keep in mind that there has been very little research conducted on the effectiveness of these supplements for intestinal parasites.
Garlic (Allium sativa) has been found to have activity against Ascaris (roundworm), Giardia lamblia, Trypanosoma, Plasmodium, and Leishmania.
Garlic is available in capsule and tablet form and as whole garlic cloves.
The herb goldenseal (Hydrastis Canadensis) has been used historically for infections involving the mucous membranes in the body, such as respiratory tract infections.
Preliminary lab studies suggest that berberine, the active constituent of goldenseal, is active against Entamoeba histolytica, Giardia lamblia, and Plasmodium. For more information about goldenseal, read the Goldenseal Fact Sheet.
3) Black walnut
Black walnut is a folk herbal remedy used for ringworm and athlete's foot. The juice of unripe hulls of black walnut that are used for parasites and fungal infections. There have been no clinical studies on the effectiveness or safety of black walnut for intestinal parasites.
The herb wormwood (Artemesia annua) has been used for centuries as a herbal remedy for intestinal parasites. Preliminary research suggests wormwood may have activity against Ascaris lumbricoides, Plasmodium, Schistosoma mansoni, and Giardia.
Wormwood contains sesquiterpene lactones, which are thought to weaken parasite membranes.
Wormwood can be found in tea, liquid extract, or capsule form, however, the pure oil is considered toxic and should not be ingested. The safety and effectiveness of this herb has not been established in clinical trials.
Wormseed (Chenopodium ambrosioides) is a traditional herbal remedy in the tropics for expelling roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms.
Concentrated wormseed oil is too potent to use, so many herbalists consider wormseed tea to be preferable. More scientific studies are needed to confirm the historical usage of this herb and its safety.
6) Pumpkin Seeds
Traditionally, pumpkin seeds (Curcubita pepo) have been used as a remedy for tapeworms and roundworms.
Herbalists often recommend large amounts, up to 25 ounces for adults. The seeds are often mashed and mixed with juice. Two or three hours after consuming the pumpkin seeds, a laxative is often recommended to help cleanse the intestines.
The clinical safety and effectiveness of pumpkin seeds has not been scientifically studied.
7) Grapefruit seed extract
Grapefruit seed extract is usually found in liquid form in health food stores. Although preliminary research suggests it may have antimicrobial and antiyeast properties, there is little research to date on its effectiveness for parasites.
These are some dietary recommendations often suggested to support the intestinal parasite cleansing process:
- Temporarily avoid coffee, refined sugar, alcohol, and refined foods.
- Eat anti-parasitic foods. Try eating more raw garlic. Pineapple contains the digestive enzyme bromelain. A diet rich in pineapple can help to clear certain parasites such as tapeworms. Papaya seeds contain enzymes that help to digest protein. They can be chewed, but watch out, they are as hot as mustard seeds.
- Carrots, sweet potatoes, and squash are some foods that are rich in beta carotene, a precursor for vitamin A. Vitamin A is thought to increase resistance to penetration by larvae. Vitamin C and zinc also support the immune system
- Probiotics such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacteria, and L. bulgaricus can help to rebuild beneficial intestinal bacteria. To learn more about probiotics, read the article Acidophilus and Other Probiotics.
- Tumeric and cloves are other spices that can help fight parasites.
8) Intestinal cleansing
Intestinal cleansing involves the use of a higher-fiber diet plus supplements such as psyllium husks, citrus pectin, papaya extract, bentonite clay, activated charcoal, pumpkin seeds, beet root, and/or flaxseeds. Although there is no clinical research showing that it can help to eliminate intestinal parasites, it is a popular alternative approach. To learn more about detox and cleansing, see a list of articles on Detox and Cleansing
Other Natural Remedies
- Olive leaf
- Oregon grape
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Sriwilaijareon N, Petmitr S, Mutirangura A, Ponglikitmongkol M, Wilairat P. Stage specificity of Plasmodium falciparum telomerase and its inhibition by berberine. Parasitol Int. 51.1 (2002): 99-103.