Parasites are organisms that live on or inside humans or other organisms from which they obtain nutrients to survive. There can be many different types of parasite worms living in human bodies. Some are microscopic while others can be seen quite easily. These parasites or their eggs can be found in the environment, in the air we breathe, in the water we drink, or in the food we eat. These parasites may be pathogenic or non-pathogenic.
Pathogenic parasites cause harm because they consume the nutrient of the host, invade body tissues and cells, and produce toxic waste, which makes people sick. Moreover, most parasites also require a host to complete their life cycle. One third of the world’s population is infected with one or more species of intestinal parasites – easy victims being children. These infections impair children’s growth and development. Studies have shown an association between parasitic infection and under-nutrition, iron deficiency anaemia, stunted growth, poor school attendance and poor performance in cognition tests.
Modes of transmission
People can become infested by intestinal parasites through:
- (1) Walking barefoot on soil contaminated with faeces of humans, dogs, cats, etc.
- (2) Eating raw or undercooked pork, beef or fish that are infected.
- (3) Eating contaminated raw food, fruits and vegetables.
- (4) Eating food prepared by infected handlers.
- (5) Drinking contaminated water.
- (6) Poor hygiene or sanitation.
- (7) Contact with infected persons (sexual contact, kissing, sharing drinks, shaking hands, or sharing toys).
- (8) Inhaling dust that contains parasitic eggs or cysts.
- (9) Playing with or picking up pet litter contaminated with parasitic eggs or cysts.
Portal of entry into the body
In the case of internal parasites, the most common portal of invasion is through the mouth. This is the entrance for the intestinal protozoa and helminths such as round warm, pin worm, etc. in the fully embryonated egg stage. A few important infestations, viz. species of hookworms, strongyloides and dog tape worm enter the body from the soil via the skin route.
The symptoms and signs of intestinal parasitic infestation can be variable and include: dyspepsia, diarrhoea, weight loss, fatigue, abdominal cramping and pain, constipation, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, irritable bowel syndrome, anaemia, joint and muscle aches, fever, rash, frequent colds and influenza, cough, itching anus, blood and/or mucus in the stools or foul smelling stools and visible worms in the stools, itching on the genitals and grinding of teeth in sleep. Sometimes these parasitic infestations can be life-threatening in people with severe impairment of immune function.
Intestinal parasitic infestation
The most common intestinal parasites to infect humans are:
- (1) Protozoa: Giardia intestinalis (Giardia lamblia), Entamoeba histolytica, cryptosporidium species, etc.
- (2) Intestinal helminths: roundworm, hookworm, pinworm, threadworm, whipworm, and tapeworm.
These parasitic infestations, particularly roundworm, threadworm and giardia can be treated with a single herbal drug named Palasha beeja powder along with maintenance of hygiene and following certain do’s and don’ts:
- (i) Persons suffering from worm infestation should avoid excess intake of sweet and sour foods, milk, leafy vegetables, and non-vegetarian diet.
- (ii) Suppression of natural urges of vomiting, passing stools and day-sleeping should be avoided.
- (iii) Foods made up of bitter, pungent and astringent items, honey, alcoholic beverages, garlic, chenopodium leaves, sesame oil and mustard oil are beneficial.
- (iv) Keeping digestive fire proper is essentially required to prevent the development of intestinal medium favourable for parasites and worms, for which healthy eating habits and timely meals are important.
Palasha [Butea monosperma (Lam.) Kuntze]
Palasha is a deciduous, medium-sized tree with somewhat crooked trunk and irregular branches, found in the dry deciduous forests, open grasslands and scrub forests of tropical zones. Its mature fruits are collected before the rains commence, either from the tree or off the ground, dried in the shade and kept dry. Properly preserved seeds are flat, kidney-shaped, dark reddish brown, thin, glossy; and rich in fixed oil with a faint odour and slightly acrid and bitter taste. Optimal potency of the seed and its powder lasts for about four months. It is used as a remedy for common ailments like worm infestation, skin diseases, etc. The formulation is listed with given indications in the Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia of India. Tribal communities make use of fresh or dried seeds of Palasha in the form of a decoction or powder and mixed with other herbs for the management of parasitic worm infestation.
The formulation consists of dried powdered seeds of Palasha.
|English name||Flame of forest, Bengal kino tree, Bastard teak|
|Latin name||Butea monosperma Lam. Kuntze.|
Main chemical constituents
Fixed oil (yellow, tasteless), enzymes (proteolytic and lypolytic) and small quantities of resins and alkaloids, glucose, butrin, and palasonin.
The Ayurvedic pharmacopoeia of India provides quality standards of Palasha seeds based on the following physical constants:
|Foreign matter||Not more than 1%|
|Total ash||Not more than 7%|
|Acid-insoluble ash||Not more than 0.5%|
|Alcohol-soluble extractives||Not less than 9%|
|Water-soluble extractive||Not less than 25%|
|Hexane soluble extractive||Not less than 15 %|
Method of preparation
- (1) Clean the dried seeds of Palasha, and grind them in grinder or pulverizer.
- (2) Filter the powder through sieve mesh size 85.
- (3) Keep the powder in an air-tight, dry container of glass or foodgrade plastic and store in a dry, cool place away from direct sunlight.
- (4) It is always good to use fresh Palasha seed powder for better results. However, it can be used up to four months after preparation
Palasha seeds have anthelmintic, purgative, rubefacient and tonic properties.
Dose and mode of administration
The dose for adults is 2 to 3 grams twice a day. Children may be given 500 mg to 1 gram of the drug twice a day. This dosage form may be given on an empty stomach for 5 to 7 days continuously with honey or jaggery, rice water, butter-milk or warm water. It may also be given in a single dose up to a maximum of six grams in adults and three grams to children on an empty stomach.
Indications and uses
The Palasha seeds are internally administered as anthelmintic mainly for roundworm and threadworm and also for giardiasis.
Precautions and safety aspects
- (1) No side or toxic effects are reported in literature with recommended dose of Palasha seed.
- (2) Women desirous to conceive and pregnant women should not use this drug.
- (3) As Palasha seed powder is bitter, astringent and hot in potency, large doses should be avoided. Large doses may cause nausea, vomiting and abdominal colic.
- (4) A high dose can occasionally cause nephrotoxicity and anaemia. Liver, lungs and spleen congestion can also occur with a very high dose.
- (5) The seed suspension has shown teratogenic effects in rats; therefore in pregnant women it should not be used. However, short term use of this medication may be safe for the baby if a nursing mother is taking it.
The following measures can help prevent parasitic infestation:
- (1) Washing hands before eating and after using the toilet.
- (2) Wearing gloves when gardening or working with soil or sand because soil can be contaminated with eggs or cysts of parasites.
- (3) Do not allow children to be licked or kissed by pets that are not de-wormed regularly.
- (4) Wash fresh vegetables and fruits thoroughly.
- (5) Avoid eating raw meat, which may contain Giardia lamblia.
- (6) Very sweet food items should not be taken in excess and regularly.
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Source: Traditional Herbal Remedies for Primary Health Care - WHO