This is a genus of about 300 species of annuals, biennial, perennials, or subshrubs that grow wild in northen temperate regions, western S America, and S Africa. Many artemisias are grown as ornamentals for their finely cut, aromatic, often silver foliage, which makes excellent background material for arrangements and posies. They are easily cultivated, even on poor, dry soils. Several are attractive border plants, especially for white gardens. Artemisia arbrotanum, A. absinthium 'Lambrook Silver', and A. arborescens may be grown as informal hedges. Artemisia annua is a large but neat plant with handsome, fragrant foliage, useful for filling gaps in the back of a border or providing contrast to smaller, more colorful plants. Used as an anti-malarial for 2,000 years in the East, its active ingredient, artemisinin (qinghaosu) was isolated in 1972. Synthetics derived from A. annua are now the most promising anti-malarials for drug-resistant strains of the disease. Populations of A. annua in Vietnam have the highest concentration of artemisinin.Various artemisias are used medicinally and include some of the most bitter herbs known. Southernwood (A. abrotanum) has been cultivated since antiquity to repel insects and contagion. It was popular in nosegays (posies carried to ward off infection and unpleasant smells); until the 19th century, a bunch of southernwood and rue was placed in court to protect against the spread of jail fever from the prisoner. Another traditional use was as a cure for baldness: "The ashes [of southernwood] mingled with old salad oil helps those that have their hair fallen and are bald, causing the hair to grow again, either on the head or the beard" (Culpeper, The English Physician Enlarged, 1653). Wormwood (A. absinthium) has been a household remedy since Biblical times, its bitterness becoming a metaphor for the consequences of sin: "For the lips of a strange woman drop as an honeycomb, And her mouth is smoother than oil: But her end is bitter as wormwood" (Proverbs 5:3-4). The word absinthium means "without sweetness", and refers to the intensely bitter taste. Essential oil of wormwood was an ingredient in absinthe, an alcoholic aperitif first made by Henri Pernod in 1797. Consumption of absinthe became a serious problem in the 19th century, both in Europe and the USA. The use of wormwood oil as a flavoring was banned in various countries, beginning in 1908 with Switzerland, after the discovery that the thujone content is addictive, and in excess causes hallucinations and damage to the central nervous system. Ironically, the common name "wormwood" comes from the German Wermut, "preserver of the mind", as the herb was thought to enhance mental functions. Today's successors to absinthe-anisette and vermouth- do not contain thujone, although absinthe liqueurs are enjoying a revival in France, Italy and Spain. Tarragon (A. dracunculus) used to be known as dragon herb, a cure for poisonous stings and bites, hence the species name. Russian tarragon (A dracunculus subsp. dracuculoides is similar in appearance but hardier, with a pungent, less pleasant flavor. Mugwort (A. vulgaris) was important in Druidic and Anglo-Saxon times, being one of the nine herbs used to repel evil and poisons. The common name is from the Anglo-Saxon mucgwrt, "midge plant", because of its use in repelling insects. It was known as the "Mother of Herbs" and was associated with witchcraft (old goddess religions) and fertility rites. On the Isle of Man mugwort is worn on the national day, July 5 (midsummer day in the Old Calendar), and is known as "Bollan bane". The herb is mentioned frequently in the first-century CE Greek and Roman writings and appears in Chinese medical literature dating back to c.CE500. It was reputedly planted beside roads by the Romans for soldiers to put in their sandals on long marches. Both the plant and it reputation for soothing sore feet persisted: "if a footman take mugwort and put it into his shoes in the morning he may goe forty miles before noon and not be weary…" (William Coles, The Art of Simpling, 1656). Other wormwoods with medicinal and culinary uses include: A. afra, used in southern Africa for digestive and menstrual problems, and feverish illnesses; A. anomala, used externally in China for burns and inflamed skin; A. apiacea, a fragrant biennial Asian species, used to lower fever, control bleeding, and improve appetite; A. asiatica, used to flavor and color Japanese glutinous rice dumplings (yomogi-mochi); A. cina (Levant wormseed, santonica), one of the oldest and most reliable, though extremely toxic anthelmintics, especially for roundworms in children; A. frigida, used by the Hopi trib in N America to flavor corn; A. genipi (spiked wormwood), an Alpine species used to flavor eau d'absinthe; A. glacialis, for the SW Alps, used to flavor liqueurs and vermouth; A. judaica (semen contra, graines à vers), a Middle Eastern condiment and flavoring for liqueurs; A. pallens (davana), a fragrant Asian species, used in perfumery, food flavoring and ritual; A. princeps (Japanese mugwort, yomogi), an important flavoring herb in Japanese and Korean cuisines; and A. tilesii, an Arctic species with properties similar to codeine, used by Eskimos.

