Skip Navigation

Search Knowledgebase

Parasites (Holistic)

About This Condition

Food and water: sources of life—but also possible sources of parasites. Rid yourself of these intestinal pests and the infections they cause. According to research or other evidence, the following self-care steps may be helpful.
  • Stay hydrated

    When diarrhea strikes, replace lost fluids and replenish electrolytes by drinking sports drinks or other rehydration solutions

  • Make prevention a priority

    When traveling to areas where parasitic infections are common, don’t drink the tap water and avoid uncooked foods, foods prepared by street vendors, ice, and fruits that cannot be peeled

  • Try a natural treatment

    Talk to a professional about treating parasitic infections with natural antimicrobials, such as propolis, and berberine-containing herbs, including barberry, Oregon grape, goldenseal, and goldthread (Coptis chinensis)

About

About This Condition

Parasites are organisms larger than yeast or bacteria that can cause infection, usually in the intestines. The most common parasites to infect humans in the United States and Canada are giardia (Giardia lamblia), Entamoeba histolytica, cryptosporidium (Cryptosporidium spp.), roundworm (Ascaris lumbricoides), hookworm (Ancylostoma duodenale and Necator americanus), pinworm (Enterobius vermicularis), and tapeworm (Taenia spp.).

Infection with parasites can be life-threatening in people with severe impairment of immune function. People should consult a physician if they suspect a parasitic infection.

Caution: Any herb potent enough to kill parasites could potentially harm the person taking it. Although some herbs have antiparasitic actions in test tubes, none has been adequately tested for efficacy or safety in humans. Safe and proper use requires the skills of an experienced practitioner.

Symptoms

Parasite infections can lead to a variety of symptoms, including gas, bloating, diarrhea, weight loss, abdominal cramping and pain, constipation, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, fever, rash, cough, itching anus, and bloody or foul-smelling stools.

Eating Right

The right diet is the key to managing many diseases and to improving general quality of life. For this condition, scientific research has found benefit in the following healthy eating tips.

Recommendation Why
Travel smart
In developing countries, avoid drinking tap water and eating uncooked foods, foods prepared by street vendors, ice, and fruits that aren’t peeled.

When traveling in developing countries, people should avoid drinking tap water and eating uncooked foods, foods prepared by street vendors, ice, and fruits that cannot be peeled. All of these are potential sources of parasitic infection. People should not drink untreated stream water while camping, as it is frequently almost invariably contaminated with giardia, even in the United States. Undercooked fish, meat and poultry can also contain parasites.

Supplements

What Are Star Ratings?

Our proprietary “Star-Rating” system was developed to help you easily understand the amount of scientific support behind each supplement in relation to a specific health condition. While there is no way to predict whether a vitamin, mineral, or herb will successfully treat or prevent associated health conditions, our unique ratings tell you how well these supplements are understood by the medical community, and whether studies have found them to be effective for other people.

For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.

3 Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.

2 Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.

1 Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.

Supplement Why
2 Stars
Berberine
Consult a qualified healthcare practitioner
Berberine is derived from several plants, including barberry, Oregon grape, goldenseal, and goldthread. Studies have shown that berberine kills amoebae and can be used successfully to treat giardia infections.

Berberine is derived from several plants, including barberry, Oregon grape, goldenseal, and goldthread (Coptis chinensis). Preliminary trials have shown that berberine can be used successfully to treat giardia infections.1 , 2 In addition, test tube studies show that berberine kills amoebae, although it is not known whether this effect occurs in humans.3 The amount required is approximately 200 mg three times per day for an adult—a level high enough to potentially cause side effects. Therefore, berberine should not be used without consulting a healthcare provider.

2 Stars
Ipecac
Consult a qualified healthcare practitioner
Emetine and other alkaloids in ipecac kill several types of parasites, including amoeba, pinworms, and tapeworms.

Emetine and other alkaloids in ipecac kill several types of parasites, including amoeba, pinworms, and tapeworms.4 , 5 Generally the amounts of ipecac needed to produce these effects in people are high and can lead to severe side effects. Emetine or its somewhat safer form, dihydroemetine, are reserved for rare cases of people infected with amoebae who are not cured by using anti-amoeba drugs.6 Because of the danger involved, ipecac and emetine should never be used without first consulting a physician.

2 Stars
Papaya Seed
Single administration of 4 grams
Seeds of the papaya fruit have been used in folk medicine to treat intestinal parasites. In one trial, supplementation eradicated intestinal parasites in 71 to 100% of children.
Seeds of the papaya fruit (Carica papaya) have been used in folk medicine to treat intestinal parasites. In a preliminary trial conducted in Nigeria, treatment with papaya seeds eradicated intestinal parasites in 71 to 100% of children, depending on the parasite being treated. Parasites that were successfully eradicated were A. lumbricoides, E. histolytica, N. americanus, S. stercoralis, T. trichiura, G. lamblia, and T. saginata. Treatment consisted of a single administration of 20 ml of an elixir containing 4 grams of air-dried and blended papaya seeds.7
1 Star
Anise
Refer to label instructions
Anise may have modest antiparasitic actions and has been recommended by some practitioners as a treatment for mild intestinal parasite infections.

