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Other Names: Green Ginger, Absinthe
The Wormwoods are members of the great family of Compositae and belong to the genus Artemisia, a group consisting of 180 species, of which four grow wild in England. The whole family is remarkable for the extreme bitterness of all parts of the plant: ‘as bitter as Wormwood‘ is a very Ancient proverb.
Wormwood is one of the bitter herbs of the Bible, and supposedly grew up along the trail left by the Serpent as it slithered out of the Garden of Eden.
According to the Ancients, Wormwood counteracted the effects of poisoning by hemlock, toadstools and the biting of the seadragon.
The plant was of some importance among the Mexicans, who celebrated their great festival of the Goddess of Salt by a ceremonial dance of women, who wore on their heads garlands of Wormwood.
Historically, wormwood was used by the Romans as a drink and to flavor wine which was then thought to promote longevity. Roman soldiers were reported to have placed it in their sandals to sooth their sore feet.
Wormwood as an Herb for Medicinal Uses
The medicinal parts are the aerial shoots and leaves of the plant. The plant has an aromatic odor and a very bitter taste.
With the exception of Rue, Wormwood is the bitterest herb known, but it is very wholesome and used to be in much request by brewers for use instead of hops. The leaves resist putrefaction, and have been on that account a principal ingredient in antiseptic fomentations.
Wormwood is used for all problems within the digestive system, as well as liver and bladder ailments. It has been used to remove worms from the internal digestive system. It promotes menstruation and will help with menstrual cramps.
Wormwood is approved by Commission E for:
- Loss of appetite.
- Dyspeptic complaints.
- Liver and gallbladder complaints.
Wormwood Tea, made from 1 ounce of the herb, infused for 10 to 12 minutes in 1 pint of boiling water, and taken in wineglassful doses, will relieve melancholia and help to dispel the yellow hue of jaundice from the skin, as well as being a good stomachic, and with the addition of fixed alkaline salt, produced from the burnt plant, is a powerful diuretic in some dropsical cases. The ashes yield a purer alkaline salt than most other vegetables, except Beanstalks and Broom.
A light infusion of the tops of the plant, used fresh, is excellent for all disorders of the stomach, creating an appetite, promoting digestion and preventing sickness after meals, but it is said to produce the contrary effect if made too strong.
Folk medicine: In folk medicine, wormwood preparations are used internally for gastric insufficiency, intestinal atonia, gastritis, stomachache, liver disorders, bloating, anemia, irregular menstruation, intermittent fever, loss of appetite and worm infestation. Externally, the drug is applied for poorly healing wounds, ulcers, skin blotches and insect bites. Efficacy in the above-mentioned popular uses is insufficiently documented.
To prepare an infusion, pour 150 ml boiling water over 1/2 teaspoonful of the herb, strain after 10 minutes. A decoction is prepared by adding 1 handful of drug to 1 liter of boiling water for 5 minutes. To prepare a tea, use 1 g drug in 1 cup water.
Dosages: The total daily dose is 3 to 5 g of the herb as an aqueous extract. Internal dose of the infusion is 1 cup freshly prepared tea taken 30 minutes before each meal. The tincture dosage is 10 to 30 drops in sufficient water taken 3 times daily. The liquid extract dosage is 1 to 2 ml taken 3 times daily.
Externally, a decoction is used for healing of wounds and insect bites.
Other use: The dried leaves are placed in the sleeping pillows of cats and dogs to repel fleas and ticks.
Culinary Uses of Wormwood
Unknown – not recommended.
Did You Know?
On March 16, 1915 absinthe was banned in France. Wormwood was the active ingredient in the alcoholic drink absinthe. Absinthe is now banned almost everywhere. Absinthe led to serious mental disturbances, seizures, paralysis, and death. It was addictive. Vincent van Gogh was reputedly under the influence of absinthe when he hacked off his ear.
An Old Love Charm
‘On St. Luke’s Day, take Marigold flowers, a sprig of Marjoram, Thyme, and a little Wormwood; dry them before a fire, rub them to powder; then sift it through a fine piece of lawn, and simmer it over a slow fire, adding a small quantity of virgin honey, and vinegar. Anoint yourself with this when you go to bed, saying the following lines three times, and you will dream of your partner “that is to be”:
‘St. Luke, St. Luke, be kind to me,
In dreams let me my true love see.’
In 1975 the Food and Drug Association (FDA) placed wormwood in the unsafe category because it contains thujone, a chemical that can cause nerve damage and other negative side effects when orally ingested.
This nerve damage can result in symptoms characterized by numbness, paralysis, and loss of intellectual capacity. Other side effect of wormwood include seizures, which are particularly dangerous to people with epilepsy, kidney failure, and cramping of the abdomen and uterus.
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