What Is a Parasite Cleanse?

Natural remedies purported to help get rid of parasites and what research says about them

A parasite cleanse is a combination of herbal supplements and dietary changes aimed at killing and eliminating organisms living in your intestines or elsewhere in or on your body. A natural approach may be appealing, but there is limited scientific evidence to support the use of these regimens.

Some common components of a parasite cleanse include berberine, black walnut, papaya seeds, pumpkin seeds, and wormwood. Garlic, probiotic-rich yogurt, and carrots or sweet potatoes are sometimes also recommended to help support your body's natural defenses.

While some parasites do not cause any symptoms, others can make you very ill. Even if some of these elements of a parasitic cleanse are helpful, it's essential that you still use standard treatment to prevent possible complications of the infection.

This article discusses common ingredients found in parasite cleanse and the research on them. It also outlines safety concerns with using natural remedies to get rid of parasites and how you may have gotten infected.

Herbs and Supplements in a Parasite Cleanse

Natural health practitioners recommend a range of different herbs and supplements for parasite cleanses. Some of these include:

  • Anise
  • Barberry
  • Black walnut
  • Clove oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Curcumin 
  • Curled mint
  • Goldthread 
  • Goldenseal
  • Grapefruit seed extract
  • Oregano oil
  • Oregon grape

Those that have been studied and have some research supporting their use include:

  • Berberine
  • Papaya seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Wormwood
  • Probiotics
  • Dietary changes

There is evidence that a diet rich in vitamin A and the minerals selenium and zinc may improve your body's natural defense against parasite infection.

And some studies suggest that certain herbs may have compounds that can be turned into plant-based drugs to treat parasites and cleanse the system of them.

But overall, there is limited research suggesting that herbs can help cleanse parasites if you're already infected. In addition, most of the studies involved animals rather than humans, which means results aren't reliably applicable to you.

More research is needed to confirm that any natural remedies can get rid of a parasite effectively.


This compound can be found in herbs such as the European barberry (Berberis vulgaris). Several studies have found that berberine can decrease parasites.

In a 2014 report in the Iranian Journal of Parasitology, berberine from barberry helped protect against tapeworm infection.

You can also find berberine in herbs like goldenseal and coptis.

Papaya Seeds

In one 2015 trial, a group of school children in one county in Kenya ate porridge with ground papaya seeds in it for several months. Other groups were given porridge with an anti-parasitic medication added or plain porridge.

The group that ate papaya seed porridge had 63.9% fewer roundworm eggs in their stool after the test. The group that ate medicated porridge had 78.8% fewer eggs. The students who ate untreated porridge had higher egg counts overall.

Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds are high in amino acids and fatty acids. In particular, they are rich in berberine, cucurbitine, and palmatine. All of these are amino acids known to damage certain parasites.

In an animal study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences in 2016, researchers found that pumpkin seed extracts lowered the number of parasite eggs and adult parasites in mice.

It's important to note that the parasite in the study is one that infects mice, not humans. Scientists study this parasite because it acts like parasites that can infect people.


In a study involving mice, an extract made from the sweet wormwood shrub killed, paralyzed, or damaged adult tapeworms and their eggs.

Many medications are made from compounds in the sweet wormwood plant. Still, more research is needed before it's clear that the plant itself is a reliable way to treat infections.


Propolis is a resin-like material made by bees that has long been believed to have medicinal properties.

A 2021 review of studies called the anti-parasitic properties of propolis "promising," especially against certain kinds of protozoa parasites and parasitic worms.


A 2018 paper concluded that probiotics can help decrease the risk of getting a parasite. The authors also noted that probiotics may be helpful as a complementary therapy for people who have gastrointestinal parasites.

Probiotics are microorganisms that can help support the natural community of bacteria in your digestive system. 

Parasite Cleanse Diet Changes

Natural medicine experts say stomach acid may help to protect you from parasites in food. They recommend that you:

  • Avoid coffee, sugar, alcohol, and refined grains.
  • Include more garlic in your meals.
  • Increase the amount of carrots, sweet potatoes, and squash you eat. These foods are high in beta-carotene, which turns into vitamin A in your body. Vitamin A helps your body resist parasitic worms and larvae.
  • Rebuild "good" bacteria in your gut with probiotic-rich foods such as yogurt.
  • Eat foods rich in vitamin C and B vitamins.
  • Avoid raw meat or fish.

Some natural medicine providers also suggest a gut cleanse or detox. This involves pairing a high-fiber diet with supplements to clear out your intestines. These supplements include psyllium, beetroot, and flaxseeds.

Right now, there isn't much evidence to suggest that your diet, cleanses, or detoxes can prevent or treat a parasite infection.


Click Play to Learn More About Tapeworm Home Remedies

This video has been medically reviewed by Casey Gallagher, MD.

Safety of Parasitic Cleanses

Using a parasite cleanse without first talking to your healthcare provider can have unintended consequences for your health.

If you do have a parasite, the cleanse alone may not be enough to eliminate it. A parasitic infection that goes untreated (or that is insufficiently treated) may have serious long-term consequences, such as:

  • Chronic pain
  • Blindness
  • Seizures
  • Malnutrition
  • Heart failure
  • Death

While following a healthier diet is a good idea regardless of your reason for doing so, herbs and supplements that may be part of parasite cleanses do not have to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means they haven't been tested for safety, purity, or effectiveness.

They may also cause uncomfortable side effects, such as:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Body aches, fatigue, and other flu-like symptoms

In addition, some ingredients could cause harm when ingested in large amounts or interact with other drugs you might be taking.

It's always best to consult a healthcare provider before adding any herbal supplements to your diet, including the ones found in parasite cleanses.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

If you've been traveling in a place where parasites are common and you have symptoms of infection, it's possible—though unlikely—that you might have a parasitic infection. The most important thing you can do is see a healthcare provider right away.

Symptoms of Intestinal Parasites

Verywell / Nusha Ashjaee

Parasite infections can cause:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Weight loss

In severe cases, they may cause chronic illness or death.

Your healthcare provider may order tests (including stool tests) to identify the parasite. They'll also prescribe treatments and explain how to keep the problem from coming back.

While your practitioner may still approve of you trying some of the remedies that are part of parasite cleanses if you are interested in doing so, avoiding a proper medical evaluation and standard treatment can be dangerous.

After treatment, you may need a fecal test to be sure the parasites are gone.

How Did I Get a Parasite in the First Place?

Anyone can get infected with a parasite, though some are more likely to experience this than others.

Intestinal parasites are typically caused by protozoa (single-celled organisms) or helminths (worms and larvae).

In many cases, they are passed by contact with infected feces. This can happen if food, soil, or water are contaminated.

Your risk of having a parasite is higher if you live in or visit an area where parasites are common or where human or animal waste is not treated properly.

Childcare and long-term care facilities are places where there's a greater risk of parasites.

The risk is also higher if you don't use proper hygiene or you have an impaired immune system.

Pets can be a source of parasites because parasites and their eggs often live on their fur. These can be passed to owners when they stroke their pets or ingested by the animals themselves when they lick their fur.

Taking stock of your personal risk factors can help you take steps to prevent future infections.


If you're thinking about adding a natural remedy or parasite cleanse to your treatment plan, be aware that the research supporting their use is thin.

The extracts of berberine and wormwood may be useful. Pumpkin seeds and papaya seeds have also reduced parasite numbers in humans. A healthy diet including vitamin A, selenium, zinc, and probiotics may help you build up your immune defenses.

12 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Additional Reading

By Cathy Wong
Cathy Wong is a nutritionist and wellness expert. Her work is regularly featured in media such as First For Women, Woman's World, and Natural Health.