Argemone Mexicana

Research and identification

During our research in Mali, we were able to correlate the treatments used (modern and traditional medicines) and patient response in the case of uncomplicated malaria. These initial results have shown that some medicinal plants are consistently associated with good outcomes. Extracts of each plant were tested in vitro for their antimalarial activity on a strain of Plasmodium falciparum resistant to chloroquine.

These tests, conducted at the Swiss Tropical Institute (STI, Basel) showed that six plants selected by our investigations proved highly active against the parasite that causes malaria. Among these medicinal plants, Argemone mexicana was chosen for further study.

What is argemone Mexicana?

Argemone mexicana is a plant that grows in arid soils that are high in nitrates. It can grow up to one metre tall and contains a bright yellow juice (latex) that thickens the air as well as numerous alkaloids, whose effects have been used for a long time. Argemone mexicana is found in many parts of the globe including Mexico, the USA, the Caribbean, Cuba, Hawaii, India and Mali (where it is viewed as an antimalarial).

The plant is easy to identify and unlike any other, so there is no danger of confusion with a poisonous plant that looks similar. In addition, Argemone mexicana grows easily and requires no arable land, no fertiliser, and does not compete with food crops.

“Sumafoura” an improved traditional medicine

To verify the effectiveness of this plant in the field it was necessary to set up a randomised clinical trial in which treatment with argemone was compared with a conventional artemisinin-based therapy recommended by the WHO. This study showed that the potion made from leaves of Argemone mexicana could be recommended because it offers a truly effective treatment, comparable to the best drugs, without presenting further medical, social or environmental risks.