Everyone gets a parasite at least once in their life. For most people, they’ll be exposed to hundreds, if not thousands, of parasites on a regular basis. That thought alone is enough to send many people running for the hills, or at least that “happy place” in their minds where parasites don’t exist.
But to assume you’re somehow immune to parasites is a poor assumption indeed. Either that, or you tell yourself that you’ve cooked your food thoroughly enough and religiously sanitized your hands to the point where there’s no chance that you could have some nasty little worms residing in your gut. Once again, big mistake.
This post comes after concluding 14 months of travel through some of the poorest countries on earth. As Liivi and I made our way down through Mexico and Central America, then immediately immersed ourselves in Southeast Asia for a couple of months to top it off, my mind was constantly considering the possibility that the next bowl of Vietnamese pho or undercooked Mexican tacos might be the one that introduced my body to an unpleasant concoction of parasitism.
Many people would respond to these suspicions by making a quick trip to the doctor for a diagnosis. That doctor may or may not perform a series of blood, urine or stool tests, but their prescription is almost always the same: a strong dose of antibiotics. And if you’ve been following our posts on Candida, you’ll know by now that antibiotics will RUIN your gut microflora and simply put you at greater risk of future parasite infections.
You could also seek out a functional medicine practitioner to get a more holistic take on your potential parasite problem, or even procure a reputable mail-order parasite testing kit, such as this Full GI Panel. The problem is, both of these alternatives are expensive, time consuming, and despite their reputability they’re often still quite unreliable in their results. Either the practitioner or the test might declare you “parasite free”, when really you’ve got a whole host of parasites that have dropped below the radar.
The way I see it, you’re much better off knowing what signs and symptoms to look out for, performing a simple parasite questionnaire, then going ahead and taking steps to expunge those uninvited parasites living in your innards. Even if you’re unsure, often embarking upon a simple at-home natural anti-parasite regime can do your body a lot of good, whether you have parasites or not. But first, lets wrap our heads around some of the more common parasites, and their usual symptoms.
Common parasites and typical symptoms
Enterobius vermicularis (pinworm)
Pinworm is a type of roundworm (nematode) with a huge geographic range. It is prevalent throughout much of the United States, along with many other parts of the world. It is estimated that around 209 million people worldwide are infected, with more than 30 percent of children throughout the world infected. In summary, there’s a very good chance you’ve got this little blighter hanging out in your large intestine.
The eggs of E. vermicularis spread to other people via fecal residue. In essence, people who go for a poo and don’t wash their hands properly are to blame. Nasty. And considering this pinworm can lay up to 15,000 eggs per night in your nether regions, it’s highly infectious.
Symptoms of pinworm include:
- itching of the genitals and anus (sorry, but we had to go there)
- sleep disturbance due to constant itching (particularly bad at night, when this parasite is most active)
- in some cases, rapid weight loss, urinary tract infection, and appendicitis
If you’ve ever considered taking a drink from what you thought to be a clean river, lake or stream on a particularly long hike, you’ve probably been warned off by somebody harping on about “giardia”. Hopefully you heeded their warning, because giardia is the second most common parasitic infection in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that more than 2.5 million cases of giardiasis occur annually.
Like pinworm, giardia is spread via fecal-oral contamination (put bluntly, when you get someone else’s poo particles in your mouth…tasty). Giardia is commonly water-borne because it is resistant to the chlorine in tap water, and even survives well in cold mountain streams. For this reason, it has earned the nicknames of “backpacker’s diarrhea” and “beaver fever”.
You can even get giardia from raw or undercooked foods, and animals such as sheep, cattle, dogs, rodents and beavers can pass it on and ensure it remains almost permanently in many water bodies.
Symptoms of giardia include:
- dramatic weight loss
- in some cases, arthritis, particularly in the lower parts of the body
Ancylostoma duodenale, Necator americanus (hookworm)
A. duodenale is found in Europe, Africa, China, Japan, India and the Pacific Islands. N. americanus, as the name suggests, is found primarily in the Americas as well as the Caribbean and certain areas of Asia and the Pacific. These parasites used to be a real problem in America until the early 1900s, but hookworm is still widespread throughout the world.
