Traditional Korean medicine at the service of modern medicine.

The Artemisia annua, in Korean: 개똥 쑥 (gaeddong-ssuk), has been used for three centuries against fever and inflammation, as evidenced by Donguibogam: Principles and Practice of Eastern Medicine, a text compiled in Korea in 1613.

The plant Artemisia annua has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine as a treatment for fever and malaria. In 1971, Chinese chemists isolated from the leafy parts of the plant the substance responsible for its supposed medicinal action. This compound, called qinghaosu (QHS, artemisinin), is a sesquiterpene lactone that has a peroxide group and, unlike most other antimalarials, does not have a nitrogenous heterocyclic system.

The compound has been used successfully in several thousand malaria patients in China, including those with chloroquine-sensitive and resistant strains of Plasmodium falciparum. QHS derivatives such as dihydroqinghaosu, artemether, and water soluble sodium artesunate appear to be more potent than QHS itself. Artesunate sodium works quickly to restore consciousness in comatose patients with cerebral malaria. Therefore, QHS and its derivatives show promise as an entirely new class of antimalarials.