Tips for Growing Wormwood
Commonly known as wormwood, but also absinthe, or grand wormwood.
This plant is native to temperate regions of Africa and Eurasia. It was named after the Greek goddess Artemisia, and is the main ingredient in absinthe. It has been used for hundreds of years as an insect repellent, stomach medicine and de-wormer of both people and animals. Historically, we can find references to the herb dating back to 1600 B.C. in Egypt.
HERBAL PROPERTIES AND USES:
Most commonly used as a stomach medicine for treating intestinal organisms, as denotes the name "worm wood." The leaves and flowers of wormwood are dried and used for their active substances, absinthine and anabsinthine, as well as the natural tannins and acids known to reduce indigestion and gastric pain. The herb also acts as an antiseptic and a remedy for fevers. Medicinally, this herb was used to relieve women during the pains of pregnancy, as well as a powerful blood stimulator, improving overall circulation. Currently studies are looking into the possibility of wormwood for support of breast cancer.
Wormwood Cultivation and Growing Methods
The plant is perennial.
The entire plant, including the leaves and flowering tops
Best cultivated in dry soil. This plant also prefers to be in fertile, mid-weight soil that is high in nitrogen content, but can be grown in poor soil as well. Soil pH 6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic), 6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
Prefers shady cover to partial sunlight.
This plant does well in USDA zones 4a - 8b
This plant can be propagated by dividing its roots in the fall season, or by using cuttings from the plants, or by seeds sown in the fall when the seeds are ripe. Plant 2 feet apart.
This plant is usually cross-pollinated by insects and by the wind. Rarely will this plant self-pollinate.
Flowering occurs after July, through early summer.
Wormwood is harvested in July and August. The plant should be harvested on a dry day, after the sun has dried any wetness on the plant. To harvest, remove the upper green portion, leaving behind any lower stem parts, or insect-eaten, discolored or damaged leaves.
DRYING METHODS / YIELD:
Bind the plant loosely in bunches of approximately six stalks that are somewhat equal in shape and length. Spread the leaves out like a fan so that the air can dry the leaves evenly. Hang in the open air, possibly on a string line, on a warm sunny day, but in a shady area so that the leaves avoid direct sun exposure, and thus the loss of the aromatic properties. Dry at a temperature of approximately 70°F.
Some reports show that the average yield of wormwood is 0.35% of semi-dried herb.
PRESERVATION / PACKAGING METHODS:
After dried, store immediately in airtight boxes. This is crucial as, if left in the open, wormwood will absorb 12 percent moisture from the air. It can also be stored in air-tight glass jars.
ESSENTIAL OIL USE:
The main medicinal component of wormwood comes from its oil. The oil is used as a stomach medicine (abdominal pain, indigestion, heartburn and flatulence). It is also known to remedy liver problems such as jaundice.
Wormwood contains thujone, thujyl alcohol, cadinene, phellandrene and pinene. The plant also holds starch, nitrates, tannins, the bitter glucoside absinthin, absinthic acid, as well as resin.
IS THIS AN EDIBLE PLANT:
Yes, in correct dosages.
CAUTIONS / CONTRAINDICATIONS:
Pure wormwood oil is extremely poisonous, but as with many herbs, when used in the proper amounts, there is little to no danger. Traditional use was dosed at 3-5g daily as an infusion or 2-3g daily as the herb.
Consult your doctor before taking Wormwood if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. Do not take this herb if you suffer from stomach or intestinal ulcers.
Clinical Research About Wormwood
- Genetic diversity of biennial wormwood. Lemma W. Mengistu, George O. Kegode. Department of Plant Sciences, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND 58105. (Camacho, F. J. and A. Liston. 2001. Population structure and genetic diversity of Botrychium pumicola (Ophiglossaceae) based on inter-simple sequence repeats (ISSR). Am. J. Bot 88:1065–1070. [The essential oil isolated from Artemisia capillaris prevents LPS-induced production of NO and PGE(2) by inhibiting MAPK-mediated pathways in RAW 264.7 macrophages. Cha JD, Moon SE, Kim HY, Lee JC, Lee KY. Immunol Invest. 2009;38(6):483-97. [PMID: 19811407].
- Protective effects of the active part of Artemisia sacrorum ledeb. against acetaminophen-induced liver injury in mice. Yuan HD, Jin GZ, Piao GC. Biol Pharm Bull. 2009 Oct;32(10):1683-8. [PMID: 19801828]
- Protective effects of aqueous extract of Artemisia campestris against puffer fish Lagocephalus lagocephalus extract-induced oxidative damage in rats. Saoudi M, Allagui MS, Abdelmouleh A, Jamoussi K, El Feki A. Exp Toxicol Pathol. 2009 Sep 17. [Epub ahead of print] [PMID: 19765960].
- Artemisia capillaris inhibits lipid accumulation in 3T3-L1 adipocytes and obesity in C57BL/6J mice fed a high fat diet. Hong JH, Hwang EY, Kim HJ, Jeong YJ, Lee IS. J Med Food. 2009 Aug;12(4):736-45. [PMID: 19735172]
- Lust, John, N.D. "The Herb Book", Bantam Books. 1979.
- Common Wormwood. http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/w/wormwo37.html
- Biodiversity Heritage Library. http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/name/Artemisia_absinthium
- The Wormwood Society. http://www.wormwoodsociety.org/