Tapeworms are parasites that live in the human body. A tapeworm infection can be limited to the intestines, or it can be invasive, affecting other organs. Worms enter the body through contaminated water or food, especially undercooked beef, pork or fish. Conventional treatment may include drugs such as praziquantel and albendazole, but these may have side effects. Herbs may be effective as home remedies for intestinal tapeworms, but invasive infections require medical attention. A health care professional familiar with herbal medicine must be consulted before starting herbal treatment.
Pumpkin, or cucurbita pepo, has a history of medicinal use by native American healers to treat worms. The seeds are considered an anthelminthic or vermifuge, an herb that expels parasitic worms from the gastrointestinal tract. Ben-Erik van Wyk and Michael Wink note the use of pumpkin seeds as a vermifuge, especially against tapeworms, and attribute the effects to an amino acid called cucurbitina. Phyllis A. Balch, CNC, and Dr. James F. Balch recommend pumpkin extract because it contains zinc, which helps expel worms. According to Henriette's Herbal Homepage, an infusion of the seeds, diluted with milk or water, is effective for removing tapeworms. A study by Obregon Diaz and colleagues, published in the October 2004 issue of the “Revista de gastroenterología del Peru,” found that about 73 pumpkin seeds mixed with water were effective against both mature tapeworms and their eggs. This study supports the traditional use of pumpkin seeds for tapeworms. Further studies are needed to determine safe dosage levels, contraindications and efficacy in humans.
Pineapple and Papaya
Pineapple and papaya are tropical fruits considered to have medicinal value. Pineapple is traditionally used as a diuretic and to relieve indigestion. It contains enzymes known as bromelains, which destroy tapeworms, according to Phyllis A. Balch, CNC, and Dr. James F. Balch. They recommend a three-day raw pineapple diet to expel tapeworms. Papaya is also a traditional digestive agent. It contains a latex, known as papayotin, and an enzyme known as papain. Traditionally, papayotin was used to treat intestinal parasites like tapeworm, but contemporary herbalists attribute the anthelminthic action of papaya to papain. In her 2001 book, “Guess What Came to Dinner?: Parasites and Your Health,” Ann Louise Gittleman, Ph.D., CNS, recommends pineapple and papaya to expel tapeworms, and she states that it is better to use supplements and avoid ingesting sugar, since tapeworms tend to thrive on sugar. Studies are needed to test the efficacy of pineapple and papaya in treating tapeworm.
Butternut, or juglans cinerea, is a deciduous tree--also known as white walnut--native to North America. Traditional healers used it to treat worms. It produces an edible nut, the oil of which purges tapeworms, according to Botanical.com. The tree’s bark is also effective against tapeworms. It contains an antiparasitic compound called juglone, and it has anthelminthic and laxative properties. The laxative action is helpful in expelling the stunned or dead tapeworm, and Phyllis A. Balch, CNC, and Dr. James F. Balch recommend butternut bark as a bowel and colon cleanser during worm removal. Scientific studies are needed to test butternut bark’s effect on tapeworms.