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Gastrointestinal Parasites: Natural and/or Old-time Treatments

Dr. Julie Jarvinen described parasite life cycles at the Jan., 2000 workshops.

At the PFI Winter Workshops Jan. 15, 2000, there was discussion of treatments for internal parasites of livestock that might be accepted under the rules for organic production, in which synthetic wormers are banned or severely restricted.  I offered to make available the following listing of treatments, most of which come from veterinary texts published before synthetic wormers were available.  Thanks to the library of George Beran, Distinguished Professor of Veterinary Microbiology at Iowa State University, for most of these references.

We agreed in the workshop that, while we’re very curious about some of these treatments, we know very little about them.  Proceed with caution!  The general approach in olden days was to make treatments strong enough to kill, or flush parasites without quite killing the livestock!  Generally, they used something to kill worms in the gut (a vermicide) with or followed by something to flush the GI tract (a purgative or laxative).  They had no way of killing parasites in life stages spent migrating through the liver, heart, and other organs, so they combined strategically timed treatments with sanitation and separation of animals according to their susceptibility.

The uses listed below are for swine unless otherwise noted.  In the workshop Walter Goldstein, of the Michael Fields Ag Institute, suggested that Chenopodium, one of the more effective treatments for pigs, might be inadvisable for multi-gastric animals.

Practical Farmers of Iowa is working with ISU scientists to find effective materials and practices for managing gastrointestinal parasites.  If you would like to know more about this on-farm research, watch the PFI newsletter, come to some field days, or contact me, Rick Exner.

Materials and Treatments with Potential Use against Gastrointestinal Parasites

Material Properties Reference Source Comments
aconite Dun monkshood, wolfsbane, blue rocket sedative, kills by respiratory arrest
aloe, aloin purgative Dun aloe aloin is the crystalline form, produces both peristalsis and increased secretions, "acts notably on the large intestines, which explains in part its rather slow effects," "not so irritant as croton, colocynth, or podophyllin"
aloes cathartic Hall
American wormseed anthelmintic Hall preceeded or followed by castor oil
areca nut vermicide, astringent Dun Areca catechu, betel nut depresses respiration, destroys tape and round worms. "It is usually desirable to conjoin with the areca mx to mxv of male shield fern fluid extract." "Previous to the administration of areca to a verminous patient, the bowels should be cleared out by any simple laxitive, and their further emptiness ensured by several hours' fasting."
areca nut anthelmintic Kinsley
areca nut anthelmintic Hall
Areca Nuts anthelmintic Conn in worm remedy for poultry
artemisia, santonin anthelmintic, narcotic, spinal stimulant Dun Artemisia absinthium, Artemisia maritima, absinthol, absinthin "without effect on taenia, but destructive to round and thread worms"
Beta-Napthol Conn in worm remedy for swine, probably prohibited in organic production
black walnut Hess #16
calomel anthelmintic Ludlow
calomel external antiparasitic, stimulant, dessicant Dun mercurous chloride kill the parasite or kill the host!
calomel anthelmintic Hall
castor oil irritant, purgative Dun crushed seeds are an Indian cure for mange. "To increase its activity it is combined with small quantities of oil of turpentine or of croton.
castor oil Conn in worm remedy for swine
catechu astringent Dun Catechu palidum administered for the arrest of chronic mucus discharges
chenopodium anthelmintic 1942 USDA with santonin
cloves Hess #16
echinacea Hess #16
Epsom Salts Conn in water, follows 24 h after other treatments in worm remedy for poultry
fern root

(male shield fern)

vermicide, irritant, laxative Dun Aspidium felix-mas, A. marginale "one of the most effectual remedies for tapeworm, especially in dogs." sometines with areca nut
hyssop Hess #16
jalap hydragogue cathartic, vermifuge Dun Ipomoea purga tubercles


