If you have (or think you have) intestinal parasites, you may be interested in natural remedies to help restore your health. Intestinal parasites are usually caused by protozoa (single-celled organisms that can reproduce in your body) or helminths (worms and larvae that cannot reproduce in the human body).
Symptoms of intestinal parasites include:
- Tiredness or weakness
- Passing the worm in the stool
- Pain or tenderness in the stomach
- Threw up
If you suspect you have intestinal parasites, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. Your healthcare provider can order tests (including stool tests), prescribe treatment, and recommend preventive measures. After treatment, your healthcare provider will likely order a stool test to make sure the parasites are gone.
If you suspect you have intestinal parasites, it is important to get a correct medical diagnosis. Self-diagnosis puts you at risk of improper treatment and the worsening of a condition that could otherwise be easily cured.
The most common types of protozoa in the United States are giardia and cryptosporidiums , while the most common helminths are pinworms , hookworms , tapeworms , and roundworms. In many cases, intestinal parasites are transmitted through contact with infected feces (usually through contaminated food, soil, or water) .
Risk factors for intestinal parasites include living in or visiting an area that is known for the presence of parasites, poor sanitation, poor hygiene, contact with children and care facilities, and a weakened immune system.
Pets are another major source of parasites. Many owners do not realize that after petting their pets, they must wash their hands. Pets have special grooming habits that often involve brushing their fur. Often the parasites and their eggs end up in the wool.
Despite the lack of clinical trials examining the effects of natural remedies in treating intestinal parasites, some preliminary research suggests that certain herbs and dietary supplements may have potential. Some of the key findings of the available research include:
Several preliminary studies have found that the compound, available in various herbs such as European barberry ( Berberis vulgaris ), fights intestinal parasites. In a report published in the Iranian Journal of Parasitology in 2014, for example, berberine extracted from barberry has shown activity that may help protect against tapeworm infection. Along with barberry, berberine is found in herbs like yellow root and coptis .
In a pilot study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food in 2007, 60 children with intestinal parasites were given immediate doses of an elixir containing a mixture of papaya seeds and honey, or honey alone. After seven days, significantly more of those who received the papaya seed elixir had the parasites removed from their feces .
One promising natural remedy is pumpkin seeds, which have been found to be rich in amino acids, fatty acids, and compounds of berberine, cucurbitin, and palatin.
Research on the use of pumpkin seeds for intestinal parasites includes a preliminary study published in the International Journal of Molecular Science in 2016 in which extracts from pumpkin seeds have some antiparasitic activity .
According to preliminary research published in Parasitology Research in 2010, wormwood may help treat intestinal parasites by killing worms known as Heterobranchus longifilis . The herb contains compounds called sesquiterpene lactones, which are believed to weaken the parasite's membranes.
Natural medicine professionals sometimes recommend specific dietary strategies when treating intestinal parasites to optimize stomach acidity, which protects against foodborne parasites. These strategies include:
- Temporarily avoid coffee, refined sugar, alcohol, and refined beans.
- Include more garlic in your diet
- Increase your intake of carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, and other foods high in beta-carotene (a precursor to vitamin A that can increase resistance to helminths).
- Restore beneficial bacteria in your gut by eating probiotic-rich foods like yogurt.
- Eat foods rich in vitamin C and vitamin B
- Avoid raw meat or fish
Some health professionals also suggest a colon cleanse or detox, an approach that combines a high-fiber diet with supplements said to help your body rid itself of intestinal parasites. These supplements include psyllium , beets, and flaxseed .
Despite the potential benefits, there is currently no scientific evidence that diet or intestinal cleansing can help treat intestinal parasites.
Get the word of drug information
It can be tempting to try natural remedies that can help your body eliminate intestinal parasites and speed your recovery. While there are preliminary laboratory and animal studies that suggest that certain drugs may have some benefits, there are no clinical trials (the kind of research you want to see before trying any treatment). Furthermore, little is known about the potential effects to be considered at commonly used dosages.
If you think you have parasites, it is very important to see your doctor for a diagnosis. Proper treatment can prevent the condition from getting worse and reduce the likelihood of complications.