We often hear about using artemisinin to treat dog cancer, and thanks to the following contribution by Tripawds member AngelAbby’sMom (aka Jackie Bouchard, author of the novel “What the Dog Ate”), we have some reading material for pawrents who want to learn about this holistic cancer therapy.
Many thanks to Jackie for this excellent summary of what she has learned about artemisinin. Please remember, we are not veterinarians and this article is not meant to replace veterinary care for your Tripawd.
Finally, we welcome blog posts from members so if you would like to share your experiences in caring for a Tripawd family member, please contact us today.
If you’ve been around Tripawds for a while, you’ve probably seen me mentioning artemisinin to pawrents that want to go the holistic route or are looking for supplements to try.
This post puts what I have learned about artemisinin into one handy spot for future reference.
The information I have from Dr. Singh is from my own email correspondence with him (he’s super helpful that way!) and from a list of questions sent to him by the Yahoo Group “artemisinin_and_cancer” which I used to be a member of. I highly recommend joining the group if you want to learn more.
Let me start out by saying I’m not a vet. And I’m not even close to being a scientist. Most of what’s below is taken from my own personal use of artemisinin with my dog, Abby, and from Dr. Singh, a researcher at University of Washington. Dr. Lai and Dr. Singh are two experts on the use of artemisinin for fighting cancer in dogs, having studied the herb since the 1990s.
What is Artemisinin and Where Do I Get It?
Artemisinin, also known as Qinghaosu, is derived from the herb Artemisia annua, or sweet wormwood. It’s been used for hundreds of years in China to fight malaria. This long history of use means it is known to have low toxicity, at least in human use.
Discussions can get a little confusing because there are two different options for utilizing it:
Option 1: Artemix
A blend of 3 derivations of the herb; it contains artesunate (50mg), artemisinin (50mg) and artemether (40mg). Dr. Singh recommends purchasing Artemix from Hepalin.com and he notes that artesunate and artemisinin are both very safe, therefore dosing should be based on the artemether. (See below.) Dr. Singh suggests using Artemix to fight cancer, since it’s best to have the various derivations of the herb working together in the system.
Option 2: Artemisinin
This is just pure artemisinin and can be purchased in either 50mg or 100mg pills. Dr. Singh recommends Holley Pharmaceuticals for buying pure artemisinin. Because artemisinin is considered to be safe, you can supplement Artemix with additional plain artemisinin. This is what we did with Abby.
Note that Hepalin and Holley Pharma are the only companies recommended because they produce pharmaceutical grade pills which are 99% pure.
For ease of discussion I’ll refer simply to artemisinin from here on out, and will specify if referring to Artemix.
How Does Artemisinin Work?
Studies performed in vitro (basically outside the cell in a test tube) show that the artemisinin kills cancer cells. There is also some data from in vivo testing (within the cell, or tested in humans/animals), but I don’t want to turn this into a review of the scientific literature, so we’ll stick to the basics from Dr. Singh.
Cancer cells require much more iron to multiply than normal cells do. Artemisinin attacks the iron, and since normal cells don’t have as much iron, they are “safe” from the attack. Dr. Singh and Dr. Lai research the use of artemisinin for many types of cancer: bone cancer, mast cells, breast cancer, etc. They state that there is still much research to be done.
How do I Dose Artemisinin?
This gets a little tricky. Because of the iron-attack-mode that artemisinin goes into, you have to give it away from any iron-containing foods, which would be most diets that cancer pups are on due to the high protein content. Therefore you must give the artemisinin about 3-4 hours after dinner.
We also avoided giving meaty/high protein treats at night while Abby was on the artemisinin. Since artemisinin should be given with some form of whole-milk, such as cottage cheese, Abby’s pills—hidden in full-fat cream cheese—became her nightly treat. She found this very enjoyable.
The other thing that is tricky is that if you do some research on the internet, you’ll find varying advice as to dosage/frequency. For example, some recommend cycling on/off the drug for varying amounts of time, say 5 days on/5 days off. The dose/administration below is as per Dr. Singh, and from what I’ve seen his dosage recommendation is at the lower end of the spectrum. I’d suggest if you want to try artemisinin with your pup, you can start with Dr. Singh’s guidelines here and also do some additional research and adjust as you see fit.
Calculating the Dose
As I mentioned above, Dr. Singh thinks Artemix is the better option for fighting cancer, and dosing is based on the artemether.
Calculate the dose based on 1 to 2mg of artemether/lb of body weight. So, if your dog weighs 80 lbs, and Artemix has 40mg artemether, that’s 2 to 4 capsules per day.
Again, plain artemisinin is considered very safe, so you can supplement the Artemix dose with additional plain artemisinin if you want. This is what I did with Abby (47lbs), giving her two Artemix per day, plus 100mg of plain artemisinin. The cost was ~$150/month when she was on it daily.
Dr. Singh suggests giving the pills every day for 8 weeks, with an x-ray or some other evaluation done at the beginning of the period and again at the end to see if it is helping. If so, you can go to every other day at that point.
With Abby we had an x-ray done at 12 weeks. One lung met was slightly smaller, the other was about 20% larger. No new mets developed over the 12 weeks. Although the results were mixed, we hoped for the best and continued on with pills every other day.
What Else Should be Given with Artemisinin?
Dr. Singh did not recommend a specific dose for the Vitamin D-3, but did recommend that an 80lb. dog can be given 4 capsules of butyrate.
We gave Abby (47lbs) 2 butyrate and she did not enjoy them as they are horribly stinky and even the cream cheese couldn’t mask the odor. If you give the Butyrex, you are going to want to hold your nose while you open the bottle!
- Dr. Singh recommends giving your dog Vitamins C (500mg/day) and E (400mg/day) while on artemisinin. The C & E, as well as any other immune-boosting/antioxidant supplements, should be given at breakfast/lunch; well away from the nighttime artemisinin dose.
- Dr. Singh recommends dogs with clear lung x-rays can be on artemisinin indefinitely, although he states that you can eventually go to every other day and down to twice a week at some point. (No timeline was given).
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