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Artemisia absinthium (L) Common Wormwood


Artemisia : see A. vulgaris.

absinthium : name used by Cato. (by Xenophon) ab, abs : from, away from, absent, abstain.


Ajenjo. Chernobyl, (Russian). Wermut, (German). Vermouth, (French). : afsantin, (Arabic). Wermud, Wormod, (N'thum). Mugwort, (N'Eng). Wermont, (Pemb). Wormit, (Dev, N'thum, N'Eng) : Laanah : to curse, (Herbrew). Sagebrush : from sauge, from old french, sauljie, from latin, salvia : plant of good health. Wermod : 'Spirit Mother', (Old English). Ware Moth : from use against moths. Old Man/Woman : from hoary leaves. Lad's Love : from use as an aphrodisiac. Wermuth : 'Preserver Of Mind' : from its virtues as a nervine and mental restorative. St.Johns Girdle : from the old custom of throwing a wreath of the herb on the Midsummer Eve fire to ensure fortune for the coming year. Green Ginger : from taste of the root.


BSBI Picture Link to Artemisia absinthium

TYPE : perennial aromatic plant, with non flowering rosettes of leaves at base. H-Ch. STEMS : erect, silky haired, grooved and angled stems. > or < woody below. HEIGHT : 30-90cm. LEAVES: 2.5-5 cm. Barren rossettes & lower stem leaves are tripinnate. Stem leaves bipinnate. Uppermost simply pinnate or undivided. Ultimate segments lanceolate or linear oblong, 3mm wide, usually blunt, punctate, silky hairy both sides FLOWER HEADS : 3-4mm diam., broadly campanulate to globose, broader than >, drooping, numerous in a much branched racemose panicle. Involucre silky hairy. BRACTS : Outer linear, inner ovate, blunt and broadly scarious-margined. Receptacle has long hairs. FLOWERS: Marginal female, central hermaphrodite. All fertile. Yellow. Wind Pollination. Fl. 7-8. FRUIT : achenes 1.5mm, glabrous. 2n=18.

HABITAT : waste places, roadsides, common near the coast. Dry sandy soil. Full sun.

DISTRIBUTION : Native, not infrequent. <2580 m. Britain to Ross, Orkneys. Temperate Europe & Asia. N. to Lapland, Karchia + S. Siberia. Introduced to Ireland and N-i-S America. Cultivated in N.Africa, S.Europe, U.S.A., (New York, Michigan, Nebraska & Wisconsin) It covers vast areas of Mexico and Texas forming an impenetrable jungle of interlacing stems, giving a blue hue to the land. BSBI Distribution Map for Artemisia absinthium (UK)

CULTIVARS 'Corinne Tremaine', 'Huntingdon', Lambrook Giant', 'Lambrook Mist', 'Lambrook Silver', 'Silver Ghost'


Aromatic Properties : (10) Musk and Honey Group : (B) Camphor & Eucalyptus Subgroup. The Essential oil is a a eucalyptol, present in Wild Majoram, Tansy, Thyme, Yarrow, Chamomile and Wormwood. Pungent but herby smell.

Volatile oil 0.5-1.0 %, dark green, strong odour, bitter, acrid taste. Oil contains thujone (absinthol or tenacetone.) Thujyl alcohol, (free & combined with acetic, isovalerianic, succine & malic acids.) bisabolene. Sequiterpene lactones, inulin, antibiotic polyacetylenes, cardinene, pellandrene, pinene, proazulene, hydroxycoumarins. Also bitter glucoside flavanoids absinthin (White crystalline compound C H 0.) absinthic acid with tannin, quercetin, phenolic acid resin, starch, silica, nitrate of potash & other salts.

thujone : is addictive, and in excess causes convulsions, psychoses, and brain damage. Ashes yield a purer alkaline salt : an impure potassium carbonate, than other vegetables apart from Broom + Beanstalks.


PARTS & COLLECTION : see A. vulgaris. EFFECT : aromatic, nervine tonic, stomachic tonic, gland tonic, bile ferbrifuge, anthelmintic, diuretic. Anti-inflammatory, liver tonic, uterine stimulant, disinfectant. APPLICATION : British Pharmacopaedia : Included in the form of an extract, infusion and tincture. The drug absinthium may be of value in nervous diseases, i.e. neurasthemia, as it stimulates the cerebral hemispheres, and is a direct stimulant of Cortex cerebri. In excess it produces giddiness and attacks of epileptiform convulsions.

