Soup instead of pills: traditional soup protects against malaria

Some traditionally prepared soups are as effective against malaria as drugs. The researchers suspect that the medicinal herb lead foot is responsible for the effect. (Image: zoryanchik /

Natural active ingredient against malaria discovered in traditional soups

An English research team looked outside the box when it came to chemical agents and discovered a natural ingredient in traditional soups that effectively protects against malaria.


Researchers from Imperial College London examined several soup broths that were prepared according to traditional family recipes. The team discovered that certain ingredients prevent the dangerous malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum from growing. The results were recently published in the journal “Archives of Disease in Childhood”.

Plasmodium falciparum: The most dangerous malaria parasite

The dangerous tropical disease malaria is caused by plasmodia. These are unicellular parasites that are mainly transmitted by the bite of the Anopheles mosquito. Among the plasmodia, the parasite Plasmodium falciparum is the most dangerous for humans. It triggers the increasingly complex malaria tropica, which is characterized by irregular attacks of fever. Around 99 percent of all deaths from malaria can be traced back to a Plasmodium falciparum infection.

Traditional recipes against malaria

The soup recipes studied have been passed down through generations in families from several countries for the treatment of fever. The five most effective soups were able to dampen the growth of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum by more than 50 percent. According to the researchers, the two most effective soups are comparable in their effects to the leading anti-malarial drug dihydroartemisinin.

Malaria medicine made from Chinese medicinal herbs

Soup against malaria? What sounds far-fetched at first becomes much more logical when you consider the origin of the drug dihydroartemisinin. One active ingredient in the anti-malarial drug is artemisinin, which was isolated from the traditional Chinese medicinal plant mugwort. Similar active ingredients seem to be created in soup when mugwort is used as an ingredient.

Several recipes have been shown to be effective

The recipes for the broths were completely different. They ranged from vegetable soup to chicken broth to beef soup. In order to pinpoint the exact active ingredient components, however, further research is necessary.

Malaria affects 200 million people

"Malaria kills more than 400,000 people every year and infects more than 200 million people worldwide," explains research director Professor Jake Baum. At the same time, resistance to existing drugs at the forefront continues to increase. Special attention should therefore be paid to ensuring that natural remedies such as artemisinin do not disappear from the scene.

Rediscovered remedies

"It's really interesting to find possible avenues for future drug development in something like your grandmother's soup," the professor points out. Another example is the underestimated healing power of carrot soup according to Moro, which is effective against diarrhea. The effectiveness of the soup has been known for over 100 years, but the mechanism behind it was only recently deciphered in another study. (vb)

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