Artemisia absinthium. Synonyms: Artemisia absinthium var. insipida, Absinthium vulgare, Artemisia baldaccii, Artemisia inodora, Artemisia kulbadica, Artemisia rehan, Artemisia rhaetica
Wormwood, common wormwood, absinthe, green ginger
Leaf and flowering tops
Europe, Asia, and North Africa
Wormwood, a perennial herb, can be harvested twice a year depending on its intended use. The best time to harvest for bitter compounds is during full bloom in September, while essential oils peak in June and July. However, the leaves deteriorate in quality once the plant starts to bloom. The entire herb can be harvested by cutting at the base, or the leaves can be partially harvested in the spring and the flowering branches in the summer. To ensure good quality dried material, wormwood should be dried at room temperature as essential oils start to deteriorate at temperatures of 95 °F (35 °C). Bitter compounds, on the other hand, are relatively stable after drying and storage.
Artemisia, a genus of plants that includes wormwood, has been used for centuries for its medicinal and cultural significance. With over 400 species, many herbs in this genus have been found to have health benefits and are used in rituals. Wormwood, in particular, has been used for its medicinal properties and is known for its bitter taste.
Wormwood, a herb with a long history of use, has been utilized for centuries for its bitter taste and medicinal properties. It has been used as a tonic for the stomach, a vermifuge to expel worms, and a stimulant. Additionally, it has been a key ingredient in the production of popular liqueurs such as vermouth and absinthe. In modern Western herbalism, wormwood remains a popular bitter tonic due to its potent taste. The European Medicine Agency recognizes its uses for anorexia, atonic dyspepsia, and worm infestations. (1)
Wormwood, also known by its scientific name Artemisia, has a rich history dating back to ancient Greek mythology. The plant was named after the goddess Artemis, who, along with her brother Apollo, used it to cure a feverous plague in the city of Selinus, Sicily. This legend is still commemorated today on the Selinus coin from the 5th century BCE. The plant's medicinal properties have been recognized for centuries and continue to be studied today. (2)
Wormwood, also known as absinthium, gets its name from the Greek word apsinthion, which means "unenjoyable" due to its extremely bitter taste. Other translations suggest that it means "without sweetness" or "unusable." Despite its unpleasant taste, wormwood has been used for medicinal and culinary purposes for centuries.
Wormwood is a bitter herb commonly used in Western herbalism for its digestive benefits. Its main bitter compound, absinthin, is known for its intense bitterness and ability to stimulate the appetite. Bitters like wormwood can be helpful for those with reduced appetite, as they trigger a sensory response in the mouth that signals the gut to release digestive hormones and juices. Additionally, wormwood has been found to increase tonus in vascular resistance vessels, which can facilitate digestive activity. (3)
Wormwood has been found to be effective in treating digestive tract imbalances, particularly those involving inflammation. Scientific studies have shown that wormwood is more effective than a placebo in preventing the recurrence of post-operative Crohn's disease and inducing remission. These studies were conducted using double-blind, placebo-controlled methods and were published in reputable medical journals. (4)
Wormwood has been used for centuries to support liver health by promoting the production and flow of bile. This is crucial because an overworked liver can lead to a variety of health issues. In Uighur medicine, wormwood is also used to treat liver diseases. Recent research suggests that wormwood extract may have protective effects against acute liver injury, possibly due to its antioxidative or immunomodulatory properties.
Wormwood, a strong bitter herb, has been traditionally associated with anthelmintic properties. While ancient texts by Dioscorides and Galen do not mention this use, many classical and renaissance texts, as well as modern herbalists, do. Animal studies have supported this use, with wormwood extract showing a decrease in the number of Syphacia parasite ova. This has led to suggestions that wormwood could act as a source of novel antiparasitic drugs. A study found that A. absinthium extracts are a promising alternative to commercially available anthelmintics for the eradication of nematodes in sheep. Interestingly, they note that an ethanolic extract worked better than the aqueous extract, mainly because alcohol helps solubility of the anthelmintic principles. However, no clinical trials have been conducted to confirm these findings.(5)
One of the most well-known uses of wormwood in ancient Greece was as a remedy for parasitic infections, particularly worms. The bitter compounds in the plant were believed to help expel worms from the digestive system, and wormwood was often used in combination with other herbs and spices for this purpose.
In addition to its use as an anti-parasitic, wormwood was also used as a natural insect repellent, particularly against mosquitoes. The plant contains a compound called thujone, which has been shown to repel mosquitoes and other biting insects. Ancient Greeks would often rub wormwood leaves on their skin to keep mosquitoes at bay.
Wormwood is also famous for its use in absinthe, a potent alcoholic beverage that originated in Switzerland in the late 18th century. Absinthe is made by distilling wormwood, along with other herbs and spices, and has a distinctive bitter taste and green color. Absinthe was popular among artists and writers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, who believed that it stimulated creativity and enhanced their artistic vision.
The anti-parasitic action of wormwood is mainly due to its active compounds, particularly a group of chemicals known as sesquiterpene lactones, which have been shown to exhibit a range of biological activities, including antiparasitic, antimicrobial, and antifungal properties. These compounds are thought to interfere with the metabolic processes of parasites, making it difficult for them to survive and reproduce.
The bitter taste and scent of wormwood may also play a role in its anti-parasitic activity by discouraging parasites from settling in the body or laying eggs. However, the primary mode of action is believed to be through the active compounds in the plant.
Adult Dose (7)
Infusion: 1-1.5 g finely ground aerial parts in 150 mL boiling water, 2-3x/day
Juice: 5 mL, 2x/day Powder: 0.76 g, 3x/day
Tincture: 1-4 mL (1:1, 25%) 3x/day
Wormwood is a plant that has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. While it is generally considered safe when used in recommended doses, there are some precautions that need to be taken. Those who are allergic to plants in the Asteraceae family should avoid wormwood, as should those with gallstones or other biliary disorders. Additionally, individuals with stomach hyperacidity should avoid using wormwood. It is important to follow recommended dosage guidelines and to seek medical advice if there are any concerns. (6)
(1) Mills, S., &Bone, K. (2000). Principles and practice of phytotherapy: Modern herbal medicine. Edinburgh, United Kingdom: Churchill Livingstone.
(2) Wright, C.W. (2002). Artemisia. London, United Kingdom: Taylor & Francis. (3) McMullen, M.K., Whitehouse, J.M., & Towell, A. (2015). Bitters: Time for a new paradigm. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2015. https://doi.org/10.1155/2015/670504
(4) Omer, B., Krebs, S., Omer, H., & Noor, T.O. (2007). Steroid‐sparing effect of wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) in Crohn's disease: A double‐blind placebo‐controlled study. Phytomedicine, 14, 87-95. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.phymed.2007.01.001
(5) Tariq, K.A. (2009). Anthelmintic activity of extracts of Artemisia absinthium against ovine nematodes. Veterinary Parasitology, 160, 83- 88. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.vetpar.2008.10.084
(6) Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.
(7) European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy. (2003). ESCOP monographs: The scientific foundation for herbal medicinal products. Stuttgart, Germany: Thieme.