Family: Asteraceae (Compositae), Artemisia absinthium
Modified from: Simon, J.E., A.F. Chadwick and L.E. Craker.
1984. Herbs: An Indexed Bibliography. 1971-1980. The Scientific
Literature on Selected Herbs, and Aromatic and Medicinal Plants
of the Temperate Zone. Archon Books, 770 pp., Hamden, CT.
Wormwood, Artemisia absinthium L., is an erect-growing
perennial herb native to Europe and naturalized in northeastern
North America. The plant is cultivated commercially in the central
and northwestern United States. Also called common wormwood, absinthe,
absinthium, and madderwort, the species is known for its aromatic
leaves. Reaching a height of 1 to 1.5 meters, the multibranched,
shrubby-looking plant has grayish-green leaves and yellow
flowers that bloom from summer to autumn.
The reported life zone of wormwood is 5 to 211Cdeg;C with an annual
precipitation of 0.3 to 2.7 meters and a soil pH of 4.8 to 8.2
(4.1-31). The plant can grow in both poor dry or deep rich
Plantations of wormwood last from seven to ten years, peaking
in production during the second or third year (14.1-8). The
herb can be harvested twice a year, during the late spring and
during full bloom (4.3-48). Plants for oil production are
partially dried before distillation.
The extracted essential oil, ranging from 0.5 to 1% of the fresh
weight of the plant material, appears to be strongly influenced
by environmental conditions. Some volatile oil constituents include:
thujone, phellandrene, thujyl alcohol, cadinene, and azulene (1.7-130,
14.1-10, 14.1-32). The bitter principle in wormwood
comes from absinthin and anabsinthin (14.1 -10).
Wormwood has been used as a flavoring agent in alcoholic beverages,
such as vermouth, bitters, and liqueurs. In the past, it was sometimes
used in place of hops in the manufacture of beer. Until use of
the product was curtailed in 1912, the essential oil was in great
demand for the manufacture of the French liqueur absinthe (14.1-31).
The plant is sometimes grown as an ornamental.
The dried leaves, flowering tops, and essential oil of wormwood
have traditionally been used as an anthelmintic, antiseptic, antispasmodic,
carminative, sedative, stimulant, stomachic, and tonic (11.1-136).
Wormwood has also been used to improve blood circulation, as a
cardiac stimulant, as a pain reliever for women during labor,
and as an agent against tumors and cancers (13.1-101, 14.1-13).
Folk remedies call for the employment of wormwood against colds,
rheumatism, fevers, jaundice, diabetes, and arthritis. Regular
use of wormwood can become addicting. The plant contains glycoside,
known to be poisonous, and the volatile oil is a central nervous
system depressant. Overuse of wormwood can initiate nervousness,
stupor, convulsions, and death (11.1-96, 11.1-136).
Wormwood is known to be allergonic and can cause contact dermatitis.
The plant is recognized as a moth and insect repellent.
Artemisia cina, levant wormseed, and Artemisia maritime
contain santonin, an effective compound against round worms. Artemisia
pontica L., an erect, gray perennial that reaches a height
of 1 meter, is native to southeastern Europe and naturalized in
eastern parts of North America. This plant has been used in the
manufacture of vermouth and as a medicinal plant against colds
and as a bitter stomachic. Artemisia annua L., sweet wormwood,
is a native of eastern Europe that has sweet aromatic leaves and
reaches a height of 2 to 3 meters. The plant is grown as an ornamental
but the essential is reported to have strong antifungal and antibacterial
activity (4.3-48), and artemisinin, the nonvolatile sesquiterpenelactone,
has activity against malaria.
For further information, see Artemiaia annua link
to Artemisia annua in New Crops.
[Note: References listed above in parentheses can be found in
full in the original reference].
Last modified 6-Dec-1997