Could Soup Broth Replace Antimalaria Pills?

Despite their tiny size, mosquitoes are dangerous creatures that can act as vectors to spread deadly diseases. More than half the Earth’s population live in areas where disease-carrying mosquitoes cause deaths from illnesses like malaria, dengue and yellow fever.

Insecticides have been identified as a primary defense against insects, but the potential for resistance has not gone unnoticed by the World Health Organization. The WHO reports that resistance to pyrethroids, organochlorine, carbamates and organophosphates is widespread through Africa, Southeast Asia, Western Pacific, the Americas and the Eastern Mediterranean.

Additionally, some mosquitoes appear to be developing resistance to agricultural insecticides that continue to kill their predators. This creates an environment for mosquitoes to flourish. When the anopheles mosquito carrying a plasmodium parasite bites a person, it spreads malaria.

The 2018 World malaria report released by the WHO1 provided a comprehensive update on regional and global data and trends for malaria. They found in 2017 there were an estimated 219 million cases worldwide as compared to 239 million in 2010. The disease was responsible for 435,000 deaths worldwide in 2017, 61% of which were children under the age of 5.2

However, while the number of infections fell over seven years, it rose by 2 million cases from 2016 to 2017. Authors of the report also found 15 countries accounted for 80% of the number of cases and deaths; these were in sub-Saharan Africa and India.

Only India has been reporting progress in reducing cases of malaria. India accounted for 4% of all cases in 2017 but registered a 24% reduction over 2016. Scientists found this was due to a substantial decline in disease following a rejuvenated political effort that prioritized a vector control method and increased domestic funding.

Can Soup Effectively Treat Malaria?

The global impact of malaria-associated mortality was the object of interest in a study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.3 A team of researchers asked students at Eden Primary School in London4 for samples of homemade soup. The students represented families from a variety of backgrounds. The researchers used 56 total samples of broth, which were tested for the ability to arrest the parasite’s asexual or sexual stage development in vitro.

The Plasmodium falciparum parasite was tested as it’s the most prevalent parasite, responsible for 99.7% of the estimated cases in Africa, 62.8% in Southeast Asia and 69% in the Eastern Mediterranean.5

Of the broths screened,6 five inhibited the P. falciparum asexual blood stage more than 50% of the time in vitro, and two of the broths had an inhibition factor comparable to that seen using a leading antimalarial medication. Four other samples had a recognized ability to block transmission by preventing the male sexual stage development.

The researchers concluded there were broths that induced activity against the malaria parasite’s in vitro growth. They wrote that the study also represented “a successful child education exercise, in teaching about the interface between natural remedies, traditional medicine and evidence-based drug discovery.”

Advantageous Benefits to Wormwood

The researchers were interested in the ingredient artemisinin found in the Chinese herb Qinghao, also known as wormwood. This herbaceous perennial plant has several beneficial effects against a variety of health conditions. It is the key ingredient in absinthe, a liquor used during the 19th century.

The plant commonly grows in Europe, North Africa, North India, Scotland and Scandinavia. It grows up to 3.6 feet or higher with branches that produce light yellow flowers and long green leaves. It has a slightly bitter taste and goes by other common names such as green ginger, grand wormwood, madderwort and wormwood sage.

According to Scientific American Journal, some of the earliest recorded uses date back to ancient Egypt. For more information on the plant, how to use the oil and its benefits in treating the conditions listed below, see my past article, “Discover the Many Benefits of Wormwood to Your Health.” You’ll also find a recipe for wormwood tea.

Lead exposure

Liver disease


Crohn’s disease

IgA nephropathy




Lyme disease

Malarial Infection Can Be Deadly

Malaria is categorized as severe (complicated) or uncomplicated.7 In general, when diagnosed and treated early it can be curable. The clinical symptoms of the disease are triggered during the asexual blood stage of the parasite as it develops in a red blood cell.

Waste and toxic factors accumulate inside the cells that are dumped into the bloodstream as the infected cell ruptures. The infected red blood cells adhere to the vascular endothelium and do not freely circulate in the blood. If infected, these cells, also referred to as erythrocytes, settle in the vessels of the brain. Scientists believe this is a factor in the development of severe disease associated with high mortality.

