wormwood thumbnail Wormwood - Artemisia absinthium:


Wormwood grows into a woody shrub, with distinctive and attractive pale bluish green leaves, which smell somewhat medicinal when bruised.

Growing Info:

This plant is a hardy perennial, and prefers full sun. Vigorously cut it back a couple times a year to keep the resulting shrub from getting too woody or taking over. One plant can supply quite a lot of wormwood.

The herb has a somewhat medicinal smell as it hangs to dry, which may be annoying if it is hanging in a high-traffic area of your home.

Culinary Uses:

Extract of wormwood containing absinthe is found in a few European alcoholic beverages (notably Strega), but due to health hazards from internal ingestion of absinthe, this use is fading fast. A turn of the century potent alcoholic drink called Absinthe was popular in Paris; frequent users were strongly prone to violent or self-destructive behavior well beyond that seen with plain alcohol. Today, very small amounts may be found in vermouth, as a flavoring which goes a long way. Internal or culinary use is strongly discouraged, especially long-term.

Medicinal Uses in Folklore:

Taken internally, wormwood is said to help aid gastrointestinal digestion, but there are less toxic remedies available. It may well be potent against parasitic intestinal worms, hence its name. On the short term, it may be soothing to the nervous system. It may promote menestruation, as well as help cool down fevers. It is also said to help the liver.

Poultices to help heal bruising may be effective. Either place the wormwood in boiling water, allow the resulting liquid to cool, and use that, or wrap the wormwood in a cloth, run warm water over this, and apply to the injured area, over unbroken skin, for fifteen minutes. This appears to be most effective before the full bloom of bruising occurs. (As I have seen no data one way or the other as to whether the toxic component of wormwood can cross the skin barrier, frequent external applications are not recommended.)

"Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder" relates to early observations on the aforementioned beverage and its desired effect (which was not always its actual effect).

Scanning the Scientific Literature:

NOTE: This is one of the 'Problem Herbs'.

The bitter taste of wormwood comes from absinthin and anabsinthin. Another constituent is thujone, an oil known to cause convulsions in rats in relatively low concentrations. One half ounce of wormwood oil caused convulsions and unconsciousness in a human foolish enough to tempt it. Long term use builds up toxic effects.

Wormwood pollen is an extremely common allergen, often resulting in upper airway distress. People allergic to mugwort tend to be allergic to wormwood as well.

Other Info:

In ancient Greece, this herb was sacred to Artemis, while Culpeper declares this to be an herb of Mars.

Wormwood is not to be confused with 'sweet wormwood' (Artemesia annua), found in many parts of the world, especially China. In the early 1970s Chinese scientists recognized this second herb's potential for treating malaria and isolated the active principle, artemesinin or qinghaosu.


Disclaimers Page

Herbal Nexus Home Page general menu.
Herb List | Herb Books | Herb Photos | Herbal Links | Webrings

This information is not intended to replace medical advice or treatment. If conditions worsen, or persist, consult your healthcare practitioner.

Last Updated: March 7, 1999.