What Is ‘Wormwood’ and The Health Benefits of Wormwood

Wormwood {Artemisia absinthium}

Also, Known As:

  • Absinthe
  • Absinthium
  • Ajenjo
  • Common Wormwood
  • Green Ginger
  • Madderwort
  • Old woman
  • Wormwood
Primarily native to Europe, wormwood is a perennial shrub-like herb that has greyish-white colored stems wrapped with delicate and glossy hairs. Wormwood normally grows up to a height between one and three feet and bears leaves that are smooth, hairy and contain secretary cells. They also have resinous particles (viscous substances) and have a yellowish-green appearance. The wormwood plant produces a fragrant scent and has a highly spiced that is rather bitter in taste. Although the plant is indigenous to Europe as well as northern Africa and western Asia, currently it is commercially cultivated in many parts of the world. The useful parts of the herb include its leaves and the fresh or dried flowering tops that are normally harvested before or during the blossoming season. Wormwood is generally used in the manufacture of vermouth or white wine while another species known as sweet wormwood (A. annua) is grown as a decorative plant. However, in addition to being an ornamental plant, sweet wormwood is rich in vital oil that has powerful functions against fungus and bacteria.
Some time back, chemists at the Experimental Therapeutics of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Washington DC have initiated prolonged researches into the sweet wormwood’s aptitude in reducing fevers caused by killing parasites in the intestines. A tincture prepared from sweet wormwood may be helpful in healing fevers caused by intestinal parasites. For effective use, try ten drops (use an eye dropper) of the wormwood tincture blended with one teaspoonful of dark honey or black molasses (thick and dark syrup made by boiling down juice from sugar cane) may be useful in curing the ailment. Since the honey or the molasses aids in getting rid of the bitter flavor of the tincture, it is advisable to blend the substance before using.
Here is how you may make use of wormwood to keep off flies and pests. Smash a few woodworm leaves into a moist mash and then blend it with a little apple cider vinegar. Then place a small quantity of this soaked combination into a six-inch square bandage cloth, draw up the corners of the gauze and tie the corners at the top. You may wipe the skin systematically with the mixture through the gauze to ward off horseflies, gnats, mosquitoes and other insects while you are away in the open. The consistent mixture can straightway be applied externally on pets to keep them off any botheration from all kinds of pests, insects, and fleas.
Recent reports published in the Planta Medica issue says that some species of wormwood have been used in medical examinations for healing hepatitis as well as safeguard the liver from scratches produced owing to the intake of injurious chemicals. In a report published in another medical journal called the Chern. Phann Bulletin, it has been stated that wormwood is a vital medication for healing jaundice as well as swelling and irritation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis). The report further states that a tea prepared with wormwood is likely to be beneficial in curing jaundice and the gallbladder inflammations.
The procedure to prepare the wormwood tea is simple. Boil two cups of water and then remove it from heat. Next, add four teaspoons of the dried wormwood leaves or flower tops to it. Cover the potion allowing the wormwood to be soaked in the boiling water. For effective use, drink the lukewarm infusion on an empty stomach thrice daily – morning, noon and night. One may add a little maple syrup to sweeten the otherwise bitter infusion. Alternatively, one may also take two capsules prepared from woodworm ingredients twice every day to get relief from these problems on an alternating basis. Here is a piece of advice. Wormwood is a herbal remedy like goldenseal root, chaparral, and such other therapeutic herbs and it should be used discreetly and not taken erratically.
Believe it or not, despite being a superb energizer, wormwood is one of the bitterest herbs that are used by herbalists across the globe. The herb has several medicinal qualities and that includes increasing hunger (appetite), augmenting digestion by enhancing the secretion of digestive enzymes as well as bile from the liver and gallbladder and inciting peristalsis (wavelike movement of intestinal muscles that propels food along the digestive tract). As the plant’s name suggests, wormwood can also be used to throw out worms from the body and it is also a superb medication for anyone suffering from weak, lethargic digestion, contaminants as well as jamming in the gut. It is also beneficial in solving liver disorders in people suffering from a sensation of being run down and incapacitation during convalescence. The presence of chamazulene (an anti-inflammatory agent) in the unstable oil obtained from woodworm extracts has a soothing effect on the digestive tract.
As mentioned earlier, as a herbal medicine, wormwood is beneficial in healing fevers and infections and it also enhances the immune system. The herb is also useful in getting the body rid of toxins and clearing heat and clogging in the system. For most effective use, wormwood can be blended with mint for a better flavor and taken to heal colds and flu, persistent or chronic fever, food poisoning, catarrh (inflammation of a mucous membrane, especially of the respiratory tract), skin problems and arthritis. History reveals that woodworm has also been beneficial for women. It has been a favorite herb with the women to incite uterine narrowing or contractions during childbirth. It may be mentioned here that wormwood is especially useful when the birth is sluggish in getting going and contractions are weak and ineffective. On the contrary, wormwood can also be used to usher in belated or holding back menstruation owing to stagnation (a state of inactivity) in the uterus and also for distressing periods. At the same time, wormwood has a diuretic action and it is useful for any liquid retention during the time of period.

