have the ability to enter the body and live off the human host
causing a variety of complaints. Tummy pain is a common symptom
but is also seen frequently in kids when they feel nervous or
stressed. Kids can also develop anemia and have poor growth.
The stool may get loose or watery which alternates with times
of normal stool or even constipation. Gas and bloating with
a sensation of fullness in the belly are also possible signs.
The onset of a parasitic infection may present like an acute
illness with fever, headache, joint pain and feeling cruddy.
However, much of the time, parasites produce little or no symptoms
and simply act as a drain on the health of the host. A chronic
infestation of parasites can be the root cause of serious illnesses
such as chronic fatigue, inflammatory bowel disease, food intolerances,
arthritis and autoimmune disease.
It is a popular belief that people living in modern society
with proper plumbing and hygiene are not susceptible to parasites.
While worms and other parasites are less common in developed
countries, those of us living in the US have many opportunities
for collecting these tenacious guests. Our pets are a great
source as are wading pools, sand boxes, day care centers, mountain
streams, raw or rare meat and occasionally even public water
systems. It is estimated that one in ten American harbor parasites.
The tape worm is found world wide and can live for years attached
to the wall of the small intestine. Humans are the only definitive
hosts for tape worms which are collected by eating raw or undercooked
meat from cows and pigs who carry these worms. Whipworms and
round worms are most commonly found in the Southern United States
or through travel to tropical areas. Pinworms are the most common
worm infestation in the US. They cause an itchy butt from pinworm
eggs laid outside the body. Night scratching with contamination
of the hand leads to re-infection of the host. Person-to-person
transmission can also occur through handling of contaminated
clothes or bed linens. Giardia is a tiny protozoan flagellate
and is found in rivers and streams where it can survive for
months at very cold temperatures. Giardia may also be passed
in day care centers and can sneak into urban water supplies.
Cryptosporidium, an intracellular protozoan, has been found
worldwide and in the US has been spread in water parks, swimming
pools, day care centers and even a major water supply (Milwaukee,
Wisconsin1993). While these are some of the more popular infestations
found in the US, the list goes on.
One of the biggest challenges is proving that the worms exist.
The most common test is called an O & P x3 which looks for
ova (eggs) and parasites in a stool sample. X3 means that three
random samples are examined. About 90% of stool samples are
negative. While some of this stems from improperly ordered tests,
a good percentage is due to the difficulty of collecting a good
sample. Eggs or parasites are estimated to be found in only
40% of O&P x3 in individuals who have parasites. Alternative
labs such as Doctor’s Data may be more successful in processing
a sample and will provide a culture and sensitivity for herbal
treatments. When symptoms exist and a probable source for infection
is identified, treatment without proof may be indicated.
An herbal treatment, preceded by an anti-worm diet and followed
by a purgative, can be very effective in treating a parasitic
infection. Often the treatment is repeated, sometimes several
times, to make sure all stages from the egg to the adult parasite
are eradicated. Pinworms may be treated with garlic, carrots
and pineapple mayweed. Quassia has been used as an enema to
treat the infestation of pinworms directly as the worms live
at the end of the bowel. This herb is also active against Giardia.
Tansey has been used and is effective against pinworms but is
a highly toxic herb and is best avoided. For tape worms, the
most effective treatment is male fern. However, this herb can
be very toxic so must be used with the support of your doctor.
A synthetic formulation of the male fern is a drug called Niclosamide
which is much safer than the herb and reported to be very effective.
Pumpkin seed in large doses is very safe if less effective.
Wormwood tea or capsules taken morning and night for three days
followed by a purgative can be a successful and low toxic approach
to tapeworms and Giardia and may even be effective against the
tenacious roundworm. Goldenseal or herbs containing berberine
will act against Giardia. Black walnut is also an effective
anti-parasitic herb. Roundworms resistant to wormwood are best
eradicated with Chenopodium. The oil of this herb has traditionally
been used but is very toxic. Alternately the liquid extract
can safely be taken. A couple of days prior to a treatment,
we can eat things which are unpleasant for worms such as salty
foods, pineapple, turmeric, cloves, garlic and onions, pumpkin
seeds and pickles.
||If you suspect a parasite
infection and want help diagnosing
||You know you have parasites and you
want help with your herbal prescription. There are two
concerns when dosing herbs to kill worms. One is that
you need a high enough dose to kill the parasite. The
other is that you have a low enough dose to avoid harm
to the patient. When treating parasites, the effective
dose is often not far from a harmful dose.
||You are considering using a toxic
||You are considering using a drug which
requires a prescription.
Weiss, Herbal Medicine, AB Arcanum, 1988
David Hoffman, New Holistic Herbal, Element, 1990
William Hay et al, Current Pediatric 16th Edition, Lange 2003