Wormwood: Artemesia Annua, Artemesia Nilagirica, Artemesia Tschernieviana, Artemesia Absinthium, Artemesia Douglasiana, Artemesia Ludoviciana, Artemesia Gilvescens, etc.
Also known as: Sweet Annie, Sweet Wormwood, Mugwort, Roman Wormwood, Tarragon, Old Woman, Green Ginger, Absinthe, etc.
Parts Used: leaves, flowers (sometimes the root but that seems to be rare)
Meridians/Organs affected: skin, digestive, liver, blood, lungs, female reproductive, nervous system, stomach, gallbladder, immune
Properties: anti-hemato-parasitic, antibacterial, anti-microbial, anti-tumor, anti-parasitic, anti-pyretic, emmenogogue, hepatic, digestive, vulnerary, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-malarial, antiviral, bitter, anti-carcinogenic, anti-spirochetal, antioxidant, immuno-stimulatory, tonic, stimulant, aromatic, nervine, cholagogue
Wormwood is a member of the Compositae (Sunflower) family. There are over 400 species of artemesia, some more medicinal than others for certain things. It smells like sage but it is of NO relation to the salvia species whatsoever. Wormwood, or should I say the species artemesia, vary in size and shape. It is an aromatic perennial that has grayish green leaves that alternate (generally). The flowers are yellowish green (some species are white) and bloom from June to October. The undersides of the leaves often have fine hairs. This class of plant is very bitter and as such are good for the digestive processes. It is native to Europe, Asia and Siberia but can now be found all over the world in dry soiled climates. It can be anywhere from 2-10 feet tall also depending on the variety. Mugwort and tarragon are also in this class of plants.
It is believed that the artemesia plants get their name from Artemis (the Greek name for Diana) who gave the plant to man. Others say it was named for the Queen of Caria, Artemesia, who used the plant for her own maladies to great benefit. Wormwood is aptly named as it was used as a wormer for animals and children, in graineries to keep weevil at bay and as a common strewing herb to drive away fleas and other insects. A decoction of the plant was also often employed as a floor cleaner in areas where sickness was prevalent. It was once used in conjunction with other herbs as a vinegar on St. Luke's Day so one might catch a glimpse of their future mate (revealed supposedly only on that day through a vision when using this concoction). In some places on the world on St. John's the Baptiste's Day, it is still used in large burning ceremonies to ensure protection from evil the following year for both man and beast. Dioscorides claimed it was good for intoxication. Midwives in Middle Age France would bathe infants in wormwood juice so they would never get too hot or too cold for the rest of their lives (the legends that make one go hmmmmm....). In Egypt it was used to expel pinworms and relieve headaches. John Josselyn believed it useful for seasickness and the early colonists used it to keep moths from eating their clothing. The seeds were powdered and sprinkled amongst the pages of books to keep them from getting book lice and brewers would use it with hops to make their drinks more 'healthy'. When pounded and mixed with fat from a bull it was said to heal problems with vision. Linnaeus used it for gout, liver issues and scurvy. It was also said to be good for stomach complaints and heart issues. It is the base (or at least was the base before it was banned in many countries) for the alcoholic drink absinthe that can cause hallucinations, insanity and sometimes death in excess amounts. (Hence the ban..). The ancients used it as an antidote for hemlock and toadstool poisoning (which is something good to know). The German word for wormwood is 'wermut' which means 'preserver of the mind' as it was once believed to enhance mental functions.
Wormwood contains a large amount of thujone in its oil which can cause a lot of issues and damage to the nervous system when used in excess. It is also addictive and was banned for use in alcohol in most countries for this reason.
Wormwood has been the source of many studies. Most of the studies are focused on its effectiveness as a treatment for malaria. There is a small place in China where the people hardly, if ever, have malaria and scientists found it was possibly due to the local plant life. The people of this village, when believed they were coming down with malarial symptoms, would go out and chew on the leaves of a certain plant in their region and within a matter of hours they were better. Come to find out THAT plant was wormwood.
Wormwood contains a chemical called artemisinin (as do most artemesia's), which is a very powerful anti-parasitic. It is also what is called anti-hemato-parasitic, which means it will kill blood borne parasites. Artemesia Annua is believed to be the most powerful of the species and has been found effective for topical use for skin infections and wounds, for digestive problems, menstrual issues, for reducing fevers, liver problems, parasites in the blood and liver (which would include liver flukes) and as a steam inhalant for respiratory complaints. The activity as an antibacterial is higher in the oils of the plant which do not disseminate easily. In some studies the effectiveness of artemesia depended on the method of extraction (infusion, decoction, etc) as artemisinin is more soluble in fats and alcohol than water. It is also more powerful as a fresh herb as a lot of the antioxidant capability is lost when dried (but it is still VERY powerful as a dried herb too). THIS HERB SHOULD NEVER BE BOILED. The Chinese who have used the plant for millenia would infuse it in water that was room temperature, then pound the herb and wring out the juice. (Apparently according to studies, this method still produces the strongest infusions to date). Depending on the extraction, artemesia's have proven effective against many gram positive and gram negative bacteria as well as fungal infections and a variety of cancers. Its effectiveness is not merely due to the artemisinin but rather the many compounds that work synergistically within the plant. While artemisinin has its benefits-when used alone it also has side effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramping and loss of appetite. Artemesia Annua (also known as Sweet Annie) at last count has over 150 components with many flavonoids, sesquiterpenes and coumarins amongst them. It is the most active artemesia against malaria as well. It is more powerful when picked later in its growing period rather than earlier, so the chemical components have more of a chance to develop. Wormwood (Artemesia Absinthium) is most effective for intermittent fevers, stomach issues, nervous system problems and as a wormer. Wormseed (Artemesia Maritima-also known as Epazote) is specific for certain intestinal worms but overall most artemesia's are used similarly. Mugwort is one of the mildest forms and the one most used for moxification (burning the plant near acupuncture points to help release toxins in the body), menstrual difficulties and hemorrhaging (although other artemesia's have also been used thusly).
This class of plant is best taken in high amounts for a small period of time and it should NEVER be used by a pregnant or nursing woman. ALWAYS consult a physician before using this herb.
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