Anise may have modest antiparasitic actions and has been recommended by some practitioners as a treatment for mild intestinal parasite infections.8

1 Star
Barberry
Refer to label instructions
Berberine is derived from several plants, including barberry. Studies have shown that berberine kills amoebae and can be used successfully to treat giardia infections.

Berberine is derived from several plants, including barberry, Oregon grape, goldenseal, and goldthread (Coptis chinensis). Preliminary trials have shown that berberine can be used successfully to treat giardia infections.9 , 10 In addition, test tube studies show that berberine kills amoebae, although it is not known whether this effect occurs in humans.11 The amount required is approximately 200 mg three times per day for an adult—a level high enough to potentially cause side effects. Therefore, berberine should not be used without consulting a healthcare provider.

1 Star
Black Walnut
Refer to label instructions
Black walnut has been traditionally used for treatment of parasites. Numerous studies have suggested the herb can be helpful for some parasitic infections.

Several other herbs are traditionally used for treatment of parasites, including male fern (Dryopteris filix mas) root, tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) leaf, wormwood, sweet Annie, black walnut (Juglans nigra) fruit, and cloves (Syzygium aromaticum). Numerous case reports and preliminary studies from the late 1800s and early 1900s have suggested some of these herbs can be helpful for some parasitic infections.12

1 Star
Chaparral
Refer to label instructions
Chaparral has been historically used in some cultures as a way to detoxify and eliminate parasites.

In some cultures, it was customary to bathe in chaparral once per year to eliminate skin parasites and to detoxify; however, there is no modern research demonstrating the effectiveness of this use of chaparral.

1 Star
Cloves
Refer to label instructions
Cloves have been traditionally used for treatment of parasites. Numerous studies have suggested the herb can be helpful for some parasitic infections.

Several other herbs are traditionally used for treatment of parasites, including male fern (Dryopteris filix mas) root, tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) leaf, wormwood, sweet Annie, black walnut (Juglans nigra) fruit, and cloves (Syzygium aromaticum). Numerous case reports and preliminary studies from the late 1800s and early 1900s have suggested some of these herbs can be helpful for some parasitic infections.13

1 Star
Curled Mint
Refer to label instructions
Curled mint leaf has been shown to help relieve the symptoms of giardia and amoeba infections, as well as to eliminate these parasites in many cases.

Curled mint (Mentha crispa) leaf, a close relative of peppermint, has been shown in a preliminary trial to help relieve the symptoms of giardia and amoeba infections in children and adults, as well as to eliminate these parasites in many cases.14 This study used a tincture of curled mint in the amount of 2 ml three times per day for five days, or 1 ml three times per day for five days for children. Given their close relationship, peppermint could probably be substituted for curled mint when curled mint is unavailable.

1 Star
Garlic
Refer to label instructions
Garlic has been shown to kill parasites, including amoeba and hookworm, in test tubes and in animals. Other studies support the use of garlic to treat roundworm, pinworm, and hookworm.

Garlic has been demonstrated to kill parasites, including amoeba15 and hookworm,16 in test tubes and in animals. Older studies in humans support the use of garlic to treat roundworm, pinworm, and hookworm.17 However, due to a lack of clinical trials, the amount of garlic needed to treat intestinal parasites in humans is not known.

1 Star
Goldenseal
Refer to label instructions
Berberine is derived from several plants, including goldenseal. Studies have shown that berberine kills amoebae and can be used successfully to treat giardia infections.

Berberine is derived from several plants, including barberry, Oregon grape, goldenseal, and goldthread (Coptis chinensis). Preliminary trials have shown that berberine can be used successfully to treat giardia infections.18 , 19 In addition, test tube studies show that berberine kills amoebae, although it is not known whether this effect occurs in humans.20 The amount required is approximately 200 mg three times per day for an adult—a level high enough to potentially cause side effects. Therefore, berberine should not be used without consulting a healthcare provider.

1 Star
Goldthread
Refer to label instructions
Berberine is derived from several plants, including goldthread. Studies have shown that berberine kills amoebae and can be used successfully to treat giardia infections.

Berberine is derived from several plants, including barberry, Oregon grape, goldenseal, and goldthread (Coptis chinensis). Preliminary trials have shown that berberine can be used successfully to treat giardia infections.21 , 22 In addition, test tube studies show that berberine kills amoebae, although it is not known whether this effect occurs in humans.23 The amount required is approximately 200 mg three times per day for an adult—a level high enough to potentially cause side effects. Therefore, berberine should not be used without consulting a healthcare provider.