As usual, the means by which these parasites get into your body is a rather disgusting one. Upon hatching, larvae feed on bacteria in the soil, then enter their human hosts via pores, hair follicles and even intact skin. They then travel through your circulatory system, climb into the lungs, and make their way eventually into your digestive tract. Here, they take up residence and begin the cycle all over again.
Hookworms like these generally don’t present any major problems aside from occasional gastroenteritis-like symptoms, or if the intestinal worm colony becomes too big (yuck!). The biggest concern, however, is blood loss. These worms use anticoagulant compounds that allow them to consume around quarter of a liter of blood per day. This blood loss can produce something called microcytic hypochromic anemia, which is often associated with iron deficiency. This hookworm infection may also result in “physical and mental retardation in children” – a rather frightening prospect, if you have your own little tikes to worry about.
E. histolytica is the world’s second leading protozoan cause of death, close behind malaria. Of the approximately 50 million infective cases per year, an estimated 100,000 of them are fatal. That’s a pretty high mortality rate.
Infection by this parasite occurs via the fecal-oral route (ingested poo particles), typically due to poor food preparation hygiene, use of human waste for crop fertilization (more common than you might think!), and even “oral-anal sexual practices” (their words, not mine!).
Symptoms of this nasty little number include:
- weight loss
- severe abdominal pain
- severe bloody diarrhea
- inflammatory bowel disease
Many of these symptoms lead health practitioners to mistakenly diagnose appendicitis, especially in children.
Aside from those listed above, there are plenty of other parasites floating about. Other common parasites found in the US include tapeworms (which can grow up to 60 feet long in the human intestine) and blood flukes (which mature in snails then burrow through human skin to infect the host).
For more information on parasites, check out this peer reviewed article.
Natural remedies for treating parasites
Suitably concerned? You should be. Which isn’t to say that you should break out in a cold sweat. But a smattering of health concern occasionally is a good thing.
Before we proceed, it’s important to remember that you will never fully eradicate all parasites from your body. Our bodies have evolved to coexist with parasites, and completely removing anything which can be considered parasitic will present it’s own host of problems.
Take Candida, for example. This yeast, when it overgrows due to stress, antibiotics and excessive sugar consumption, can be very damaging to your health. However, Candida is actually a necessary component of our immune and digestive systems, and protects against heavy metal poisoning by metabolizing heavy metals and removing them from the body. Remove Candida, and you could suffer from heavy metal poisoning.
The main thing to remember is that for animals (including humans) which are healthy, parasites don’t pose a problem. It is when our bodies become weakened due to poor diets, antibiotics, drugs, stress, and so on that parasites can become stronger and take over our bodies. For these natural remedies to work, then, you need to also get your health under control.
One of the best ways to do this is to place yourself on a health protocol such as the one we’ve put together here. While the protocol is designed for getting Candida under control, it is excellent for dramatically improving your health in general. Otherwise, spend some time reading through some of our other posts here on Thrive Primal.
While I couldn’t track down any scientific studies relating to the parasite-preventative qualities of black walnut, there’s bucketloads of anecdotal evidence. The dried, ground hull of the Black Walnut contains a number of compounds which have been associated with parasite die-off. These compounds include organic iodine, juglandin, juglone and various other juglandic acids. Black walnut has purportedly been used for hundreds of years to expel various types of parasites, including ringworms, tapeworms, pinworms, and malaria.
Even if it hasn’t been scientifically linked to anti-parasitic effects, black walnut has received plenty of attention elsewhere in the health community. With this in mind, you should consider taking a black walnut supplement regardless!
Oregano essential oil
Unlike black walnut, oregano has received plenty of scientific review with regards to parasites, and the results are very promising. In one study, oil from Mediterranean oregano (Oreganum vulgare) was administered orally to 14 patients who had tested positive for several different internal parasites. After 6 weeks of 600 mg emulsified oregano oil daily, there was complete disappearance of all 3 different parasites in many of the patients. For the others, their parasite count diminished considerably, and those suffering from associated gastrointestinal issues also improved markedly.
