Registration in Europe of several artemisinin drugs for the treatment of malaria can soon be expected. Artemisinin is isolated from the herb Artemisia annua, in use in China more than 2000 years as a herbal tea against fever. Artemisinin drugs are being used extensively in South-East Asia and increasingly in Africa. Active derivatives have been synthesized artemether, arteether and artesunate - which are used for oral, intramuscular, rectal and intravenous administration. The origin, mechanism of action, efficacy and safety in patients, the pharmacokinetics and the position of this group of compounds among existing antimalarials are discussed in this review.