Artemisia annua is an aromatic, herbaceous plant native of Asia, a species which stands out from the rest of its genre as an excellent and important source of clinically proven therapeutic compounds. Artemisia annua L. produces a range of complex terpenoids, amongst which artemisinin is of special interest for the treatment of a range of pathologies.
Artemisinin is a natural compound, sesquiterpene lactone, which is exclusively synthesized in Artemisia annua trichomes. Artemisinin has been used for centuries in the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to treat fevers and malaria (WHO, 2017).
It was Tu Youyou, a researcher investigating traditional Chinese medicine, who discovered that this Artemisia annua extract was potentially efficient against malaria. In 2012, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched a specific initiative targeting malaria using Artemisinin Combination Therapy (WHO, 2012). Indeed, the efficiency and potential of artemisinin against malaria turned out to be one of the major discoveries in Medicine in the 20th century, so much so, that Tu Youyou was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2015 for her work. Furthermore, over the past decade hundreds of scientific studies have been carried out to elucidate the enormous therapeutic potential or artemisinin to treat not just malaria and related-diseases, but many other very different diseases that include cancer, autoimmune & inflammatory diseases, bacterial, viral & parasitic diseases, dermatological disorders and even mental diseases (D’Alessandro et al., 2020; Im et al., 2018; Liang et al., 2018; Luo, et al., 2019; Santomauro et al., 2018; Chorlton et al., 2017; Puri et al., 2017)
In addition, the plant produces other substances such as flavonoids (artemetin, chrysospleneti, chrysosplenos, crinilineol and eupatorin), phenolic acids and coumarins, which increase the impact and efficiency of artemisinin via a phenomenon called pharmacodynamic synergy (Munyangi et al., 2019), as well as acting as an antioxidant and stimulating the immune system (Luo, et al., 2019; Sun, et al., 2019; Zhang, et al., 2019).