A bitter tonic once used to expel intestinal worms, wormwood was poured into the ink used by medieval scholars to repel bookworms and other book-destroying creatures. Wormwood was the main flavoring in the 136-proof alcoholic beverage called absinthe, a drink now banned in the United States. Today wormwood is primarily used to stimulate the appetite, digestive juices, peristalsis (the movement of substances through the colon), and the action of the liver and gallbladder.

Named for the Greek goddess Artemis, Artemisia is a genus containing about 300 species, although few are grown in gardes. A number of species inhibit other plants, sometimes to the point of death.

Forms a wood shrub about 2.5ft (80cm) with a bittersweet smell. Its deeply incised gray-green leaves are densely covered in fine hairs.

Subshrub with gray-green, deeply dissected leaves, 6-10cm (2½-4in) long, with silky hairs on both sides. Insignificant, yellow, globose flowers are borne in panicles in summer.

Common Name:
Other Names:
Absinthe, Absinthium, Green Ginger, Old Woman
Botanical Name:
Artemisia absinthium
Native Location:
Europe and temperate Asia
Well-drained, neutral to slightly alkaline soil in sun. Artemisia absinthium, A. a. 'Lambrook Silver', and A. lucoviciana tolerate drought. A. capillaris thrives in moist soil and tolerates light shade. Hardiness varies with species; cover marginally hardy plants with loose straw or overwinter plants under cover. In spring, cut back shrubby species near ground level, or remove dead stems and trim to shape. Rust may attack foliage.
Most species prefer full sun, good drainage, and almost neutral soil, (although mugwort tolerates partial shade). As it is strongly insecticidal, use it as a companion plant in the edge of gardens.
By seed sown in spring (annuals, perennials, and A. d. subsp. dracunculoides); by semi-ripe cuttings with a heel in summer (shrubby species); by division in autumn or spring (perennials).
Propagate all perennial artemisias by semi-hardwood cuttings taken from midsummer to autumn, or raise from seed. Propagate rhizomatous species by root division in autumn. Directly sow the annual species A. annua into the garden in spring, or raise as seedlings and transplant at 6 weeks.
Lightly prune and shape perennial bushy artemisias in spring. Prune southernwood heavily in spring. Artemisias are a drought-tolerant group once they are established, and perennial forms have good frost tolerance.
Pests and Diseases:
Wormwoods are very rarely troubled by pests or diseases.
By seed sown in spring (annuals, perennials, and A. d. subsp. dracunculoides); by semi-ripe cuttings with a heel in summer (shrubby species); by division in autumn or spring (perennials).
Harvest the leaves as required to use fresh or dried.
'Lambrook Silver'
Has luxuriant silver gray foliage.
Height: 75cm (30in)
1m (3ft)
60-90cm (24-36in)
Parts Used:
Whole plants, leaves, Shoot, Berries, Fruits
Chemical Constituents:
  • Thujone (absinthol)
  • Volatile oils
  • Properties:
    An aromatic, diuretic, bitter herb that has anti-inflammatory effects and acts as a tonic for the liver, digestive system, and nerves. It stimulates the uterus and expels intestinal worms.
    Known Effects:
  • Depresses central nervous system
  • Thujone causes mind-altering changes,may lead to psychosis
  • Increases stomach acidity

  • Miscellaneous Information:
    Wormwood can be habit-forming, like ethyl alcohol.
    Possible Additional Effects:
  • May treat anxiety
  • Potential mild sedative
  • May stimulate appetite
  • Medicinal Uses:
    Internally for digestion, poor appetite, gall bladder complaints, and roundworms. Taken in small doses for short-term treatment only. Not given to children or pregnant women. Externally for bruises and bites.
    To treat worm infestation, bloating, liver ailments, loss of appetite, and anemia. Germany's Commission E has approved the use of wormwood to treat dyspeptic complaints, such as heartburn, bloating, and loss of appetite.
    Wormwood is used to treat symptoms associated with poor digestion, including wind. In many cultures it is regarded as a valuable remedy for worm infestations and other parasitic infections of the gut. It is also used as a nerve tonic and to treat fever and menstrual complaints.
    Typical Dose:
    A typical dose of wormwood is 1 to 2 ml of liquid extract taken three times daily.
    Warnings and Precautions:
    Don't take if you:
    Are pregnant, think you may be pregnant, or plan pregnancy in the near future.
    Consult your doctor if you:
  • Take this herb for any medical problem that doesn't improve in 2 weeks (There may be safer, more effective treatments.)
  • Take any medicinal drugs or herbs including, aspirin, laxatives, cold and cough remedies, antacids, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, supplements, other prescription or non-prescription drugs.

