Ivermectin was first discovered in Japan, at The Kitasato Institute which is a private medical research complex established way back in 1914. Ivermectin came into being as an FDA-approved medication in the 1970s. We have 40 years of usage with this medication, and several months of treatment may cost about $20. In the world of pharmaceutics, you might say this medication is dirt cheap!
This medication is prescribed by doctors to treat roundworm, and other worm or parasite infections. The drug is especially helpful for those who have a weak immune system.
This drug was made famous recently when it garnered attention for a NOBEL PRIZE.
Two scientists were studying it for its ability to reduce the replication of a very specific virus. I will not be covering this topic today, however, feel free to look it up HERE.
Roundworm is known in the scientific world as a Strongyloides stercoralis abbreviated to S. stercoralis infection.
Using this medication according to WebMD can, “reduce the risk of developing a severe or life-threatening infection.” This is an infection that causes various types of abdominal problems including cramps, diarrhea or constipation (or alternating bouts of each), persistent gas, weight loss, cough, wheezing, flu-like symptoms, and increased eosinophils in the blood. Sometimes it is accompanied by swollen lymph nodes or skin rash, everyone is different and may exhibit different symptoms, depending on the life cycle of the worm. There are other worms that infect people too, such as tapeworm, whipworm, hookworm, and others. Sometimes traveling abroad can cause these infections or a bout of food poisoning.
All of us understand that traveling abroad sometimes causes a parasite infection from drinking contaminated water, or eating bad food. The most common diseases that we could face from these types of infections include giardiasis, toxoplasmosis, cryptosporidiosis, trichomoniasis, and others. Various anti-parasitic agents can be used to treat these diseases including antibiotics, anti-parasitics, anti-diarrheal drugs, anti-inflammatories, and more.
Being a pharmacist, let me tell you a few more details about the most popular drug: Ivermectin. It inhibits the replication of some viruses according to new fascinating studies that have been published in the past year.
Ivermectin belongs to a class of drugs called anthelmintics, also spelled this way in the literature: anthelmintics. On occasion, you will also hear it called nematicides because it kills nematodes. These are a lot of big words for what is basically a dewormer! The worms are sometimes transmitted via the fecal-oral route and found in areas of poor sanitation. The World Health Organization’s estimate suggests that 2 billion people are infected with these parasites, which by the way are transmitted by eggs present in human feces. Those contaminate the soil and get into humans and livestock. So the advent of Ivermectin and other anthelmintics saved billions of animals and humans worldwide.
Sometimes parasites infect us via food poisoning and the graphic below shows the symptoms, as well as methods to prevent disease and clean food properly. I might add that my favorite produce cleaning spray is called Fit Organic Fruit and Vegetable Wash.
It paralyzes and kills various parasites in the gut that are worms. When it was FDA approved in the US, it became a lifesaver. Below are some uses of the drug that you might not even think of!
Specifically, the mechanism of action is pretty simple. It grabs hold of (binds) to a receptor on the outside of the parasite, gets inside of it, then shuts down the nerve to muscle impulses. It essentially paralyzes the organism to death. It doesn’t do this to humans because it can’t get past the blood-brain barrier. Its action is very selective, it does not have any affinity to our brain cells, so if we take the drug it seeks and destroys the parasites living in the intestines, it does not attack the brain. That said, any person who has undergone shunt surgery should not take it.
The drug has become rather controversial as of late due to several studies pointing to its impact on cytokines and non-parasitic infections. Traditionally, it is used to kill parasites in the human gut such as roundworms, lungworms, mites, lice, and horn flies. It can also kill certain ticks. On commercial farms, the drug has become extraordinarily valuable because it can not only save cattle, but also the supporting animals used in agriculture, and on farms such as horses and dogs. According to one article, I found, this drug is blockbuster garnering sales of over $1 billion dollars annually, and maintaining that status for over 20 years!
There are topical formulations that can be ordered if you need them. Ivermectin is commonly prescribed for scabies, rosacea, pediculosis, loiasis (from bites of deerflies), Strongyloidiasis, and more.
There’s a very dangerous tropical disease that is called Onchocerciasis, or River Blindness. Caused by bug bites (black flies), the infectious pathogen is a parasitic worm known as Onchocerca volvulus or O. volvulus. Ivermectin can be used to successfully manage this disease because it kills the babies (larvae) of the offending organism, stopping the spread in the person.
It may surprise you to know that this famous dewormer medication benefits people with all sorts of skin conditions. It has 3 decades of use for all kinds of dermatological problems. To understand more about Ivermectin’s use in skin problems you should read this ARTICLE.
If you are traveling abroad, your doctor may prescribe this drug for you. Also, if you become infected with a gut parasite, your doctor may prescribe this for you along with an appropriate soothing diet, and some other intestinal-healing medications. Always follow the label directions for your medication, because dosages vary, as does the interval between pills.
The product is a tablet, taken orally, it is not injected. The tablets are most often seen as 3mg per dose, although there is the drug Iverheal® and also Vermact® which come as 12mg tablets per dose. Take ivermectin on an empty stomach with a full glass of water, approximately 1 hour before a meal or 2 hours afterward. Ivermectin is sometimes given as a single dose, but some doctors suggest taking another pill several weeks later, or sometimes several months later. The reason for the vague dosing guidelines here is that the parasites breed at different intervals, so what works for one nematode will not work for another. Again, follow your doctor’s orders.