Use In Homeopathy : An essence is prescribed for the stimulation of bile, gastric juice production for disorders of the liver + gall bladder.

General Usage : basal rosettes used (may be internally nauseous) or upper leaves and buds (Less potent) for melancholia, dispelling yellow hue of jaundince, hepatitis, internal worms, debility, stomachic (sluggish digestion, poor appetite, gastritis) : Fluid extract 1/2 to 1 drachm or Tincture of Absinth : 1-4 drachm, no more than 3ml a day. Wormwood tea from infusion of loz/5-10g of herb 10-12 min in 1 pint/500ml boiling water. Drink in wineglass doses. 2-3 x a day. Dropsical cases : Powerful 1 diuretic. Add fixed alkaline salt from the burnt ashes of the plant to the above infusion. Bruises, bites, rheumatism, stimulating circulation - compress, soak pad in infusion. Vermifuge, agues : Flowers dried and powdered. Worm expeller : Spiritously extracted essential oil of herb. Scabies, external infestation : Wash with infusion to soothe. Nervous temperament : Taken un-habitually, soothes spinal irritability and gives tone. Promoting salutory perspiration, vermifuge : Suitable allowances of diluted liquer Absinth. Plant reduces toxicity of Lead poisoning.

NOTE : avoid in pregnancy and weaning. Will stimulate the uterus causing foetal abnormalities, Will pass also in milk to baby. Do not use for pre-pubescent children. Absinth extract in excess will cause the disease absinthism, caused by the addictive ingredient thujone. Symptoms include delirium, hallucinations, wherby objects change colour, convulsions, psychoses, brain damage, & excessive blood flow to the abdominal organs.


Absinth (Wormwood extract + alcohol) was valued as a mental + nerve stimulant & restorative for millenia. A draught of Wormwood beer every day : a remedy against bad breath & poor eyesight. Ancient herbal decoctions of Rue, Savin, Wormwood, Pennyroyal & Juniper were used to regulate womens fertility with some efficacy. It is a powerful uterine stimulant. It hastens childbirth and expels the afterbirth. The leaves resist putrefication and was used on that account as a principal ingredient in antiseptic fermentations, also used for bruises.

Romans : Planted it on roadsides, & put sprigs in sandals to prevent aching feet on long marches.

Lacnunga 9th C : "Eldest of worts, for venom availest, for flying vile things, & loathed ones." Anglo Saxon : 1 of 9 sacred herbs given to them by the God Woden.
Herbarium of Apuleius : translated into Anglo Saxon in 1000 AD. "If any propose a journey, then let him take in hand this wort, Artemisia... then he will not feel much toil in his journey. This use lingered in Italy until 1925.

Medieval : Esteemed for its medical properties. Turner : "Remedieth the strangling that cometh of eating of Toadstools, if it be drunken with vinegar... also against Hemlocke and the bytinge of Shrew and Sea-dragon".
Girolamo Rusceli (Master Alexis Of Piedmont) Original treatise on perfumes 1555 : "To make a good perfume against the plague, when heated over embers, you must take Mastich, Chypre, Incense, Mace, Wormwood, Myrrh, Aloes, Musk, Ambergis, Nutmegs, Myrtle, Bay, Rosemary, Sage, Roses, Elder, Cloves, Juniper, Rue and Pitch. Stamp and mix together. Set upon the coals, so perfuming the chamber."
An Old Love Charm : "On St.Lukes day, take marigold flowers a sprig of Majoram, Thyme and a little Wormwood, dry them before a fire. Rub them to a fine powder, sift it through a fine piece of lawn. Simmer it over a slow fire, adding small quantities of virgin honey and vinegar. Annoint yourself with this when you go to bed, saying the following lines 3 times, and you will dream of your lover that is to be : "St.Luke, St.Luke, be kind to me. In dreams let me my true love see."
1577, Tusser, 'Julys Husbandry' : "What savour is better (If physic be true.) In places infected than Wormwood & Rue. It is a comfort for heart and the brain. And therefore to have it, is not in vain."