  • Pregnancy:
    Dangers outweigh any possible benefits. Don't use.
    Dangers outweigh any possible benefits. Don't use.
    Infants and Children:
    Treating infants and children under 2 with any herbal preparation is hazardous.
    This product will not help you and may cause toxic symptoms.
  • Store in cool, dry area away from direct light, but don't freeze.
  • Store safely out of reach of children.
  • Don't store in bathroom medicine cabinet. Heat and moisture may change the action of the herb.

  • Safe Dosage:
    Consult your doctor for the appropriate dose for your condition.
    Possible Side Effects:
    Wormwood's side effects include vomiting, dizziness, and headache
    Drug Interactions:
    Taking wormwood with these drugs may reduce the seizure threshold:
    Amitriptyline, (Elavil, Levate)
    Amoxapine, (Asendin)
    Bupropion, (Wellbutrin, Zyban)
    Carbamazepine, (Carbatrol, Tegretol)
    Ciprofloxacin, (Ciloxan, Cipro)
    Desipramine, (Alti-Desipramine, Norpramin)
    Doxepin, (Sinequan, Zonalon)
    Fosphenytoin, (Cerebyx)
    Ganciclovir, (Cytovene, Vitrasert)
    Imipramine, (Apo-Imipramine, Tofranil)
    Levetiracetam, (Keppra)
    Methylphenidate, (Concerta, Ritalin)
    Metoclopramide, (Apo-Metoclop, Reglan)
    Metronidazole, (Flagyl, Noritate)
    Moxifloxacin, (Avelox, Vigamox)
    Nortriptyline, (Aventyl HCl, Pamelor)
    Ofloxacin, (Floxin, Ocuflox)
    Olanzapine, (Zydix, Zyprexa)
    Oxcarbazepine, (Trileptal)
    Phenobarbital, (Luminal Sodium, PMS-Phenobarbital)
    Phenytoin, (Dilantin, Phenytek)
    Prochlorperazine, (Compazine, Compro)
    Quetiapine, (Seroquel)
    Tramadol, (Ultram)
    Venlafaxine, (Effexor)
    Taking wormwood with these drugs may interfere with the absorption of the drug:
    Ferric Gluconate, (Ferrlecit)
    Ferrous Fumarate, (Femiron, Feostat)
    Ferrous Gluconate, (Fergon, Novo-Ferrogluc)
    Ferrous Sulfate, (Feratab, Fer-Iron)
    Ferrous Sulfate and Ascorbic Acid, (Fero-Grad 500, Vitelle Irospan)
    Iron-Dextran Complex, (Dexferrum, INFeD)
    Polysaccharide-Iron Complex, (Hytinic, Niferex)
    Disease Effects:
    May worsen ulcers by irritating the gastrointestinal tract.
    Supplement Interactions:
    Increased risk of thujone toxicity when taken with herbs containing thujone, such as Oak Moss, Oriental Arbor-Vitae, Tansy, and Tree Moss.
    Rated slightly dangerous, particularly in children, persons over 55 and those who take larger than appropriate quantities for extended periods of time.
    Adverse Reactions, Side Effects, or Overdose Symptoms:
    Signs and Symptoms: What to do:

    Convulsions Seek emergency treatment
    Stupor Seek emergency treatment
    Trembling Discontinue. Call doctor when convenient.
    Encylopedia of Herbs by Deni Brown Copyright ©: 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited pp 130-132
    The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide by Geo. T. Grossberg,MD and Barry Fox,PhD Copyright©2007 Barry Fox,PhD. Pp.497-499
    The Complete Illustrated Book of Herbs by Reader's Digest Copyright©2009 The Reader's Digest Association, Inc. Pg 17
    Vitamins, Herbs, Minerals & Supplements The Complete Guide by H. Winter Griffith, MD Copyright©1998 Fisher Books pp. 466-467