Wormwood is a fast growing perennial herbaceous plant in the Asteraceae family native to Europe. It’s found growing wild in central Asia and the US, and is cultivated worldwide in temperate regions. It grows up to four feet in height, with fibrous roots, grayish branching green stems and alternate, spirally arranged tri-pinnate feathery leaves that have long obtuse lobes, all covered in fine hairs. In the summer through the fall, it produces panicles of tiny, yellowish green rayless flower heads that mature into achene fruits, which self seed vigorously. It is best propagated by cuttings in the spring time, or root divisions in the fall, and it’s aerials should be harvested in the late summer when it is in full flower. It grows naturally on uncultivated, arid ground, rocky slopes, and is often found in waste sites, roadsides, and in other disturbance areas. It should be planted in dry, mid-weight soils rich in nitrogen in full sun.
Leaves and flowers
An intensely bitter tonic, wormwood acts as a digestive stimulant, helpful for extremely weak and under active digestive systems. It works by increasing stomach acids and bile production, which in turn aids digestion, reduces flatulence and bloating, increases nutrient absorption, and generally strengthening and restoring the digestive tract if taken as a tonic. It has also shown to be a powerful liver protector, gall bladder and blood tonic, improving circulation and reducing impurities and inflammations. It has also shown to be a mild antidepressant, and was used as a stimulant in cerebral exhaustion. Externally, it is a good anti-inflammatory, useful to prevent infections and ease sore joints and bruises. The oil is slightly pain reliving, making it a useful additive to salves for sore muscles, irritations, sprains, and bruises. A wash of the tea is also useful for rashes and skin parasites. Wormwood is also moderately effective at eliminating intestinal worms such as roundworm and pinworm in both humans and animals. It also makes a good insecticide and insect repellent, and can be stuffed into pillows for cats and dogs to repel fleas. Wormwood is considered an abortifacient herb, especially in combination with other uterine stimulants.
Absinthium means “without sweetness”; it has bitter compounds and thujone, a nerve stimulant at low doses, but toxic in excess. Wormwood was the source of abinsthe, a slightly toxic and hallucinogenic alcoholic drink popular in 19th century France that was known to cause permanent mental deterioration and insanity.
Flavor Profile and Energetics
Wormwood is extremely bitter, so be prepared to blend or sweeten profusely. An infusion of 1 teaspoon of the dried herb per cup of water, infused for 10 minutes, taken three times a Day. As a tincture, 1-4 ml three times daily; some recommend to take the drops on a sugar cube to curb the flavor. For worms, use of powdered capsules is best to avoid the bitter taste. Consult an herbal practitioner on dosage for help with worm expulsion. Pregnant women should avoid this herb.
Prepare with more flavorful herbs to counter the bitter flavor, such as ginger, licorice, fennel seed, or peppermint.
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