Plant Parts Used:

Aerial parts.

Herbal Use:

Like any other herb, wormwood too has numerous therapeutic uses. Absinthe, a spirit drink made with aromatics including fennel seed, star anise, and crushed wormwood leaves. This drink has green color but turns white when you add some water, is derived from wormwood. It was very popular in France as well as in the United States in the 19th century. The addictive drink was flavored with oil extracted from wormwood and contained thujone, a toxic substance (if it is used in high dosages), and hence, overindulgence with it may prove to be lethal.
Besides this, wormwood is exceptionally useful medication for anyone suffering from poor or under-active digestion. Herbal medicines prepared from wormwood extracts stimulate the secretion of stomach acid as well as bile and thereby help in the digestive process. In turn, enhances the body’s capacity to absorb nutrients and helps in tackling certain ailments like anemia. In addition, wormwood is beneficial in releasing gas as well as easing bloating conditions. Herbal medicine practitioners recommend regular intake of wormwood tincture as this enhances the digestive process helping the body gain vigor and energy while recuperating from lingering ill health. As the herb’s name suggests, wormwood is also beneficial to some extent in destroying or throwing out worms from the body.
Apart from its medicinal values, wormwood is also an excellent insecticide and help in repelling insects.

Habitat:

Though an important therapeutic herb, wormwood is generally found growing along the pavements. Although it is native to Europe, wormwood is also found aplenty in central Asia as well as in the eastern regions of the United States. Currently, wormwood is commercially cultivated in all temperate regions around the world. The herb is propagated in two manners – either by sowing the seeds in spring or by root division in autumn. Cultivators harvest the above-ground parts of the herb in late summer.

Research:

Scientific researchers conducted during the 1970’s have proved that the wormwood plant contains a number of therapeutic benefits. The herb greatly contributes to herbal medicinal activities. A number of plants in this species are very bitter to taste and when they are taken in, they set off a stimulating action in the stomach resulting in a number of digestive discharges. The wormwood plant contains a number of chemical ingredients such as azulenes, sesquiterpene lactones and thujone. While the azulenes are anti-inflammatory, sesquiterpene lactones produce anti-tumor consequences and are very powerful insecticides. On the other hand, thujone is capable of inciting the brain. But one must be cautious while using it as owing to its toxic nature, it may prove to be poisonous if taken in excess.

Constituents:

Wormwood contains volatile oil (inc. sesquiterpene lacrones and thujone), bitter principle, flavonoids, tannins, silica, antibiotic polyacetylenes, insulin, hydroxycoumarins.

Recommended Use:

Wormwood extracts can be taken in either as a tea or a tincture. Preparing wormwood tea is extremely simple and can be done by adding one teaspoon of the herb to 250 ml or one cup of boiling water. After putting the herb in the boiling water, it is left undisturbed for about 10 to 15 minutes allowing the medicinal properties to soak in the water. Normally, for good results, people drink three cups of the tea daily. Alternatively, if anyone desires to use the wormwood tincture, he or she can put 10 to 20 drops of it in water and consume the same 10 to 15 minutes before every meal. Here is a word of caution. Neither the wormwood tea nor the tincture should be used for more than four weeks at a stretch.