In another study, the anti-parasitic effect of oregano and thyme essential oils were tested on the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, a protozoan similar to Entamoeba histolytica. Here, I’ll paraphrase, as the technical mumbo jumbo becomes rather convoluted: “extract of oregano essential oil inhibited epimastigote growth (IC50/24 h = 175 μg/ml) and also induced trypomastigote lysis (IC50/24 h = 115 μg/ml)”. The conclusion? “Oregano and thyme essential oils are effective against T cruzi”.
Get your oregano essential oil here.
Garlic essential oil
Garlic is a proven anti-parasitic, and from what I’ve seen it punches well above the rest. Garlic can slow or even fully eradicate more than sixty varieties of fungi and twenty types of bacteria and viruses. It owes this parasite-killing power to it’s high concentrations of both allicin and ajoene. Ajoene has been strongly associated with fungal spore die-off, while allicin is a powerful antimicrobial agent which selectively kills off parasitizing organisms in your body while leaving the beneficial bacteria well alone.
This study indicates that garlic oil “has broad-spectrum activity against Trypanosoma, Plasmodium, Giardia and Leishmania”. Another study indicates that the high concentrations of allicin found in garlic have been found to:
- exhibit antibacterial activity against a wide range of harmful bacteria, including various strains of E. coli
- prevent fungal activity, including Candida albicans
- prevent parasitic activity, including major human intestinal parasites like Entamoeba histolytica and Giardia lamblia
- exhibit strong anti-viral properties
Clearly, you need more garlic in your life. Whether thats from garlic essential oil, allicin supplements or just straight whole garlic consumption (you’d need a lot of this last option to make any real difference against parasites), is up to you.
Clove essential oil
Perhaps second only to garlic, cloves are dynamite against parasites. Cloves contain eugenol, caryophyllene, and various tannins which exhibit powerful antimicrobial properties. These compounds can enter the bloodstream and selectively dispatch microscopic parasites, along with their larvae and eggs. Cloves have been proven in the treatment of malaria, tuberculosis, cholera, scabies and a range of other parasites, viruses, bacteria and fungi.
As this research paper indicates, clove essential oil has been shown to have powerful effects on several microorganisms and parasites. These include pathogenic bacteria, herpes, various Staphylococcus strains, and even hepatitis C viruses.
Another study examined the anti-parasitic activity of clove, basil and yarrow essential oils against the common parasite Trypanosoma cruzi. While it was found that all three of the oils were effective against the parasite, clove was by far the most effective.
Finally, a 2011 lab analysis of clove essential oil found that it had strong anti-Giardia (remember that “backpacker’s diarrhea I talked about earlier?) properties. Some of the study findings are as follows:
- clove essential oil, and specifically the eugenol in clove oil, have anti-Giardia activity and inhibit cell attachment
- clove oil promotes cell swelling, resulting in cell membrane destruction
- clove oil induces an autophagic death process in Giardia cells
- clove essential oil and eugenol have no toxicity on mammalian cells (meaning there’s no nasty side-effects!).
By far, the best way to get your anti-parasitic dose of clove is via topical application of the essential oil, or ingesting it as directed.
Wormwood has long been recognized as an effective natural treatment for certain types of parasites. It’s anthelmintic (medicinal anti-parasitic) properties were highly valued by many ancient cultures, and it continues to be used today in many parts of the world for the same reason. It’s apparent that if something continues to be used as an anti-parasitic treatment for so long, there must be some truth to the claims. In fact, many modern farmers still use wormwood for the de-worming of horses, cows and sheep…so why not humans as well?
It’s thought that the key anti-parasitic constituents of wormwood include bitter substances like sesquiterpene lactones, and an essential oil which contains a high concentration of terpenes. One study found that an in-vitro wormwood aqueous extract demonstrated strong anti-parasitic effects on the nematode Trichostrongylus colubriformis, and that the thujone in wormwood amplified this effect.