1 Star
Male Fern
Refer to label instructions
Male fern has been traditionally used for treatment of parasites. Numerous studies have suggested the herb can be helpful for some parasitic infections.

Several other herbs are traditionally used for treatment of parasites, including male fern (Dryopteris filix mas) root, tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) leaf, wormwood, sweet Annie, black walnut (Juglans nigra) fruit, and cloves (Syzygium aromaticum). Numerous case reports and preliminary studies from the late 1800s and early 1900s have suggested some of these herbs can be helpful for some parasitic infections.24

1 Star
Oregon Grape
Refer to label instructions
Berberine is derived from several plants, including Oregon grape. Studies have shown that berberine kills amoebae and can be used successfully to treat giardia infections.

Berberine is derived from several plants, including barberry, Oregon grape, goldenseal, and goldthread (Coptis chinensis). Preliminary trials have shown that berberine can be used successfully to treat giardia infections.25 , 26 In addition, test tube studies show that berberine kills amoebae, although it is not known whether this effect occurs in humans.27 The amount required is approximately 200 mg three times per day for an adult—a level high enough to potentially cause side effects. Therefore, berberine should not be used without consulting a healthcare provider.

1 Star
Pumpkin Seeds
Refer to label instructions
Pumpkin seeds have purported effects against tapeworms. Given their safety, they are often recommended as an addition to other, more reliable therapies.

Pumpkin seeds  (Cucurbita pepo) have purported effects against tapeworms. Given their safety, they are often recommended as an addition to other, more reliable therapies. In Germany, 200–400 grams are commonly ground and taken with milk and honey, followed by castor oil two hours later.28 Tapeworms can cause severe illness and should be treated only with medical supervision. In China, pumpkin seeds have been shown to effectively treat acute schistosomiasis, a severe parasitic disease occurring primarily in Asia and Africa that is transmitted by snails.29 The assistance of a physician is required to help diagnose and treat any suspected intestinal parasite infection.

1 Star
Sweet Annie
Refer to label instructions
Sweet Annie has been traditionally used for treatment of parasites. Numerous studies have suggested the herb can be helpful for some parasitic infections.

Several other herbs are traditionally used for treatment of parasites, including male fern (Dryopteris filix mas) root, tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) leaf, wormwood, sweet Annie, black walnut (Juglans nigra) fruit, and cloves (Syzygium aromaticum). Numerous case reports and preliminary studies from the late 1800s and early 1900s have suggested some of these herbs can be helpful for some parasitic infections.30

1 Star
Tansy
Refer to label instructions
Tansy has been traditionally used for treatment of parasites. Numerous studies have suggested the herb can be helpful for some parasitic infections.

Several other herbs are traditionally used for treatment of parasites, including male fern (Dryopteris filix mas) root, tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) leaf, wormwood, sweet Annie, black walnut (Juglans nigra) fruit, and cloves (Syzygium aromaticum). Numerous case reports and preliminary studies from the late 1800s and early 1900s have suggested some of these herbs can be helpful for some parasitic infections.31

1 Star
Wormseed
Refer to label instructions
Wormseed is a traditional remedy for infections with worms.

Wormseed (Chenopodium ambrosioides) is a traditional remedy for infections with worms. However, a study in Mexico found that the powdered herb was not effective at eradicating hookworm, roundworm, or whipworm.32

1 Star
Wormwood
Refer to label instructions
Wormwood has been traditionally used for treatment of parasites. Numerous studies have suggested the herb can be helpful for some parasitic infections.

Several other herbs are traditionally used for treatment of parasites, including male fern (Dryopteris filix mas) root, tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) leaf, wormwood, sweet Annie, black walnut (Juglans nigra) fruit, and cloves (Syzygium aromaticum). Numerous case reports and preliminary studies from the late 1800s and early 1900s have suggested some of these herbs can be helpful for some parasitic infections.33

References

1. Gupte S. Use of berberine in treatment of giardiasis. Am J Dis Child 1975;129:866.

2. Choudhry VP, Sabir M, Bhide VN. Berberine in giardiasis. Indian Pediatr 1972;9:143–6.

3. Kaneda Y, Torii M, Tanaka T, Aikawa M. In vitro effects of berberine sulphate on the growth and structure of Entamoeba histolytica, Giardia lamblia and Trichomonas vaginalis. Ann Trop Med Parasitol 1991;85:417–25.

4. Oelkers HA. Studies on anthelmintics. Arzneimittelforschung 1962;121:810–2.

5. Wright CW, Phillipson JD. Natural products and the development of selective antiprotozoal drugs. Phytother Res 1990;4:127–39 [review].

