• Artemisia annua;
  • artemisinin;
  • embryotoxicity;
  • biochemical indices;
  • haematological indices

Artemisia annua is a Chinese antimalarial herb that has been used for more than 2000 years. The maternal and foetal safety of the ethanolic leaf extract of therapeutically active Artemisia annua (EAA), with previously determined artemisinin yield of 1.098% was evaluated in Wistar rats. Twenty pregnant rats, divided into four study groups of saline treated (control), and test groups administered orally with 100, 200 and 300 mg/kg body weights of EAA, respectively, from gestation days (GD) 8 to 19. Following overnight fast, animals were sacrificed on GD 20, and maternal blood was collected to evaluate biochemical and haematological markers. Foetuses were carefully removed, weighed, and observed for any possible malformation. Biochemical and haematological studies revealed that EAA did not result in maternal hepatotoxicity, haematotoxicity, and hyperlipidemia. While litter size significantly decreased (p < 0.05) at 100 mg/kg EAA, maternal estrogen levels decreased in all the EAA-treated groups. Non-viable (21%) and malformed (31%) foetuses were observed at the 300 mg/kg dose of EAA, which implies that although consumption of the leaf extract may not predispose users to hepatotoxicity, haematotoxicity, and hyperlipidemia, it should be taken with caution during pregnancy due to possible risk of embryotoxicity at concentrations higher than the therapeutic dose. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.