While there appears to be less scientific research of wormwood when compared to oregano, garlic and clove, there are a number of studies illustrating the effectiveness of wormwood against malaria. This study found that wormwood extract could inhibit the growth of malaria parasites in mice, while another found that cure rates were 74 percent after 7 days of wormwood treatment in human patients with uncomplicated malaria.
You can buy wormwood as an organic extract or in pill form (apparently the extract tastes pretty nasty!). But in my opinion, if you’re going whole-hog on these parasites, you might as well get the black walnut wormwood complex and kill two birds with one stone!
Thyme essential oil
As mentioned earlier, a study which compared the anti-parasitic properties of both oregano and thyme essential oils found that, while both were effective, thyme was the most powerful of the two. Considering how much acclaim oregano essential oil has received for it’s anthelmintic properties, this is certainly saying something.
On looking into the literature further, it became apparent that thyme essential oil has received a lot of attention for its anti-parasitic application in horticulture and pest control, but very little with regards to humans. Still, considering the number of studies confirming the effectiveness of thyme oil in killing a range of parasites, it stands to reason that it would also be effective for protecting our own bodies against infection. Make sure you do your dosage research before you start chugging it back by the gallon, though!
I use doTERRA’s thyme essential oil. It’s generally more expensive than some of the other brands, but it’s much higher quality. And if I’m putting oils into my body, I need to know they’re top notch.
Fennel essential oil
According to anecdotal evidence, fennel is believed to be a strong anti-parasitic. Fennel seed essential oil is used to flush parasites and their waste from the body, and has also been historically used to treat Candida overgrowth. Scientific review of this herb with regards to parasites is sadly lacking, however.
That being said, Dr Axe seems to think fennel is worth getting your hands on. According to him, fennel essential oil can help to heal wounds, relieve digestive issues and constipation, provide a host of antioxidants, and aid in weight loss. So even if it doesn’t directly attack parasites, it will certainly help out elsewhere!
Get your fennel essential oil here!
This is another purported anti-parasitic natural remedy which lacks any scientific basis. But I’m well aware that just because a product hasn’t been studied, doesn’t mean that it’s not effective. And the anecdotal evidence suggests that it certainly is effective against parasites, their eggs, and yeast overgrowths like Candida.
Diatomaceous earth is a naturally occurring substance that is high in silica, which our bodies use to create hair, nails and skin. While diatomaceous earth is beneficial to us, it’s particles are so small that they can get in between the joints and exoskeletons of parasites and literally kill them on the spot. Thus when you ingest diatomaceous earth, it flushes out all those parasites living in your digestive system, and simultaneously removes heavy metals and other toxins from your body.
The reason why I’m inclined to believe these claims is that diatomaceous earth is still widely used in the agricultural sector for pest control. Farmers and food manufacturers swear by it, and if it can kill pests on food and plants, why not in our bodies as well?
Make sure you only use food grade diatomaceous earth, and take it easy – one to two tablespoons per day is enough. Here’s a reputable food-grade diatomaceous earth product.
Main points to remember
As discussed earlier, parasites are more likely to be a problem for you if your health is lacking. Improve your health, and you’ll dramatically improve your chances of overcoming them. One of the best ways to do this is to clean up your diet, but also to get plenty of high intensity exercise (sweating helps expel toxins and removes the by-products of parasites from your body), and try to keep stress to a minimum where possible. And don’t forget to get plenty of sleep!
If you’re looking to stock up on essential oils for your parasite cleanse, you can save a lot of money by signing up to doTERRA through Thrive Primal. For more information, click here.
If you’re keen to learn more on the subject, Paul Check is one of the world’s leading experts on parasites. He’s put together a series of DVDs and other resources to help people identify their problems and find a harm-free solution. Click this link to find out more.
And finally, if you’re unsure whether you’re suffering from a parasite infection, it’s always best to consult a medical practitioner first. If you’re on other medications, it’s also good to consult your doctor to determine whether the natural remedies listed above will clash with them in any way. Remember, we’re not doctors, we’re just here to provide useful information and helpful tips!