Special or Long-term Parasitic Infection Problem
You might think a liver fluke or a gut infection stays in the gut but it doesn’t. Anyone who has had severe food poisoning and a related hospitalization will know exactly what I mean. After a relatively short period of time, if infected, you may begin to see less diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps, and more lung damage. It can cause difficulty breathing, chest pain, coughing (even a chronic unrelenting cough), mild wheezing, and other pulmonary problems that require you to see a specialist or go to the ER. This is why you are hearing more about deworming medications employed for the treatment of acute respiratory distress and failure. It’s because some infectious parasites can damage the lungs and respiratory mechanisms even though you might think they stick strictly to the liver or gastrointestinal tissue. It’s interesting and kind of new.
The side effects that are most common include headache and dizziness, nausea or mild stomach upset, diarrhea and muscle aches. As the parasites die off in the gut, you would expect some diarrhea, but if it gets too severe, be sure to replenish with electrolytes and call your doctor. If you develop a rash or other signs of allergy, discontinue the medication.
As I mentioned earlier, Ivermectin is used in livestock and animals very commonly. If you have a cat, you may already know that the FDA approved the use of Ivermectin for veterinary physicians (vets) to use as a heartworm preventative. Vets know the anti-parasites by another name too: Moxidectin. You may have even purchased a topical solution of it for fleas or for worms for your own dog or cat since several popular brands of moxidectin are sold nationwide. To caution you, moxidectin is not the same as ivermectin, nor is it approved by the FDA for human consumption.
If you’ve been reading about bats, they have their own fauna of parasitic worms and can very well be infected with parasites. Their droppings can infect a farmer and possibly cause an infection called histoplasmosis.
In the equine world, vets prescribe ivermectin for horses, and it’s very commonly used in livestock cattle. My point is that the dosages vary greatly, and a human should never take an animal drug as an overdose may occur. I only caution you with this because a quick google search will reveal other modern (off-label) uses for Ivermectin which I am not allowed to discuss here. But people need to be very cautious and understand the dangers of playing around with medicine! Signs of toxicity of Ivermectin include confusion, alterations in mental status, coordination or balance problems, tachycardia, loss of bowel control, seizures, light-headedness, fainting, and more.
Here are some natural alternatives you can talk to your physician about. Remember, never self-treat a serious condition and only make changes to your medication/supplement regimen with your physician’s blessings. In no particular order:
Looking for more options? There are more plant-based options that kill various different parasites. This ARTICLE is entitled, “Plant-Based Natural Products for the Discovery and Development of Novel Anthelmintics against Nematodes” and was published in March 2020. It outlines various different herbs and the specific parasite it targets.
Andrographis paniculata – Helps control larvae production, blocks eggs from hatching
Wormwood – Very often wormwood is the main ingredient in a parasite cleanse because it has a broad spectrum of action. It’s helpful with the GI parasite called giardia, liver pathogens, and other worms. In this study published in the Journal of Helminthology,
it was shown how wormwood reduced tapeworm replication, and the results were positive. In yet another study, it was shown to have beneficial effects in patients with Schistosomiasis.
Berberine – Also known as Oregon grape or Goldenthread, this is a pretty popular anti-parasitic agent in the world of herbal medicine. It’s also used for supporting healthy blood sugar levels, and finally, it has a place in the world of Lyme treatment for its ability to target pathogens of all sorts.
Black Walnut – This herbal anti-parasitic is discussed in RxList and they say it can help with parasitic worm infections as well as other diseases like syphilis, diphtheria, and skin wounds. It’s helpful with pain and swelling and is commonly sold as a commercial tea in health food stores.
Clove – Traditionally used for pathogens, this spice (which also comes in supplement form and essential oil form, is very strong. It contains a compound called eugenol, which was shown in this 2019 STUDY to reduce worm burden by 19.2%.
Grapefruit seed extract or GSE – Many supplements and parasite cleanse supplements contain GSE because it has a broad spectrum of activity. Grapefruit kills the cell membranes (if applicable) of pathogens and reduces the replication of parasites, bacteria, and viruses. It also has strong anti-fungal activity. Be careful as this can spike drug levels, and interact with a host of medications, including cholesterol-targeting statins.
Coumaric acid – Helps control larvae production, blocks eggs from hatching
Tribulus Terrestris – This contains some B sitosterol and other compounds that, when TESTED, were shown to help kill parasites after about 18 hours.
Oregano Oil – Kills cryptosporidium – for more read THIS ARTICLE.
Juniper – I diffuse this all the time at home in my essential oil aromatizer. The Juniper tree contains a compound called “totarol” which has the ability to kill parasites within 24 hours.
Green Tea – EGCG is the main compound in this which kills parasites
Olive Leaf Extract – There is some evidence to suggest that oleuropein, the main active ingredient in olive leaves, can target Giardina, pinworm, roundworm, cryptosporidia, and other pathogens. Eating olives is not the same as supplementing, but of course, speak to your physician before trying any new herbal remedy.
Neem – considered an anti-parasitic by some, and often used in GI supplements
In summary, there are a lot of plant-based agents available to us if we want to target parasites. That said, none of these work exactly like Ivermectin, nor am I suggesting that you take these instead of your medication. If you are taking a GI drug for a disorder that requires treatment, please take this seriously and do not substitute natural remedies for what your physician has prescribed for you.
If you’d like to open a discussion with your practitioner about a natural alternative to your medication, I encourage that. We have many natural treatments available to us today, and if harsh side effects render your medication intolerable, or there is a drug shortage, then you need to consider a holistic option and I’ve listed some of the very best ones above. I hope this has been helpful and please forward it to a friend in need.
Suzy Cohen, has been a licensed pharmacist for over 30 years and believes the best approach to chronic illness is a combination of natural medicine and conventional. She founded her own dietary supplement company specializing in custom-formulas, some of which have patents. With a special focus on functional medicine, thyroid health and drug nutrient depletion, Suzy is the author of several related books including Thyroid Healthy, Drug Muggers, Diabetes Without Drugs, and a nationally syndicated column.