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Wormwood (Artemisia absinthum)

Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Artemisia absinthum

The fresh or dried shoots are said to repel insects and mice[6, 18, 20, 169], they have been laid amongst clothing to repel moths and have also been used as a strewing herb[4, 14, 257]. An infusion of the plant is said to discourage slugs and insects[14, 18, 201]. The plant contains substances called sesquiterpene lactones, these are strongly insecticidal[254].

  • Medicinal Use

    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[4, 238, 254]. 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[254]. It also eases wind and bloating and, if taken regularly, helps the body return to full vitality after a prolonged illness[254].

    The leaves and flowering shoots are anthelmintic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antitumor, carminative, cholagogue, emmenagogue, febrifuge, hypnotic, stimulant, stomachic, tonic and vermifuge[4, 9, 21, 46, 165, 222, 254]. The plant is harvested as it is coming into flower and then dried for later use[4]. Use with caution[21], the plant should be taken internally in small doses for short-term treatment only, preferably under the supervision of a qualified practitioner[238]. It should not be prescribed for children or pregnant women[238]. See also the notes above on toxicity.

    The extremely bitter leaves are chewed to stimulate the appetite[222]. The bitter taste on the tongue sets off a reflex action, stimulating stomach and other digestive secretions[254]. The leaves have been used with some success in the treatment of anorexia nervosa[244].

    The plant is applied externally to bruises and bites[238]. A warm compress has been used to ease sprains and strained muscles[257].

    A homeopathic remedy is made from the leaves[9]. It is used to stimulate bile and gastric juice production and to treat disorders of the liver and gall bladder[9].

  • Edible Use

    Leaves are occasionally used as a flavouring[27, 177, 183]. Caution is advised, prolonged use is known to have a detrimental effect – see the notes above on toxicity[K].

  • Cautionary Notes

    The plant is poisonous if used in large quantities[20, 61]. Even small quantities have been known to cause nervous disorders, convulsions, insomnia etc[222]. Just the scent of the plant has been known to cause headaches and nervousness in some people[169]. The plant contains thujone. In small quantities this acts as a brain stimulant but is toxic in excess[254].

Cultivation & Habitat

Seed – surface sow from late winter to early summer in a greenhouse. The seed usually germinates within 2 – 26 weeks at 15¡c[134]. 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.
Succeeds in any soil but it is best in a poor dry one with a warm aspect[37]. Established plants are very drought tolerant[190, 200]. Plants are longer lived, more hardy and more aromatic when they are grown in a poor dry soil[245]. Easily grown in a well-drained circumneutral or slightly alkaline loamy soil, preferring a sunny position[1, 200]. Prefers a shady situation according to another report[4]. Tolerates a pH in the range 4.8 to 8.2. Wormwood is occasionally grown in the herb garden, there are some named forms[187]. The growing plant is said to inhibit the growth of fennel, sage, caraway, anise and most young plants, especially in wet years[14, 18, 20]. Wormwood is a good companion for carrots, however, helping to protect them from root fly[201]. 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[244]. The scent of the plant attracts dogs[169]. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer[233].
Temperate regions of Europe and Asia, including Britain, north to Lapland and Siberia.

Become ungovernable, break the chains of the matrix; grow and forage your own food and medicine.

*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.