Wormwood – Introduction, Benefits, Uses, and Side Effects of Artemisia Absinthium

Table of Contents

1. Post Introduction
2. What is Wormwood? 
3. Morphology
4. Chemical Compound
5. Habitat
6. Ayurvedic properties of Wormwood
7. Health Benefits & Uses of Wormwood
8. Side Effects of Wormwood

1. Post Introduction

Welcome to the intriguing world of Wormwood, known scientifically as Artemisia Absinthium. This enigmatic herb has captured attention for its historical significance, potential health benefits, and diverse applications in both ancient remedies and modern practices.

In this post, we embark on a journey to uncover the secrets of Artemisia Absinthium, delving into its historical context, the spectrum of benefits it offers, and the multifaceted ways it has been integrated into cultures across time. From its potential role in supporting digestive health and promoting relaxation to its historical use in herbal liqueurs, Wormwood stands as a herb with layers of complexity and intrigue.

2. What is Wormwood? 

A Common Wormwood scientific name is Artemisia Absinthium, some other common names are Vilaythi Afsantin, Absinthe, Madder wort, and Afsantin. The Latin name of the comes from the Greek goddess Artemis, who took care of women during childbirth. It helped to bring on periods and could be used externally as a compress during labor to speed up birth and afterward, to expel the placenta.

In Biblical times, wormwood was a symbol of calamity and sorrow, there are seven references to wormwood in the Old Testament. The common wormwood is a relative of sweet wormwood (Artemisia Annua), an ingredient in traditional Chinese malaria.

The Egyptians used wormwood as an antiseptic, stimulant, aromatic essence, tonic, beer, and wine additive and remedy for fevers and menstrual pains. The Greeks, who called it apsinthos, had similar uses. They also used it in childbirth.

Hippocrates Corpus recommended wormwood to women suffering from menstrual pain and anemia, the Romans referred to it as absinthium, roughly translated as “bitter”. The roman soldiers would place the herb under their sore feet for relief. It was also used as an additive to rice wine in China. The plant was used to expel intestinal worms in Egypt, Greece, and Rome, until the Middle Age.

Today, Bedouin Africans sell wormwood in Egypt as a remedy for ill health, the Bedouin also burn wormwood leaves as incense around for ill health. Traditionally, wormwood was ground into powder and burnt on a coal fire or in incense smudge bundles, dried wormwood herb was also smoked.

Wormwood – Introduction, Benefits, Uses, and Side Effects of Artemisia Absinthium


3. Morphology 

Wormwood is an aromatic, bitter, hairy perennial herb, it has erected, angular, and ribbed stems, and egg-shaped leaves, 2.5 to 5.0 cm long which are hairy on both sides and unequally cut into segments. It also has numerous, minute yellow drooping flower heads and small, dry, and single-seeds fruit.

4. Chemical Constituent 

The active principle of the Indian wormwood consists of volatile oil which has an odor resembling cajuput oil and camphor, santonin, and allied body artemisinin. Wormwood essential oil is a dark green to bluish liquid of medium consistency with a spicy, warm, bitter-green odor and a sharp, fresh top note.

Wormwood contains the essential oil absinthol, it blends well with ambrette seed, jasmine, lavender, neroli, and oakmoss. The distilled oil is concentrated and must be used with care. Its active ingredient is thujone, which is chemically like tetrahdrocannibol, the active ingredient in marijuana.

5. Habitat

It is an herbaceous perennial plant and can grow to a height of two to four feet, it has silvery white leaves and stems, and a bitter taste. It is widely distributed in the Mediterranean, Central Asia, Europe, and Kashmir. It is native to temperate regions of Europe and naturalized species in the United States. The plant is found in the wild and cultivated as an ornamental. In Kashmir, it is found at an altitude of 1900-2300 m.

6. Ayurvedic properties of Wormwood

Wormwood, known as "Tikta" in Ayurveda, is a bitter herb with various properties. It's important to note that wormwood is not commonly used in Ayurvedic practices, and its use should be approached with caution due to its potentially strong and specific actions.

Ayurvedic properties of wormwood:

1. Rasa (Taste): Wormwood is believed to have a very bitter (Tikta) taste.

2. Virya (Potency): It is heating in nature (Ushna Virya).

3. Vipaka (Post-digestive taste): The post-digestive taste is pungent (Katu Vipaka).

4. Dosha Effects: Wormwood's strong bitterness makes it primarily suitable for balancing Kapha dosha due to its heating and drying nature. However, its intense potency could aggravate Pitta dosha and Vata dosha, especially in excess.

Ayurvedic Uses:

  1. Digestive Health: In Ayurveda, bitter herbs like wormwood are sometimes used in small amounts to stimulate digestive juices and improve digestion.

  2. Parasite Management: Wormwood is traditionally known for its potential to address certain parasitic infections, although its use requires professional guidance and supervision.

  3. Liver Support: Some bitter herbs are believed to support liver function, and wormwood may have similar potential due to its bitterness.

  4. Caution and Guidance: The use of wormwood in Ayurveda is not as common as other herbs, and its strong properties require caution. It's recommended to consult with an experienced Ayurvedic practitioner or healthcare professional before using wormwood for any purpose.

7. Health Benefits 

The whole herb is used medicinally, but its leaves are preferred. The fresh plant is considered more efficacious than the dry one, the herb is a tonic, useful in strengthening the functioning of the stomach. It stimulates appetite, digestive juices, and peristalsis or movement of the bowels, the liver, and gall bladder. True to its name, it also expels intestinal worms, especially round and threadworms.

Here are some Health Benefits and Uses

Bilious Disorders

The herb is beneficial in the treatment of bilious melancholia besides dispersing the yellow bile of jaundice from the skin, an infusion of the herb or its powder given in small doses is advised.

Intestinal Worms

Wormwood was used by ancient Greek, roman, Arab, and Persian, physicians to expel intestinal worms. The flowering tops have been and are still, used in the Tibbi medicine in India as a drug to kill intestinal worms. They are usually powdered and administrated in 8 to 16-gram doses for roundworms and tapeworms.

The oil distilled from the plant possesses the property to kill worms, mixed with eight times its weight of olive oil. It can be given in doses of 50 to 100 grams. An herb infusion can be used as an enema for killing worms in the rectum.

Skin Disorders

Wormwood helps disperse or absorb a tumor or any other coagulated fluid in case of skin disease. It also acts as an antiseptic and cleanser. It can be pickled in vinegar and applied with beneficial results to sprains and bruises.

Other Diseases

Wormwood is useful in several other diseases such as atonic diseases of the digestive system, nocturnal pollution or involuntarily ejaculation during sleep, anemia, wasting diseases, and general debility. It should be given in small doses of 0.75 to 1.25 decigrams in such treatment. The essential oil of the herb is used as a cardiac and respiratory stimulant.


8. Side Effects of Wormwood

All Ayurveda herbs are plant-based and don’t have any side effects, but they may react with some allopathy or homeopathy medicine. It is better to consult the doctor if you are on any medications or have unique health issues.

This herb should be avoided during pregnancy and if needed, should be taken only for short periods. The distilled oil of wormwood should not be used in aromatherapy. It has hallucinogenic properties and can cause nightmares, convulsions, vomiting, and even brain damage.


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