Wormwood’s bitter flavour stimulates digestive secretions, the liver, and the gallbladder’s production of bile. Wormwood also improves the body’s absorption of nutrients. One of its constituents, thujone, works as a brain stimulant.
Wormwood has been used in the treatment of anaemia, anorexia, arthritis, bloating, childbirth (pain and placenta retention), colds, depression, fever, flatulence, gallstones, gastritis, hepatitis, jaundice, lead poisoning, rheumatism, and worms (roundworms, threadworms).
Topically, wormwood can be used in liniments, poultices, and compresses to treat bruises, insect bites and stings, and pain. It also can be made into a wash to get rid of lice or scabies and to soothe itchy skin.
Old Woman, la Fee Verte, armoise; The Green Muse, Absinth, absinthium, green ginger, madderwort, Crown for a King; Wermut, Vermut, Wurmkraut, Wermuth, Wermutkraut, Bitterer Beifuss (German); absinthe, grande absinthe, herbe d’absinthe, herbe aux vers, herbe-sainte, alvire (French); assenzio, assenzio romano (Italian); Absintalsem, absintkruid (Dutch); Koirohi (Estonian); Afseniin (Farsi); Koiruoho (Finnish); Buramaide (Gaelic); Ekte malurt (norwegian; piolun, Bylica piolun (Polish); Malört (Swedish); Ajenjo, mayor, artemisia, yerba maestra, altamisa, estafiate (Spanish); vermout, losna, sintro, absint, alosna (Portuguese); shagaret mariam, shadjret mariam, fsantin-e-hindi, kashus-rumi (Arabic)
The generic name refers to Artemis, goddess of maternity because wormwood was used in regulating women’s menstrual disorders. The Romans called it absinthium after absinthial, their word for “bitter”. Though used to eliminate intestinal parasites, the name comes from the Anglo-Saxon wermode, which means “waremood,” or “mind preserver.”
It gained wide popularity in the latter half of the nineteenth century as a drink, especially in France, where it was the favourite of many artists and intellectuals. This surge in interest was a result of French soldiers fighting in Algeria in the 1840s drinking absinthe as a preventative against malaria and other diseases. The main ingredients were aniseed, fennel, hyssop, and lemon balm; minor ingredients were angelica, star anise, dittany, juniper, nutmeg, and veronica.
A perennial to zone 4. Germination is from 10-24 days and needs light to germinate so plant a shallow depth. Space at 3 feet in a dry, reasonably poor soil with some clay and a pH of 5.5-7.5 in full sun (can tolerate partial shade). Can be propagated by cuttings or root divisions.
The leaves and probably the roots exude a substance that restricts the growth of neighbouring plants…especially thymes, mints and other culinary herbs so give it at least a three-foot buffer between it and adjacent plants. The flowering herb is collected minus its woody stems and dried in thin layers. The drug has a spicy smell and a bitter aromatic taste.
Bitter tonic, aromatic, choleretic, mild cholagogue, antispasmodic, carminative, antipyretic, antibacterial (against Staphylococcus spp., Pseudomonas spp., Klebsiella spp.), antiprotozoal (against Plasmodium spp.). It possibly exerts a mild immunomodulant effect.
Liver and Gallbladder
Wormwood leaves’ primary use is to stimulate the gallbladder, help prevent, and release stones, and to adjust resulting digestive problems. Clinical studies with volunteers proved that wormwood does effectively increase bile. It is also a muscle relaxer that is occasionally added to liniments, especially for rheumatism. Members of the Bedouin African tribe place the antiseptic leaves inside their nostrils as a decongestant and drink it for coughs.
It expels roundworms and threadworms, probably due to is sesquiterpene lactones.
Wormwood is a useful medicine for those with weak and underactive digestions. It increases stomach acid and bile production and therefore improves digestion and the absorption of nutrients, making it helpful for many conditions including anaemia. It also eases gas and bloating, and if the tincture is taken regularly, it slowly strengthens the digestion and helps the body return to full vitality after a prolonged illness.
Wormwood decoction demonstrated anthelmintic activity toward the nematode Trichostrongylus colubriformis in vitro.
Wormwood given to human volunteers 5 minutes before a meal-stimulated gastric secretion.
Another study found that oral doses of liquid wormwood caused a dramatic increase in duodenal levels of pancreatic enzymes and bile.
In Germany, the Commission E supports using wormwood to treat loss of appetite, dyspepsia, and biliary dyskinesia
ESCOP recommends wormwood for treating anorexia and dyspepsia.
Dosage (Divided Daily)
• Dried Leaf: 3,000 – 6,000 mg (Tea)
• Powder: 300 – 1,000 mg
• Tincture: 0.7 – 3 mL (1:5)
Pregnancy, lactation and over-acid stomach
Should not be taken continuously for periods of more than 3–4 weeks. Caution in patients with underlying defects in hepatic haem synthesis.
Interactions with other drugs
- Bone, K. (2003). A clinical guide to blending liquid herbs: herbal formulations for the individual patient. St. Louis, MI: Churchill Livingstone.
- Chevallier, A. (2000). Encyclopedia of herbal medicine (2nd American ed.). New York: DK Pub.
- Herbalpedia (2013)
- Mars, B. (2007). The desktop guide to herbal medicine: the ultimate multidisciplinary reference to the amazing realm of healing plants, in a quick-study, one-stop guide. Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health Pub.
- World Health Organization., & Ebrary. (1999). WHO monographs on selected medicinal plants (pp. electronic text.). Retrieved from https://virtual.anu.edu.au/login/?url=http://site.ebrary.com/lib/anuau/Top?id=10040306
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