5 Natural Remedies for Intestinal Parasites

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If you have (or think you have) intestinal parasites, you may be interested in natural remedies to help restore your health.

Intestinal parasites are typically caused by protozoa (single-celled organisms that can multiply within your body) or helminths (worms and larvae that can't multiply in the human body). The most common types of protozoa in the U.S. include Giardia and Cryptosporidium and the most common helminths are pinworms, hookworms, tapeworms, and roundworms.

In many cases, intestinal parasites are transmitted through contact with infected feces (usually by way of contaminated food, soil, or water). Risk factors for intestinal parasites include living in or visiting an area known to have parasites, poor sanitation, poor hygiene, exposure to child and institutional care centers, and having a weakened immune system.

Symptoms to Note

Symptoms of intestinal parasites include:

  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Gas
  • Nausea
  • Passing a worm in your stool
  • Stomach pain or tenderness
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss

If you think you might have intestinal parasites, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. Your doctor may order testing (including stool testing), prescribe treatment, and recommend preventative measures. After treatment, your doctor will likely order fecal testing to be sure that the parasites are gone.

Natural Remedies for Intestinal Parasites

Although there's a lack of clinical trials testing the effects of natural remedies in the treatment of intestinal parasites, some preliminary research suggests that certain herbs and dietary supplements may have potential.

Here's a look at several key findings from the available research:

1) Berberine

A compound available in a variety of herbs such as the European barberry (Berberis vulgaris), berberine has been found to fight off intestinal parasites in several preliminary studies. In a report published in the Iranian Journal of Parasitology in 2014, for example, berberine extracted from barberry demonstrated activity that may help protect against tapeworm infection.

Along with barberry, berberine is found in herbs like goldenseal and coptis.

2) Papaya Seeds

For a pilot study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food in 2007, 60 children with intestinal parasites received immediate doses of either an elixir containing a mixture of papaya seeds and honey or honey alone. After seven days, a significantly greater number of those given the papaya-seed-based elixir had their stools cleared of parasites.

3) Pumpkin Seeds

A natural remedy that shows promise is pumpkin seeds, which have been found to be high in amino acids, fatty acids, and the compounds berberine, cucurbitine, and palatine. Research on the use of pumpkin seeds for intestinal parasites includes a preliminary study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences in 2016, in which pumpkin seed extracts were found to have some anti-parasitic activity.

4) Wormwood

Wormwood may help treat intestinal parasites by killing off a type of helminth known as Heterobranchus longifilis, according to a preliminary study published in Parasitology Research in 2010. The herb contains compounds called sesquiterpene lactones, which are thought to weaken parasite membranes.

5) Diet

Practitioners of natural medicine sometimes recommend certain dietary strategies in the treatment of intestinal parasites.

These strategies include:

  • Temporarily avoiding coffee, refined sugar, alcohol, and refined grains
  • Including more garlic in your meals
  • Increasing your consumption of carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, and other foods high in beta-carotene (a precursor for vitamin A, which may increase resistance to penetration by helminths)
  • Rebuilding beneficial bacteria in your gut by loading up on probiotic-rich foods such as yogurt
  • Eating foods rich in vitamin C and B vitamins

Some practitioners also suggest an intestinal cleanse or detox, an approach that involves pairing a high-fiber diet with supplements said to aid your body in clearing out intestinal parasites.

These supplements include psyllium, beetroot, and flaxseeds.

There's currently a lack of scientific support for the claim that dietary strategies or intestinal cleansing can help treat intestinal parasites.

A Word From Verywell

It can be tempting to want to try natural remedies to help rid your body of intestinal parasites and speed up your recovery. While there are preliminary laboratory and animal studies that suggest that certain remedies may offer some benefits, clinical trials (the kind of research you want to see before trying any treatment) are lacking. Also, little is known about potential effects to be aware of at the doses typically used.

If you think you have parasites, it's crucial that you consult your physician to get diagnosed. Proper treatment may prevent the condition from worsening and lessen the likelihood of complications.

Sources:

Ekanem AP, Brisibe EA. Effects of ethanol extract of Artemisia annua L. against monogenean parasites of Heterobranchus longifilis. Parasitol Res. 2010 Apr;106(5):1135-9.

Grzybek M, Kukula-Koch W, Strachecka A, et al. Evaluation of Anthelmintic Activity and Composition of Pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo L.) Seed Extracts—In Vitro and in Vivo Studies. Battino M, ed. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2016;17(9):1456. 

Imanshahidi M, Hosseinzadeh H. Pharmacological and therapeutic effects of Berberis vulgaris and its active constituent, berberine. Phytother Res. 2008 Aug;22(8):999-1012.

Mahmoudvand H, Saedi Dezaki E, Sharififar F, Ezatpour B, Jahanbakhsh S, Fasihi Harandi M. Protoscolecidal Effect of Berberis vulgaris Root Extract and Its Main Compound, Berberine in Cystic Echinococcosis. Iran J Parasitol. 2014 Oct-Dec;9(4):503-10.

Okeniyi JA, Ogunlesi TA, Oyelami OA, Adeyemi LA. Effectiveness of dried Carica papaya seeds against human intestinal parasitosis: a pilot study. J Med Food. 2007 Mar;10(1):194-6.

Rouhani S, Salehi N, Kamalinejad M, Zayeri F. Efficacy of Berberis vulgaris aqueous extract on viability of Echinococcus granulosus protoscolices. J Invest Surg. 2013 Dec;26(6):347-51.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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