Artemisinin also known as Qinghaosu (Chinese
Chinese language
The Chinese language is a language or language family consisting of varieties which are mutually intelligible to varying degrees. Originally the indigenous languages spoken by the Han Chinese in China, it forms one of the branches of Sino-Tibetan family of languages...

: 青蒿素) , and its derivatives are a group of drugs
A pharmaceutical drug, also referred to as medicine, medication or medicament, can be loosely defined as any chemical substance intended for use in the medical diagnosis, cure, treatment, or prevention of disease.- Classification :...

 that possess the most rapid action of all current drugs against falciparum
Plasmodium falciparum
Plasmodium falciparum is a protozoan parasite, one of the species of Plasmodium that cause malaria in humans. It is transmitted by the female Anopheles mosquito. Malaria caused by this species is the most dangerous form of malaria, with the highest rates of complications and mortality...

Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease of humans and other animals caused by eukaryotic protists of the genus Plasmodium. The disease results from the multiplication of Plasmodium parasites within red blood cells, causing symptoms that typically include fever and headache, in severe cases...

. Treatments containing an artemisinin derivative (artemisinin-combination therapies, ACTs) are now standard treatment worldwide for falciparum malaria. The starting compound artemisinin is isolated from the plant Artemisia annua
Artemisia annua
Artemisia annua, also known as Sweet Wormwood, Sweet Annie, Sweet Sagewort or Annual Wormwood , is a common type of wormwood that is native to temperate Asia, but naturalized throughout the world.-Characteristics:...

, a herb described in Chinese traditional medicine.

Chemically, artemisinin is a sesquiterpene lactone
Sesquiterpene lactone
Sesquiterpene lactones are a class of chemical compounds; they are sesquiterpenoids and contain a lactone ring, hence the name....

 containing an unusual peroxide
A peroxide is a compound containing an oxygen–oxygen single bond or the peroxide anion .The O−O group is called the peroxide group or peroxo group. In contrast to oxide ions, the oxygen atoms in the peroxide ion have an oxidation state of −1.The simplest stable peroxide is hydrogen peroxide...