Parasites are a problem around the world. They are especially prevalent in undeveloped countries and regularly cause severe health symptoms as well as death.
Even in developed countries, like the U.S., intestinal parasites are more common than you might think. Though most infections are not deadly, they can still cause a host of digestive problems that may go undiagnosed for a long time. (1)
While parasites can be diagnosed clinically and treated with medication, many people are opting for a more natural approach of using herbs and other remedies to get rid of these pesky (and gross) invaders.
Why Do a Parasite Cleanse?
What Are Parasites? + Symptoms
Parasites are technically organisms that need to live on or in a host in order to survive. While that conjures up a lot of unpleasant images, most of the parasites you are likely to be infected with are microscopic. Even the ones that aren't, are still so small that it's difficult to see them with the naked eye. (So you don't need to be worried about alien-like worms in your gut.)
There are many ways you can pick up intestinal parasites without knowing it:
- Eating raw or undercooked meat (particularly pork)
- Contact with pets or other animals who are infected
- Travel to an undeveloped country
- Swimming in lakes, rivers, or streams
- Drinking contaminated water
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to tell whether you have a parasitic infection or not. The symptoms are very general and similar to other GI disorders. They include:
- Weight loss or gain
- Loss of appetite
- Food sensitivities
- Skin issues
- Joint and muscle pain
- IBS-like symptoms
The only way to know for sure if you have parasites is to get testing done. This usually involves a stool sample but can also include blood work and other diagnostics.
For people who don't want to go this route, a parasite cleanse might be the answer.
This often includes a change in diet and some specific foods, but a few powerful herbs also play a key role. The upside is that as long as you use the herbs correctly, there's no harm in the cleanse even if you don't have parasites, so you don't have to know for sure before you start.
Of course, if you have severe symptoms, always seek out medical attention. Also, keep in mind that a cleanse is for intestinal parasites, not other types.
Herbs That Fight Parasites
Wormwood (Artemisia absinthum) is a very powerful herb that is considered one of the best (and most essential) to use against parasites. It contains a compound called thujone that is thought to be responsible for its parasite-fighting power. (2)
Wormwood has been used as far back as ancient Egypt for parasitic infections and has been shown to fight tapeworms and other parasites in lab studies. (3)
Because it is so potent, wormwood must be used with care and should never be taken during pregnancy or breastfeeding. You can use dried wormwood to make a tea or take it in capsules- no more than one teaspoon a day and for no longer than four weeks. Or use wormwood extract (the dose should be listed on the bottle).
Black walnut (Juglans nigra) is another important part of a parasite "formula" because it targets the larvae as well as specific intestinal parasites. This is mostly due to its main active compound, known as juglone, that can expel parasitic worms. (4)
It is the ground hulls of black walnuts that are used, which unsurprisingly are a dark black color. You can take small amounts of powdered black walnut three times daily (no more than 1 teaspoon total) or take black walnut extract.
Cloves (Syzygium aromaticum) are typically used alongside wormwood and black walnut to take care of parasite eggs, which can hatch later and cause re-infection. They contain a powerful compound, eugenol, which is responsible for the anti-parasitic activity. (5)
Natural health experts differ on their recommendations for clove during a parasite cleanse. The most traditional way is to use powdered clove (from freshly ground whole cloves), but some now recommend clove oil because it has a higher eugenol content.
Wormwood, black walnut, and cloves are the main trio of herbs for an effective parasite cleanse. However, oregano oil adds some extra support because it has anti-parasitic effects and antibacterial properties. (6)
Oregano can also naturally boost your immune system, which is helpful because parasites can release toxins when they die off that may stress out your body. You can take oregano oil capsules a few times daily during a cleanse.
Grapefruit Seed Extract
Grapefruit seed extract is another supportive supplement to fight parasites. It has been found in studies to be effective against many strains of bacteria and viruses as well as parasites. (7)
Follow the instructions on the bottle for the recommended dosage.
Other Foods & Remedies for a Parasite Cleanse
Garlic (and Onions)
Garlic is a potent food that contains powerful antioxidants and plant compounds. It can boost your immune-system and fights against many kinds of pathogens. This is mainly thought to be because of the compound allicin as well as sulfur compounds.
Onions can have a similar effect, though usually are not quite as strong. Research indicates that both may have action against parasites, so be sure to eat a lot of them while you are cleansing. (8)
Pumpkin and Papaya Seeds
The seeds of both pumpkins and papayas are both considered anti-parasitic foods. Adding them to your diet, and particularly eating them on an empty stomach, can help your body get rid of invaders.
Pumpkin seeds make a great snack either raw or toasted and also provide you with a good amount of fiber and nutrients. You can also eat papaya seeds raw (be warned, they are a bit peppery) or blend them up with fruits/veggies in a smoothie.
Water and Fiber
It's incredibly important to keep your digestion moving while you're doing a parasite cleanse. Otherwise, you'll get parasites and toxins stuck in your colon, which can cause more problems.
Drinking lots of water is one of the best things you can do as well as filling up on healthy, high fiber foods. This includes veggies, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and potentially some herbs like psyllium.
We tend to think of probiotics mainly in relation to bacteria, but some research suggests that they may be critical for dealing with parasitic infections. They can also help your gut to recover after a cleanse, and it's especially important to take them if you've used strong herbs like wormwood and oregano oil. (9)
You can either fill up on probiotic foods like sauerkraut, yogurt, and kefir or take a quality probiotic until your gut feels better.
As mentioned, parasites can release toxins into your body both as they feed and when they start to die off. Using herbs that promote detoxification can be very helpful during and after a parasite cleanse.
Herbs like dandelion and milk thistle support both liver and digestive cleansing, while others like red clover can actually help to cleanse the blood.
As mentioned, herbs like wormwood and black walnut are very powerful and should be used carefully and for a short time only. Generally, they aren't recommended for use longer than 4 weeks. Be sure to educate yourself on the possible side effects and consult an herbal practitioner as necessary.
In general, you should avoid doing a parasite cleanse while you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or dealing with a medical condition. They also aren't suitable for children.
Severe symptoms and suspected parasitic infections should be given medical attention.
If any herbs cause a reaction, discontinue use.
Dealing With Pesky Parasites
If you have nagging digestive symptoms and suspect parasites, don't hesitate to get tested but also consider doing a parasite cleanse with herbs and other natural supplements. Many people have good results with cleanses when they are done carefully with respect for the power of herbs.
Of course, you can also try a formula if you don't want to take the herbs separately- like this Intestinal Tract Defense extract that has black walnut, wormwood, clove, and other herbs.
Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice and should not be substituted for medical advice. Please consult your health care provider, herbalist, midwife, or naturopathic physician before taking herbs, supplements, etc. Here's the link to our full disclaimer.