Natural Remedies for Intestinal Parasites

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If you're struggling with intestinal parasites, a number of natural remedies may help restore your health. Although no natural remedy should be used as a substitute for conventional medicine in the treatment of this type of infection, such approaches may help rid your body of intestinal parasites and speed up your recovery.

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.

Unlike protozoa, helminths aren't likely to reinfect you after you've undergone treatment for intestinal parasites. The most common types of helminths are 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 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, seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Natural Remedies for Intestinal Parasites

Although few studies have tested the effects of natural remedies in treatment of intestinal parasites, some research shows that certain herbs and dietary supplements may help clear up this type of infection.

Here's a look at several key findings from the available research on natural remedies for intestinal parasites:

1) Berberine 

A compound available in a variety of herbs, 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) Ayurvedic Herbs

Some research shows that an ayurvedic formula called Pippali rasayana may help treat intestinal parasites caused by infection with giardia. This research includes a report published in the Alternative Medicine Review in 2003, which names Pippali rasayana among one of the alternative treatments with the most clinical evidence supporting their use in the treatment of giardia infection.

Pippali rasayana typically contains a combination of Piper longum and Butea monosperma. You can learn more about ayurvedic herbs here.

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 alternative 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
• boosting your intake of pineapple (a fruit high in bromelain)
• 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 probiotics

Some practitioners also suggest intestinal cleansing, 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.

Should You Use Natural Remedies for Intestinal Parasites?

While natural remedies may help promote recovery from infection with intestinal parasites, it's crucial to consult your physician to find what kind of organism is causing the infection. Self-treating intestinal parasites with natural remedies and avoiding standard care may have harmful consequences.

Sources

Agarwal AK, Singh M, Gupta N, Saxena R, Puri A, Verma AK, Saxena RP, Dubey CB, Saxena KC. "Management of giardiasis by an immuno-modulatory herbal drug Pippali rasayana." J Ethnopharmacol. 1994 Dec;44(3):143-6.

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.

Hawrelak J. "Giardiasis: pathophysiology and management." Altern Med Rev. 2003 May;8(2):129-42.

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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