Possible Side Effects and Precautions:

If wormwood is consumed for a long period at a stretch it may prove to be detrimental to the health. It is strictly inadvisable to prepare any medication with the toxic absinthe oil as it is not only addictive but may also lead to the damage of brain, seizures, and even death. Short term usage of wormwood tincture or tea has no major side effects. On the other hand, prolonged usage of wormwood has its ill effects. It can lead to nausea, vomiting, insomnia, restiveness, vertigo or dizziness, trembling as well as convulsions or seizures. Use of wormwood is strictly inadvisable during pregnancy as well as lactation periods for it may cause severe harm to the body.

Applications:

Aerial parts:
INFUSION: Herbal medicine practitioners always advise people to intake weak infusion prepared from wormwood to heal poor or under-active digestion, poor appetite, as well as gastritis. A weak infusion can be prepared by adding five to ten grams of the herb in 500 ml of water. It is also prescribed to cure jaundice and hepatitis as well as throw out worms in the intestines.
TINCTURE: Wormwood tincture may be used in the same manner as the infusion prepared from the herb is consumed. However, it is advisable not to consume more than 3 ml of the tincture in a day.
COMPRESS: Wormwood may also be used as a compress to get comfort from bruises and bites. A wormwood compress can be prepared by soaking a pad in the herb infusion and applied externally to the wound.
WASH: The wormwood infusion can also be used externally as a wash to heal plagues and infections like scabies.

Wormwood Moth Bags:

  • 1 cup dried wormwood
  • 1 cup dried spearmint
  • 1 cup dried tansy
  • 1 cup dried thyme
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
In a bowl, combine all the ingredients, then crush them together. Divide the mixture among small muslin bags, tie securely, and place with the woolens.

The Benefits of Wormwood

Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium), also known as mugwort, is a bitter herb found in Eurasia, North Africa, and North America. The plant has been used therapeutically since ancient times. In fact, the name “wormwood” comes from its traditional use as a means to cleanse the body of harmful organisms.

Wormwood Quick Facts
Scientific Name Artemisia absinthium
Other Names Mugwort, absinthium
Family Artemisia
Origin Eurasia and Northern Africa; Naturalized in Canada and the Northern United States
Benefits Harmful organism cleansing

You may have heard wormwood mentioned in conjunction with absinthe, the green, highly alcoholic drink made popular during the 19th century and associated with famous (and often troubled) writers and artists like Vincent Van Gogh, Ernest Hemingway, Oscar Wilde, and Edgar Allan Poe. Habitual abuse of the drink was thought to cause absinthism, a much-hyped condition identified by hallucinations, sleeplessness, and other mental issues.

Thujone, one of the compounds found in wormwood, was believed to be responsible for these negative effects, but modern scientific methods have called this idea into question. Traditionally-produced absinthe had an alcohol content of up to 80% (160 proof!), and the 19th century’s production standards were notoriously lax. It’s more likely that absinthism was simply a fancy name for regular-old alcoholism combined with poisoning from impure production methods and toxic additives.

After nearly a century, the prohibition of the drink was repealed and absinthe is enjoying a comeback. Absinthe is the most notorious use of wormwood in alcoholic beverages, but it’s not the only one. Wormwood is also used as a flavoring in vermouth and bitters.

Although I don’t recommend consuming wormwood in the form of 160 proof alcohol, wormwood is a therapeutic herb and its use extends as far back as the early Roman era. Traditional Asian and European medicine use wormwood and its extracts for a variety of purposes, including ridding the body of harmful organisms.

Wormwood and Harmful Organisms

Harmful organisms contamination and infection are a serious health problem in every country in the world, not just in developing countries. Organisms of all sorts can contaminate food and water, causing health problems in both people and animals. Wormwood contains several compounds, most notably artemisinin, that are resistant to harmful organisms. These compounds produce an environment that is actively hostile to harmful organisms and discourages them from thriving.