In the early stages, symptoms are similar to other types of infections, including flu.8 The time you are infected with the parasite to the time of the first symptoms is usually seven to 30 days. However, this can differ depending on the parasitic species.

It may take longer for the disease to show up if you are on medication to prevent infection. Symptoms include fever, which is the most common, and signs that often accompany fever, including chills, headaches, sweats and body aches. Additionally, someone with malaria may experience nausea and vomiting, fatigue and a general feeling of sickness.

Any time you develop symptoms of malaria during or after a visit to one of the places the disease may be found, it is important to seek medical help. A blood test will confirm infection and treatment will begin to reduce the potential for severe complications, including anemia and cerebral malaria.

When the small vessels in the brain are damaged by affected erythrocytes, this can potentially cause seizures, brain damage and coma.9 In the 2018 WHO10 report, authors placed a special focus on the effects of the second complication, malaria-related anemia.

When left untreated this condition can result in death, especially in pregnant women and children younger than 5 years. The decline in awareness of malaria-related anemia has resulted in inconsistent reporting. WHO reports that in the 16 high burden African countries, the prevalence of anemia in children who tested positive for malaria was 79%.

Relationship of Plasmodium Parasite Life Cycle to Treatment

The parasite goes through a life cycle that begins in your liver.11 After a mosquito transmits the parasite to your body, it first grows and multiplies in the liver cells before moving into the red blood cells. Once it has invaded an erythrocyte, it reproduces asexually, growing inside the red blood cell and eventually destroying it.

As the red blood cell ruptures it releases young daughter parasites that continue the cycle by invading other red blood cells. This blood stage parasite is responsible for triggering the symptoms experienced with malaria.

The parasite goes through several stages; in one stage they have both male and female forms. When this form of the parasite is consumed by a female anopheles mosquito, the parasite mates inside the mosquito to begin the life cycle. After 10 to 18 days, it migrates into the salivary glands, where it is injected into a new host.

CDC Recommends Artesunate

Authors of the 2018 WHO12 report analyzed drug resistance to antimalarial medications. They found that despite multidrug resistance, there was decreasing death and disease in the Greater Mekong subregion. Cases of malaria in the African region were not related to resistance to artemisinin-based combination therapies.

The CDC recommends13 that anyone in the U.S. diagnosed with malaria be evaluated for parasites that are drug-resistant. Those samples undergo multiple types of testing. The CDC reports there are 1,700 cases of malaria diagnosed in the U.S. each year, many of which are attributed to travel involving visits to countries in which malaria is endemic.

The WHO recommends intravenous artesunate for severe malaria, but the drug is not approved or available in the U.S. For this reason, the CDC provides it under an expanded access investigational new drug protocol in which specific criteria must be met for the medication to be delivered.

Avoid Mosquitoes and Use Other Preventive Strategies

The global fight against malaria is centered on insecticide application and the distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets, along with antimalarial drugs and new malaria vaccines. But mosquitoes and parasites are developing drug resistance, and spraying toxic insecticides is not a safe or sustainable solution.

The Pesticide Action Network (PAN) of Germany has called for safer, nonchemical means of targeting the disease, with significant impacts seen during a pilot program in West Africa. The program began by increasing residents’ knowledge and awareness of the sources of malaria.

This included sharing strategies for reducing mosquito breeding sites, as many of the villagers were unaware of the potential existing nearby in areas of food waste, refuse and standing water. Villagers were educated about how to help prevent indoor mosquito infestations via cleaning and garbage removal, as well as how to cover outdoor wells and septic tanks with lids.

Fish were introduced to certain areas to help with mosquito larval control. Clinicians at the local health center were also educated on how to better treat malaria, which led to a significant drop in school absenteeism due to the disease, from up to 30 percent during the years 2009 to 2011 to a low of 4.6 percent in 2012.

When traveling into malaria-endemic areas, consider taking precautions to reduce your risk of being bitten. To discover more about mosquito behavior and what strategies you may use to reduce your risk, see my past article, “How and Why a Mosquito Bites You.”