Wormwood tea to treat malaria: The WHO is opposed to an effective preventive medicine. – Slate MagazinePosted: April 5, 2013
One day in the town of Masaka, I met an enthusiastic Ugandan woman named Rehema Namyalo, who founded the local Anamed outpost and makes her living advising her neighbors and selling herbal treatments. After giving a tour of her medicinal garden, she unfurled colorful, handmade posters. One read, “Making A3 Leaf Tea for Malaria Treatment for Adult of Weight 50kg+.” Another illustrates the proper spacing for Artemisia plants in a field.
However, no organization I know of has taken things quite as far as the Dutch-owned Wagagai Flower Farm. In 2005, the farm’s owners were struggling because more than one-third of their 1,500 workers were falling ill with malaria each year. The Tororo Botanical Garden in Fort Portal provided Artemisia seeds, and the owners began distributing the tea for free—not for treatment but for prevention of malaria episodes. Soon afterward, a researcher named Patrick Ogwang with the Ugandan Ministry of Health documented a decline of malaria incidence among almost 300 workers drinking the tea, and followed up with the randomized controlled trial demonstrating the tea’s effectiveness. Today, workers like Peter Osire, an irrigation supervisor, tell me it has been years since they had a fever.
While the workers are effusive about the tea, malaria experts have taken less kindly to it. When Ogwang tried to publish the results in Malaria Journal, a reviewer largely praised the quality of the science but nixed publication out of concern that use of the tea could render ACTs ineffective. It’s a remarkably patronizing recommendation: that a scientific journal should keep the latest evidence out of the hands of Africans, lest they begin treating themselves. Marcel Hommel, editor in chief of the journal, defends the decision, saying, “It is the responsibility of an editor to avoid publishing papers that promote interventions which could potentially put patients at risk.” Ogwang eventually published his results in a less prestigious journal.