very gentle cathartic action, sometimes with calomel
kamala purgativem vermicide Dun Mallotus philippinensis powder from the minute glands and hairs of the fruits. "Rather more severe than areca nut and male shield fern"
kuosso, kosin vermicide Dun Hagenia abyssinica (dried pannicles of female flowers) rosacea family narcotizes and kills intestinal worms
male fern Hall
mucuna bean, cowhage anthelmintic Ludlow Mucuna pruriens use the brown hairs covering the seed pod
oil of chenopodium anthelmintic Hall
oil of chenopodium anthelmintic Conn in worm remedy for swine
oil of chenopodium anthelmintic Alexander withold feed 24 h until just before treatment
oil of thyme Conn in worm remedy for swine
oil of japanese camphor Conn in worm remedy for swine
oil of thyme Conn in worm remedy for poultry
pau d'arco Hess #16
pink root anthelmintic Ludlow Spigelia marilandica It is one of the best anthelmintics.
podophyllum, podophyllin emetic, anthelmintic Dun Podophyllum peltatum, May apple, mandrake "vegetable mercury" produces nausea, reduces pulse. "Although posessed of vermifuge powers, depending on ist purgative effect, it does not appear to have any special vermicide action."
pomegrante root bark anthelmintic Ludlow
quassia wood vermicide, tonic Dun Picraena excelsa ground wood used as an enema for worms, kills flies and fish
quassia anthelmintic
resistance premunition Haynes "There is a school of thought among many competent parasitologists that a low level of infection may actually be desirable because it stimulates some immunity (premunition)... The premunition concept is being actively pursued and in the not too distant future we may see vaccines cleared for use in this country which will prevent major worm infestations. Such products are in limited use in Europe now."
sanitation prophylactic Kinsley "Prevention is far more satisfactory than treatment of infected hogs."
santonica anthelmintic Hall Santonin is used ... but is expensive and in single dose is less effective than chenopodium.
santonin anthelmintic Alexander follw in 12 h with epsom salts in milk
santonin anthelmintic Kinsley
savin stimulant, anthelmintic, diuretic Dun Juniperus sabina large doses produce gastroenteritis, irritates the uterus, intestines, and urinary organs
skim milk or whey acidifier 1956 USDA Pigs so fed remain free of worms, or nearly so.
stavesacre seeds destroys external parasites Dun Delphinium staphisagria, Ranunculaceae, larkspur alkaloids paralyze motor nerves, arrest respiration, used in ointments
thymol Hall
tobacco anthelmintic Conn in worm remedy for poultry
tobacco topical irritant Dun Nicotiana tabacum "Tobacco is rarely prescribed internally, but is used externally as an antiparasitic." stimulates and then paralyzes spinal cord, involuntary muscles, and nerves of secreting glands
turpentines topical irritant, stimualnt, laxative, anthelmintic external drench fpr thread and tape worms
valerian topical irritant, stimualnt, antispasmodic Dun Valeriana oficinalis in large doses paralyzes the spinal cord and brain, excites and attracts cats
veratrine topical irritant, subsequent paralyzant, parasiticide Dun Sabadilla or Cevadilla, Schoenocaulon officinale or Asagraea officinalis from dried ripe seeds of Mexican lilly, produces prolonged muscular contraction, sometimes used to relieve rheumatic and neuralgic pains, and as a parasiticide and vermin killer"
worm seed, Jerusalem oak anth Ludlow Chenopodium anthelminticum It is one of the best. Use the powdered seeds
wormwood anthelmintic Hess #16


Alexander, A.S. 1943. The Veterinary Advisor. Orange Judd Publishing Co., N.Y.
Conn, George H. 1942. Practical Veterinarian. Breeder Publications, Chicago.
Dun, Finlay. 1892. Veterinary Medicines. David Douglas, Edinburgh.
Hall, Maurice C. 1924. Parasites of Swine. L.A. Merillat Co.
Haynes, N. Bruce. 1985. Keeping Livestock Healthy. Garden Way Publishing, Pownal, VT.
Hess Farm Supply, Formula #16
Kinsley, A.T. 1914. Swine Diseases. American Veterinary Supply Company, Kansas City.
Ludlow, J.L. 1860. A Manual of Examinations, A Medical Formulary. Blanchard and Lea, Philadelphia.
UDSA 1942 Yearbook of Agriculture, Keeping Livestock Healthy. U.S.D.A.
USDA 1956 Yearbook of Agriculture, Animal Diseases. U.S. Govt. Printing Office