Malaria has been a global epidemic health threat since ancient times. It still claims roughly half a million lives every year in this century. Artemisinin and its derivatives, are frontline antimalarial drugs known for their efficacy and low toxicity. After decades of wide use, artemisinins remain our bulwark against malaria. Here, we review decades of efforts that aim to understand the mechanism of action (MOA) of artemisinins, which help explain the specificity and potency of this anti-malarial drug.