1610. Beaim & Fl . 'Faiths' Sheperdess'. IliiDIb. "These for frenzy be a speedy and a soueraigne remedie. The bitter Wormwood, Sage & Marigold."
1694, Peechy John. 'The Complete Herbal Of Physical Plants.' : "It strengthens the stomach & liver, excites appetite, opens obstructions, cures diseases that that are occasioned by them, as the jaundice, dropsie. 'Tis good in long putrid fevers, it carries off the vicious humours by urine, expels worms from the bowels and preserves clothes from moths. The juice, the distilled water, the syrup, the fixed salt, and the oyl of it are used, but the wine or beer seems to be the best."

Dr. John Hill, 1772: "The flowery tops..made into a light infusion strengthen digestion, correct acidities supply the place of gall, where, as in many constitutions that is deficient..(describes prep, as is today).. 3 draughts an hour." & "1 oz of flowers in pint of Brandy, stand 6 weeks. Resultant tincture will prevent increase of gravel gravel and give relief in gout." Baron Haller found great releif in this remedy.
Blackw. Mag, LI I 494/2, 1842. "We took a glass of absinthe to compose our nerves."


Used to flavour alcohols Absinthe, Chartuse, Vermouth, Muse Verte wines and tonic beers. Was used as a hop substitute. Seeds and flowers used by whisky distillers. Sprigs added to Vodka in Russia. Vermouth - ancient name for Wormwood : Wermuth : 'Preserver Of Mind. Absinth is known as 'Chernobyl' in Russia, 'Apsinthion' in Greece.
Absinthe: The plant extracts combined with alcohol, was used for millenia for its medicinal properties, and as a powerful alcoholic drink, used by Egyptians, first mentioned by Pliny. It is yellow-green, with a dry and bitter taste. It turns cloudy, opalescent white, when mixed with water. Inferior absinthe was adulterated with copper, turning it green. It is made from spirits high in alcohol, such as Brandy, in which the Wormwood is steeped for up to 6 weeks, along with liqourice, hyssop, fennel, angelica root, aniseed and star aniseed. The Wormwood counteracts the effect of the alcohol somewhat.

It was marketed with an alcoholic content of 68% by volume. It was first commercially produced by Henry-Louis Pernod in 1797, who purchased the formula from a French exile living in Switzerland. But the toxic symptoms, from excessive use, caused by the addictive substance Thujone (See Active Ing.) caused it to be banned. Van Goghs mental disturbances were said to be caused by its excess. Degas' painting 'The Absinth' portrays a woman suffering from the excesses. It was prohibited in Switzerland, 1908, France, 1915. In 1918 Pernod Fils established a factory in Tarragona, Spain, to manufacture absinthe, without Wormwood, & lower in alcohol, to sell to those countries that had banned it. The factory closed during the Civil War, 1936-39. Similar beverages were then developed as substitutes, such as Pernod, Anis, Pastis, Ouzo, Raki. Later, Roman Wormwood : Artemisia ponticum was included, as the oils were less potent and less offensive.

All are served with water and ice and mixed with other drinks. The absinthe drip : was served in a special drip glass, allowing water to slowly drip through a sugar cube into the liquor. Pastis also turns cloudy white and anis a cloudy green-white with water.

15thC MS. "Water of Wormwoode is good...Grete Lordes among the Saracenys usen to drinke itt."
1658. In 12th Rep. Hist. MSS. Comm. Appv.6. "Celebrate with cow-heels and tripes, the keenest mustard, and the bitterest Wormwood drinke."
1860. Piesse. Lab. Chem. Wonders. 172. "The principal bitter used in England is... derived from Italy it is from Absinth."
1861. Times 25 March 8/6. : "Algeria imports great quantities of Burgundy wines and Absinth."


Camels, mice & sheep browse it. It imparts its bitterness to the meat. It is repulsive to bees, & is rubbed on the hands of beekeepers to avoid stings. Sprigs placed at the hive entrance will deter wax moths. A swarm rubbed with it will be induced to move. Cucullia absinthii, The Wormwood Moth. Cucullia artemisiae, Scarce Wormwood Moth. Euphithecia absinthiata, Wormwood Pug Moth. Semasia pupillane, Wormwood Eyelet Moth.

GARDEN USES (See also A.vulgaris).