6. Schmeller T, Wink M. Utilization of alkaloids in modern medicine. In: Roberts M, Wink M, eds. Alkaloids—Biochemistry, Ecology and Medicinal Applications. New York: Plenum Press, 1998, 435–59 [review].

7. Okeniyi JAO, Ogunlesi TA, Oyelami OA, Adeyemi LA. Effectiveness of dried Carica papaya seeds against human intestinal parasitosis: a pilot study. J Med Food 2007;10:194–6.

8. Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Gothenberg, Sweden: Ab Arcanum and Beaconsfield: Beaconsfield Publishers Ltd., 1985, 203–4.

9. Gupte S. Use of berberine in treatment of giardiasis. Am J Dis Child 1975;129:866.

10. Choudhry VP, Sabir M, Bhide VN. Berberine in giardiasis. Indian Pediatr 1972;9:143–6.

11. Kaneda Y, Torii M, Tanaka T, Aikawa M. In vitro effects of berberine sulphate on the growth and structure of Entamoeba histolytica, Giardia lamblia and Trichomonas vaginalis. Ann Trop Med Parasitol 1991;85:417–25.

12. Chopra RN, Chandler AC. Anthelmintics and Their Uses in Medical and Veterinary Practice. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins Co, 1928.

13. Chopra RN, Chandler AC. Anthelmintics and Their Uses in Medical and Veterinary Practice. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins Co, 1928.

14. de Santana CF, de Almeida ER, Dos Santos ER, Souza IA. Action of Mentha crispa hydroethanolic extract in patients bearing intestinal protozoan. Fitoterapia 1992;63:409–10.

15. Mirelman D, Monheit D, Varon S. Inhibition of growth of Entamoeba histolytica by allicin, the active principle of garlic extract (Allium sativum). J Infect Dis 1987;156:243–4.

16. Bastidas CJ. Effect of ingested garlic on Necator americanus and Ancylostoma caninum. Am J Trop Med Hyg 1969;13:920–3.

17. Koch HP, Lawson LD, eds. Garlic: The Science and Therapeutic Application of Allium sativum L. and Related Species. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins, 1996, 173–4.

18. Gupte S. Use of berberine in treatment of giardiasis. Am J Dis Child 1975;129:866.

19. Choudhry VP, Sabir M, Bhide VN. Berberine in giardiasis. Indian Pediatr 1972;9:143–6.

20. Kaneda Y, Torii M, Tanaka T, Aikawa M. In vitro effects of berberine sulphate on the growth and structure of Entamoeba histolytica, Giardia lamblia and Trichomonas vaginalis. Ann Trop Med Parasitol 1991;85:417–25.

21. Gupte S. Use of berberine in treatment of giardiasis. Am J Dis Child 1975;129:866.

22. Choudhry VP, Sabir M, Bhide VN. Berberine in giardiasis. Indian Pediatr 1972;9:143–6.

23. Kaneda Y, Torii M, Tanaka T, Aikawa M. In vitro effects of berberine sulphate on the growth and structure of Entamoeba histolytica, Giardia lamblia and Trichomonas vaginalis. Ann Trop Med Parasitol 1991;85:417–25.

24. Chopra RN, Chandler AC. Anthelmintics and Their Uses in Medical and Veterinary Practice. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins Co, 1928.

25. Gupte S. Use of berberine in treatment of giardiasis. Am J Dis Child 1975;129:866.

26. Choudhry VP, Sabir M, Bhide VN. Berberine in giardiasis. Indian Pediatr 1972;9:143–6.

27. Kaneda Y, Torii M, Tanaka T, Aikawa M. In vitro effects of berberine sulphate on the growth and structure of Entamoeba histolytica, Giardia lamblia and Trichomonas vaginalis. Ann Trop Med Parasitol 1991;85:417–25.

28. Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Beaconsfield, UK: Beaconsfield Publishers Ltd., 1985, 119–20.

29. Chou HC, Ming H. Pumpkin seed (Cucurbita moschata) in the treatment of acute schistosomiasis. Chin Med J 1960;80:115–20.

30. Chopra RN, Chandler AC. Anthelmintics and Their Uses in Medical and Veterinary Practice. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins Co, 1928.

31. Chopra RN, Chandler AC. Anthelmintics and Their Uses in Medical and Veterinary Practice. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins Co, 1928.

32. Kliks MM. Studies on the traditional herbal anthelmintic Chenopodium ambrosioides L.: Ethnopharmacological evaluation and clinical field trials. Soc Sci Med 1985;21:879–86.

33. Chopra RN, Chandler AC. Anthelmintics and Their Uses in Medical and Veterinary Practice. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins Co, 1928.

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.