5 Natural Remedies for Intestinal Parasites

If you have intestinal parasites, you may be wondering if a natural remedy could help restore your health. While there isn't a lot of research to support their use, some herbs, seeds, and their extracts may benefit you.

This article explores natural remedies that fight parasites. It also discusses some common parasites and what symptoms can look and feel like.

Symptoms of Intestinal Parasites
Verywell / Nusha Ashjaee

Symptoms

Symptoms of intestinal parasites include:

  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Gas
  • Nausea
  • Passing a worm in your stool
  • Stomach pain or tenderness
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss

If you think you might have intestinal parasites, seek medical attention right away. 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.

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

Trying to diagnose yourself may mean you end up with the wrong treatment. It can also mean your condition gets worse instead of better. Call a healthcare professional instead.

Causes

Intestinal parasites are typically caused by protozoa (single-celled organisms) or helminths (worms and larvae). The most common types of protozoa in the U.S. include Giardia and Cryptosporidium. The most common helminths are pinworms, hookworms, tapeworms, and roundworms.

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 your immune system isn't working as well as it should.

Pets are a major source of parasites. Many people don't realize they should wash their hands after touching their pets. Pets usually lick their fur to groom themselves. Many times, parasites and their eggs are on the fur.

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Click Play to Learn More About Tapeworm Home Remedies

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

Natural Remedies

More research needs to be done to confirm that any natural remedies can treat intestinal parasites effectively.

Some studies suggest that certain herbs may have compounds that can be turned into plant-based drugs to treat parasites.

There is also some 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 there is limited research suggesting that some herbs can help to combat parasites if you're already infected. Note that most of the studies involved animals rather than humans.

Here's a look at several key findings from the research:

Berberine

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 report in the Iranian Journal of Parasitology in 2014, for example, 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 with no treatment.

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 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.

Wormwood

In a study involving mice, an extract made from the sweet wormwood shrub killed, paralyzed, or damaged adult tapeworms and their eggs. The 2017 study was published in the Journal of Helminthology.

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.

Diet

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 helminths.
  • 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 healthcare 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 or detoxes can prevent or treat a parasite infection.

Summary

Parasite infections can cause nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, and weight loss. In severe cases, they may cause illness or death. If you think you might have a parasite, seek medical help right away.

If you're thinking about adding a natural remedy 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.

A Word From Verywell

It can be tempting to try natural remedies to rid your body of parasites and speed up your recovery. Some lab and animal studies do suggest that a few remedies may help. But clinical trials (the kind of research you want to see before trying any treatment) are lacking. Also, little is known about the right dose to take or the possible side effects.

If you think you have a parasite, call your healthcare provider. The right diagnosis and treatment may keep the problem from getting worse. Serious health problems can arise from parasite infection.

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