Artemisia absinthium L. [Fam. Asteraceae]
Cut and dried leaves and flowering tops of wormwood; wormwood infusions and thujone-free wormwood extracts.
– Antihelmintic (worm expellant)
– Appetite Loss
– Bile Deficiency
– Bile Duct Disorders
– Chronic gastritis
– Gall Bladder Cleansing
– Intestinal Worms
– Liver Cleansing
– Memory Loss
– Mental Functioning
– Stomach Disorders
Wormwood, Artemisia absinthium L. [Fam. Asteraceae], is an extremely bitter medicinal herb native to Europe that is also now naturalized, from garden cultivation, in eastern North America. Wormwood leaves were traditionally nibbled to stimulate appetite. Wormwood tea was a traditional folk remedy for treating delayed menses, fevers, liver and gall bladder ailments, and as a worm expellant (vermifuge). It is still among the most popular antihelmintic (anti-worm), antiparasitic and repellent plants used in Central Italy. Wormwood can be used as a bitter tonic to stimulate the appetite and aid digestion. It is especially effective for dyspepsia because it acts on the stomach and gall bladder and relieves feelings of fullness and the accumulation of gases in the digestive system. The plant extracts are diuretic, antiseptic and vermifuge. The essential oil can be used externally for relief of rheumatic pain and contains many antibacterial and antifungal compounds. Wormwood is also reputed to enhance or restore mental functions, including memory, according to traditional Western European medicine. Recent studies show that wormwood ethanol extract has human central nervous system (CNS) cholinergic receptor binding activity. The most potent extract, active at less than 1 mg/ml, was comparable in displacement activity with that of carbamylcholine chloride, a potent acetylcholine analogue. Choline is also found in the extract itself, but its concentration does not account for more than 5% of the displacement activity observed. Wormwood contains a compound called thujone that is known to be toxic. Acaricidal properties of essential oils of Artemisia absinthium and a related plant, Tanacetum vulgare (tansy) [Fam. Asteraceae] are attributed largely to beta-thujone � so thujone may be beneficial in wormwood products for expelling worms as well. Wormwood was formerly the main ingredient of the liqueur called absinth, but due to the toxicity of thujone, absinth was outlawed in France in 1915.
Wormwood contains: 0.15-0.4% bitter substances and 0.2-1.5% essential oil; sesquiterpene lactones, with as the main component the dimeric guianolid, absinthin (0.20-0.28%); other sesquiterpene lactones include artabsin, matricin, anbsinthin etc., and the pelenolides, hydroxypelenolide can be detected during the TLC identification of the drug. Essential Oil: consists mainly of terpens but also includes b- or x-thujone ((1S, 4 R)-thugan-3-one or (1S, 4S)-thujan-3-one), trans-sabinyl acetate, cis-epoxyocimene, or chrysanthenyl acetate. Of the more than fifty other identified mono- and sesquiterpenes, thujan, thujyl, alcohol, linalool, and cineole, as well as x-bisabolol, b-curcumene, and spathulenol may be mentioned. Various flavonoids occur in the drug, and caffeic and other phenolic carboxylic acids have been detected; small amounts of polyacetylenes are also present; traces of a mixture comprising two diastereoisomeric homoditerpene peroxides (with in vitro antimalarial activity); some 24z-ethylcholesta-7,22-dien-3b-ol (antipyretic activity).
To prepare wormwood tea: Pour boiling water over half a teaspoon of finely chopped wormwood herb. Steep for ten minutes then strain. Unless otherwise prescribed drink infusion several times a day a half-hour before meals. 1 Teaspoon = ca. 1.5 g.
Do not exceed recommended dose. Wormwood is not recommended for internal use for more than three weeks at a time due to the presence of thujone, which can cause convulsions if taken at very high concentrations. Thujone-free wormwood extracts are available and are recommended for long-term therapeutic use of this herb.
Should be avoided by people with stomach and intestinal ulcers. People suffering from psychiatric disorders may also want to consult with their physician prior to using wormwood therapeutically.
None know if used as prescribed. Wormwood is safe when used as prescribed however it is not uncommon for users to experience strange and/or vivid dreams while taking the herb due to the compound, thujone. The toxicity of wormwood is attributed to the herb’s content of thujone, which can cause convulsions if taken at very high concentrations. Overdose of wormwood may cause intoxication, vomiting, stomach and intestinal cramps, urine retention, stupor, and in serious cases renal damage, convulsions, vertigo, and tremors may occur if taken in high doses. Wormwood was formerly the main ingredient of the liqueur called absinth, but due to the toxicity of thujone, which becomes concentrated in the drink, absinth was outlawed in France in 1915. Intoxication from absinthe liqueurs has been likened to that induced by marijuana. A syndrome called absinthism, common to drinkers (before it was outlawed), included many serious side effects including derangement of the digestive organs, intense thirst, restlessness, vertigo, tingling in the ears, trembling in the arms, hands and legs, numbness of extremities, loss of muscular power, delirium, loss of intellect, brain damage, general paralysis and death. Duke (1985) sites one reference that recounts a singular event where the daily ingestion of Italian vermouth (containing wormwood leaves, stems and flowering-heads) is suspected as a causative factor in a case of esophageal cancer. [Duke JA. 1985. Wormwood. In Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, p. 66-67.]
Chiasson H, Belanger A, Bostanian N, Vincent C, Poliquin A. 2001. Acaricidal properties of Artemisia absinthium and Tanacetum vulgare (Asteraceae) essential oils obtained by three methods of extraction. J Econ Entomol. 2001 Feb; 94(1): 167-71.
Foster S, and Duke JA. 1990. Wormwood in Medicinal Plants. Houghton Mifflin Co., New York, NY, p. 220.
Guarrera PM. 2001. Traditional antihelmintic, antiparasitic and repellent uses of plants in Central Italy. J Ethnopharmacol. 1999 Dec 15; 68(1-3): 183-92.
Wake G, Court J, Pickering A, Lewis R, Wilkins R, Perry E. 2000. CNS acetylcholine receptor activity in European medicinal plants traditionally used to improve failing memory. J Ethnopharmacol. 2000 Feb; 69(2): 105-14.
Wichtl M and NG Bisset (Eds). 1994. Absinthii herba – Wormwood. In Herbal Drugs and Phyto-pharmaceuticals. (English translation by Norman Grainger Bisset). CRC Press, Stuttgart, pp. 45-48.