Family: Compositae or Asteraceae
Other names: Absinthium officinale Brot, Artemisia pendula Salisb, Artemisia rhaetica Brügger, Absinthium, Green Ginger, Absinthe, Old Woman, Crown for a King
Habitat: Native to Europe, N. Africa and Western Asia, cultivated in the USA and elsewhere.
The plant is poisonous if used in large quantities. Even small quantities have been known to cause nervous disorders, convulsions, insomnia etc. Just the scent of the plant has been known to cause headaches and nervousness in some people. The plant contains thujone. In small quantities this acts as a brain stimulant but is toxic in excess. Avoid if prone to seizures. Avoid during pregnancy & breast feeding. Absinthism adverse effects include hallucinations, insomnia, loss of intellect, psychosis, tremor & seizures.
Wormwood is a very bitter plant with a long history of use as a medicinal herb. It is valued especially for its tonic effect on the liver, gallbladder and digestive system, and for its vermicidal activity. It is an extremely useful medicine for those with weak and under-active digestion. It increases stomach acid and bile production, improving digestion and the absorption of nutrients. It also eases wind and bloating and, if taken regularly, helps the body return to full vitality after a prolonged illness. The leaves and flowering shoots are anthelmintic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antitumor, carminative, cholagogue, emmenagogue, febrifuge, hypnotic, stimulant, stomachic, tonic and vermifuge. The plant is harvested as it is coming into flower and then dried for later use. Use with caution, the plant should be taken internally in small doses for short-term treatment only, preferably under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. It should not be prescribed for children or pregnant women. See also the notes above on toxicity. The extremely bitter leaves are chewed to stimulate the appetite. The bitter taste on the tongue sets off a reflex action, stimulating stomach and other digestive secretions. The leaves have been used with some success in the treatment of anorexia nervosa. The plant is applied externally to bruises and bites. A warm compress has been used to ease sprains and strained muscles. A homeopathic remedy is made from the leaves. It is used to stimulate bile and gastric juice production and to treat disorders of the liver and gall bladder.
Description of Wormwood:
Artemisia absinthium, Wormwood is a PERENNIAL growing to 1 m (3ft 3in) by 0.6 m (2ft).
It is hardy to zone 4 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from Jul to August. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Wind.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.
Cultivation of Wormwood:
Succeeds in any soil but it is best in a poor dry one with a warm aspect. Established plants are very drought tolerant. Plants are longer lived, more hardy and more aromatic when they are grown in a poor dry soil. Easily grown in a well-drained circumneutral or slightly alkaline loamy soil, preferring a sunny position. Prefers a shady situation according to another report. Tolerates a pH in the range 4.8 to 8.2. Wormwood is occasionally grown in the herb garden, there are some named forms. The growing plant is said to inhibit the growth of fennel, sage, caraway, anise and most young plants, especially in wet years. Wormwood is a good companion for carrots, however, helping to protect them from root fly. The scent of the plant attracts dogs. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer.
Propagation of Wormwood:
Seed – surface sow from late winter to early summer in a greenhouse. The seed usually germinates within 2 – 26 weeks at 15°c. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots. They can be planted out in the summer, or kept in pots in a cold frame for the winter and then planted out in the spring. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame. Division in spring or autumn.
Collection: The leaves and flowering tops are gathered at the end of the flowering period between July and September.
Culinary uses of Wormwood:
Edible Uses: Condiment.
Leaves are occasionally used as a flavouring. Caution is advised, prolonged use is known to have a detrimental effect – see the notes above on toxicity. This herb was at one time the principal flavouring in the liqueur ‘Absinthe’ but its use has now been banned in most countries since prolonged consumption can lead to chronic poisoning, epileptiform convulsions and degeneration of the central nervous system.
Actions: Bitter, carminative, anti-microbial, anthelmintic.
Part Used: Leaves or flowering tops.
Indications: Traditionally, Wormwood has been used in a wide range of conditions, most of which have been vindicated by analysis of the herb. It is primarily used as a bitter and therefore has the effect of stimulating and invigorating the whole of the digestive process. It may be used where there is indigestion, especially when due to a deficient quantity or quality of gastric juice. It is a powerful remedy in the treatment of worm infestations, especially roundworm and pinworm. It may also be used to help the body deal with fever and infections. Due to the general tonic action it will be of benefit in many diverse conditions because it benefits the body in general.
Preparations & Dosage:
Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1-2 teaspoonfuls of the dried herb and leave to infuse for 10- 15 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day.
Pill: The powdered herb may be used to get rid of worms in the form of pills, thus avoiding the extreme, bitter taste.
Tincture: take 1-4 ml of the tincture three times a day.
Other uses of Wormwood:
The fresh or dried shoots are said to repel insects and mice, they have been laid amongst clothing to repel moths and have also been used as a strewing herb. An infusion of the plant is said to discourage slugs and insects. The plant contains substances called sesquiterpene lactones, these are strongly insecticidal.
Esoteric uses of Wormwood:
Used to remove anger, stop war, inhibit violent acts, and for protection from the evil eye. Carry in vehicle to protect from accidents on dangerous roads. Use as incense for clairvoyance, to summon spirits, or to enhance divinatory abilities. Can be sprinkled in the path of an enemy to bring them strife and misfortune (not recommended, remember the law of threes). Note: Can be poisonous, use with caution.
- Volatile oil, of variable composition, usually containing [[alpha]]- and [[beta]]- thujone as the major component, up to about 35%; with thujyl alcohol, azulenes including chamazulene, 3, 6- and 5, 6-dihydrochamazulene; bisabolene, cadinene, camphene, sabinene, trans-sabinylacetate, pinene, phellandrene and others.
- Sesquiterpene lactones; artabsin, absinthin, anabsinthin, artemetin, arabsin, artabin, artabsinolides, matricin, isoabsinthin, artemolin and others.
- Acetylenes, in the root; trans-dehydromatricaria ester, Cl3 and Cl4trans-spiroketalenol ethers and others.
- Flavonoids; quercitin 3-glucoside and 3-rhamnoglucoside, spinacetin3-glucosideand 3-rhamnoglucoside and others.
- Phenolic acids; p-hydroxyphenylacetic, chlorogenic, p-coumaric, protocatechuic, syringic, vanillic and other acids.
- Lignans; diayangambin and epiyangambin.