Harmful organisms are not just a problem for human health. For the farmer who has hundreds or thousands of livestock, the cost of pharmaceuticals that target harmful organisms can be bank-breaking. Wormwood might be able to help. Study results suggest that wormwood extract may be a natural alternative to commercial drugs for eliminating intestinal invaders in ruminants like sheep.

Additional Benefits of Wormwood

The benefits of wormwood are not limited to its effects on harmful organisms. Wormwood also contains compounds known to stimulate digestion by supporting liver and gallbladder function. The benefit is magnified when combined with other digestive herbs such as peppermint and ginger. Wormwood also supports healthy circulation and soothes irritation. Research also suggests that wormwood may even have neuroprotective properties.

Like many other plants, wormwood is a concentrated source of antioxidants. The antioxidant activities of wormwood support its traditional uses in Europe, which include wound healing. Animal studies have even found that wormwood’s antioxidant action helped revitalize some of the enzyme activity in rats that had been decreased by lead exposure.

The Yale University School of Medicine performed a study in which patients with digestive ailments were given either a placebo or a herbal blend containing wormwood for a ten-week period. This double-blind, placebo-controlled study observed that the patients who took the herbal blend reported improved mood and quality of life, which is a not a common side effect of conventional western medications.

Wormwood Side Effects and Precautions

While the notion of wormwood-induced absinthism has been discredited, the possibility remains that thujone, or some other compound within wormwood, could have potentially toxic effects. However, this is only true if consumed in absurdly high quantities, or if it interacts medications or a preexisting condition. In normal doses, wormwood remains completely safe for most people. As a precaution, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid wormwood. Due to its potency, don’t take the essential oil of wormwood internally.

Tips for Growing Wormwood

Fresh wormwood can be hard to find in stores, but you can easily grow your own. Growing your own has the bonus of allowing you to control the quality of the herb. Wormwood grows well, even in less-than-ideal conditions. It grows best in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 to 9, which means that it can be grown almost anywhere in the United States. Once established, the herb requires minimal maintenance.

Wormwood grows from either seeds or seedlings. If started from seeds, plant indoors first and transfer outside after sprouting. Plant seedlings after the last frost in spring in full sun. Wormwood prefers dry soil. Water occasionally, but don’t overdo it. Wormwood is not typically vulnerable to disease, but overwatering can lead to root rot.

Harvest wormwood in July or August on a dry day after the sun has evaporated all the moisture on the plant. To harvest, remove the upper green portion, leaving behind any lower stem parts and all insect-eaten, discolored, or damaged leaves.

Simple Wormwood Tea

I shouldn’t need to say that absinthe is not the best way to incorporate wormwood into your diet. It’s staggeringly high alcohol content more than cancels out any possible benefit of the herb. So, with the green fairy off the table, what’s the best way to consume wormwood?

A simple tea is a common and effective way to take this herb. Wormwood is extremely bitter, so you’ll probably drink this for its therapeutic properties, not casual enjoyment.

Simply put ½ to 1 teaspoon of fresh or dried wormwood leaves in a cup of hot, but not quite boiling, water. Steep for 4 or 5 minutes and strain out the leaves. Don’t use more than a teaspoon per cup or let it steep for too long. Otherwise, the tea may become too bitter to drink. You can attempt to sweeten the tea with stevia or raw organic honey, but you may find it only improves the flavor a little bit. You can also blend with other herbal teas like peppermint or anise to improve the flavor.

Here’s a tip: After they cool a little, the wormwood leaves you strain from your tea can be used as a poultice. Apply them to wounds, rashes, or insect bites for natural relief.

Other Sources of Wormwood

If you can’t find wormwood leaves or if you just can’t take the taste, then supplementation is your next best option. Wormwood can be found as a standalone supplement or combined with other botanicals. One such product is Global Healing Center’s own Paratrex®. Paratrex is a blend of all-natural ingredients, including wormwood, formulated to promote the cleansing of harmful organisms. As always, only buy pure, natural, quality supplements from companies you trust, and consult your trusted healthcare practitioner before starting a new supplement routine.

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