Wormwood, Artemisia absinthium, is one of the most bitter medicinal plants in the world. The bitter compounds in it are responsible for the plants’ therapeutic properties. However, wormwood contains a compound that can be damaging when taken in excess.
Absinthe, absinthium, absinthe wormwood
Leaves, flowering top
Native to the temperate regions of Eurasia, wormwood is naturalized in North America, South America and New Zealand.
Wormwood is an evergreen perennial
Height: Usually up to 120 cm (4 ft)
Width: 45-60 cm (18-24 in)
Flowers: yellow, small and tubular
Leaves: silvery-green above and white below, spirally arranged, covered with silky silvery-white hairs
Blooms: July to October
Hardiness: USDA Zones 4a to 9b
Propagation: Seed, cuttings and crown division.
Germination: Sow from late winter to early summer. Germination occurs in 2 to 20 weeks at 15 Celsius (59 F).
Spacing: 45-60 cm (18-24 in).
Soil: Dry, well-drained and poor for best medicinal value. It also grows in rich soils as well as moist soils that are well-drained.
pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline).
Exposure: Full sun or partial shade.
Garden Design: The silvery-green, evergreen leaves make it a beautiful addition to a border. Keep it trimmed in the herb garden as it looks unkempt if allow to grow large.
Companion planting: Wormwood is an excellent companion plant to currants as it helps hinder the development of currant European rust (also know by currant felt rust and white pine blister rust). However, wormwood tends to hinder the development of many plants. Avoid it in the vegetable garden. Plant sage and yarrow in between wormwood and other plants.
Wormwood should be harvested as it is coming to flower.
Hang the flowers upside down and allow them to dry thoroughly. You can also dry it in a dehydrator at about 40C (104F).
0.15-0.4% bitter compounds (sesquiterpene lactones, mainly 0.20-0.28% absinth, artemetin,matricin, isoabsinthin, artemolin); 0.2-1.5% volatile oil (terpenes: of which 35% alpha and beta thujone, and also trans-sabinyl, acetate, chrysantenyl acetate; sesquiterpenes and monoterpenes: thujan, thujyalcohol, linalool, cineol, flavonoids: glycosides of kaempferol and quercetin.
Anthelmintic, antimicrobial, antispasmodic, carminative, cholagogue, digestive, emmenagogue, febrifuge, stimulant, tonic
MEDICINAL USE OF WORMWOOD
As the name implies, wormwood is a very effective herb against worm infestations, especially roundworm and pinworm. It is primarily used to stimulate the digestive system. It’s particularly helpful in indigestion, especially the kind caused by low amounts of gastric juices. Due to its high bitter contents, wormwood has been used traditionally as an anti-depressive. Bitter compounds improve the mood and cause alertness.
Used internally for:
- Eliminating worms
- Stimulating the appetite
- Regulating the appetite (take after a meal)
- Gastritis with acid deficiency
- Chronic gastritis
- Bile duct disorders
- Gallbladder stones and infection
- Liver ailments
- Intestinal disorders
- Irregular menstrual cycle
Recommended daily dosage:
German Commission E: 2-3 g per day as infusion
British Pharmacopeia Codex: 3-10 ml of tincture
British Herbal Pharmacopeia: 1-2 g dried herb or 1-2 ml fluid extract (1:1 in 25%) three times per day
Phytotherapist David Hoffmann recommends:
Infusion: 1-2 tsp of dried herb per cup of boiling water. Let steep for 10-15 minutes. Drink 3 times per day.
Tincture: (1:1): 1 to 4 ml three times per day
- Powdered herb
Wormwood is responsible for the bitter taste of vermouth, Cinzano and martinis. It also flavored absinthe, the popular 19-century aperitif that caused absinthium (wormwood poisoning).
Side effects are typical with overdose due to the adverse effects of thujone which is toxic. Thujone is high doses may cause vomiting, stomachache, severe diarrhea, renal lesion, retention of urine, stupor, and convulsions.
Due to its labor inducing properties, wormwood should not be used during pregnancy.
Do not use wormwood if you have stomach and intestinal ulcers.
Bühring, U. 2015. Alles über Heilpflanzen. 3rd ed. Stuttgart: Ulmer.
Wichtl M. 2004. Herbal drugs and phytopharmaceuticals – A handbook for practice on a scientific basis. 3rd ed. Stuttgart: medpharm Scientific Publishers
Hoffmann, D. 2003. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal medicine. Rochester: Healing Arts Press