Cultivated ornamentally in gardens before 1440. In agricultural cultivation, it yields 25-55kg (55-121 Ib) per acre (120 sq. yds)


Used as insectiside from Medieval times: It was strewn on earthen floors of cottage and manor to deter fleas, flies. Placed in furs to deter moths. Sprigs were hung in rooms to deter flies.
1486, Bk.St. Albans, Hawking. "A medycyre for hawke that hath mites. Take the luce of wormewode, and put it ther thay be, and thei shal1 dye."
Thomas Hyll, 1568 : "No adder will come into a garden where Wormwood, Mugwort and Southernwood are grown."
Tusser, 'July's Husbandry', 1577. While Wormwood hath seed, get a handful 1 or twaine To save against March, to make flea to refraine : Where chamber is sweeped and Wormoode is strowne, No flea for his life abide to be knowne."
Mites, Rats, Mice were detered from eating paper by writing upon it, in ink tempered with wormwood.
1748. Phil. Trans. XLV. 299. "For baking and roasting they make use of...Absynthium."


Supposed to have first sprung up along the path the serpent took in the garden of Eden, hence its bitter taste.
Hebrews had an excessive dread of bitter substances, including Wormwood, based on the prejudice that they are eaten only by Camels, their growth is in desolate places, and their taste is bitter. There are many quotes included in the Old Testament as testimony to this, associating the herb with calamity, injustice etc
H.L.V. Fletcher. 'Purest Pleasure' : "An ingredient in a salve for one sufferng from nocturnal goblin visitors."
Mexicans celebrated the Great Festival of the Goddess of Salt, by a ceremonial dance of women who wore garlands of Wormwood.
1858, Lady Wilkinson "Weeds & Wildflowers." 353. "An old belief continues to be connected with the circumstances of the dead roots of Wormwood being black, and somewhat hard, and remaining for a long period undecayed beneath the living plant. They are then called Wormwood coal, and if placed under a lovers pillow they are believed to dream of the person they love."
St. Francis de Sales : "To love in the midst of sweets, little children could do that, but to love in the bitterness of Wormwood, is a sure sign of our affectionate fidelity."
Birthday flower for 29th April. Symbolises abscence, affliction, calamity & false judgement.


Wermwud : The word is used as a source of bitter mortification, gauling. Refers to an experiece which causes grief, sorrow, tort, extreme bitterness or regret. Something of alien origin. An emblem or type of what is bitter and grevious to the soul.
Anciet Proverb "As bitter as Wormwood"
Wormwood lecture : a scolding.
Dixon Wecter "The gall and Wormwood of being a cripple." ; "It was Wormwood of him to accept charity."
1691, Hartcliffe, 'Virtues', 239. "Thus judgment is turned into Wormwood, for it is embittered by injustice, and delays make it sour."
1860, R.A. Vaughan, 'Ho. W. Mystics' (ed.2) I 110 "It was once called the Valley of Wormwood... Bernard and his monks came..lo! The absinthal reputation vanishes - the valley smiles - is called and made Clair Vaux or Brightdale".
Wormwood Scrubs : Prison in West London, once surrounded by a scrub of Wormwood inhabited by snakes.
Artemisia green:greenish grey. Absinth green:moderate yellow green. Absinth yellow: gray greenish yellow.


Shakespears', 'Lucrece' : Signifies bitterness ad remorse comparing it with the sweetness of sugar : "Thy sugar'd tounge to bitter Wormwood taste.

Shakespears', 'Romeo & Juliet.' : Old nurse and Lady Capulet discussing Juliet's age : It was the custom to rub the breasts with Wormwood or aloes when weaning a child : Nurse : "for as I had then laid Wormwood to my dug, ... when I did taste the Wormwood on the nipple of my dug, and felt it bitter, pretty fool.

Shakespears', 'Labours Love Lost' : Associates it with bitterness, when Rosaline tells Berowne, if he wants to marry her, he will have to : "Weed the Wormwood from your fruitful brain. (Without the which I am not to be won)."

INFO LINKS FOR Artemisia absinthium

Wikipedia (UK)
Plants For a Future (UK)
M Grieve A Modern Herbal (UK)
Gernot Katzer's Spice Pages (AUS)
Nature Gate (FIN)
The Poison Garden (UK)
Rowan Remedies (UK)
Forestry Service (USA)

'Artemisia, Wild in the British Isles', Compiled by James M. Burton 2004

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