Wormwood Summary:

Wormwoods botanical name is Artemisia absinthium. As the name suggests, it is one of the principle components of the liquor known as "Absinth". It contains a chemical known as thujone, which provides both the intensley bitter flavor of absinth, but also many of the therapeutic and psychological effects. 

There are about 250-500 species in the genus Artemisia, but the one with the highest thujone content is reported to be this species. 

Thujone is toxic, but in short durations is one of the best treatments for parasites, and bacterial infections. In excess, thujone can cause delerium, anxiety, and if high enough doses, even death. 

Absinthe traditionally has high levels of this thujone, which is partly responsible for the hallucinations caused by this drink. It is also the reason why absinth has such a potent bitter flavor, and why it is so useful for treating parasites like tapeworm. 


Botanical Name

Artemisia absinthum

Family

Asteraceae

Part Used

Aerial parts

Herbal Actions:

  • Bitter tonic
  • Anthelmintic [1, 4]
  • Hepatoprotective [5]
  • Carminative [7]
  • Choleretic [7]
  • Antispasmodic [7]
  • Antipyretic [7]
  • Antitumor [7, 14]
  • Antimicrobial [7, 8]
  • Anti-inflammatory [9]
  • Antioxidant [10]
  • Nootropic [11]

Dosage

Tincture (1:5)

0.7-3 mL/day

A Note On Dosage

As a bitter, use the lower end of this dosage range.

Recommended Source

Indications

[3, 17]

  • Anorexia
  • Dyspepsia
  • Insufficient flow of gastric juices, and enzymes.
  • Worm infestations
  • Parasitic infection
  • To stimulate appetite
  • Gastrointestinal complaints
  • Colic
  • Spasmodic conditions of the GIT
  • Cancer

Common Names:

  • Wormwood
  • Yin Chen (Chinese)
  • Mian yin chen (Alternate Chinese)
  • Yin chen hao (Alternate Chinese)

Traditional Uses:

Artemisia absinthium has traditionally been used to treat parasitic, and bacterial infection, as well as neurodegenerative disorders, cancer, stomach aches, fevers, declining cognitive function, hepatitis, and as a cardiac stimulant, nootropic, and antispasmodic agent [1, 7]. Artemesia as a genus, including wormwood, were often used to treat conditions such as malaria, hepatitis, cancer, inflammation, and fungal infections [1, 6]. 

In northern parts of Iran, where Artemisia absinthium grows wild, its arial parts are traditionally used as both food and medicine [1]. It has been, and is continued to be used in the food industry to prepare aperitifs, bitters, and spirits [7], such as absinth. 

In Culpepers complete herbal, Culpepper lists wormwood seeds for expelling worms [15]. 

In traditional Chinese medicine, this herb is referred to as yin chen and is used to treat acute biliary dysentery, cancers, and neurodegenerative diseases [7, 18]. 


    Botanical Description:

    There are about 250-500 species in the genus Artemisia, which are mainly found in Europe, Asia, and North America [1]. 

    The herb itself can be described as a perennial herbaceous plant with a woody rhizome. 


    Habitat Ecology, and Distribution:

    The genus Artemisia, can be found over a wide range from North America, through Europe, and Asia [1, 2]. Artemisia absinthium specifically is mainly found growing wild in Northern Iran [1]. In China, it is commonly found growing in most gravel areas [18]. 


    Harvesting Collection, and Preparation:

    When preparing Artemisia absinthium, a study investigating the antioxidant potential of various extracts discovered that the optimal temperature for extraction using a variety of solvents was 45 degrees C, and the best solvent was methanol (75%). They recorded the highest extraction was with a 75% methanol extract at this temperature, and the lowest was a 100% water extract [1]. 

    Some of the best wormwood is suggested to come from Jiangxi, China [18]. 


    Constituents:

    [1, 3, 7, 12, 13]

    • Flavonol-3-glycosides:
      • Quercetin
      • Isorhamnetin
      • Patuletin
      • Spinacetin derrivatives
    • Volatile oils: [16+]
      • Myrecene
      • trans-thujone
      • alpha-thujone
      • beta-Thujone
      • trans-sabinyl acetate
      • Sabinene
      • Myrecene
      • trans-sabinaol
      • Linalyl acetate
      • Geranyl propionate
      • 1,8-Cineol (<3.4%)
      • Borneol

    Pharmacology and Medical Research:

     

    Antimicrobial

    The antimicrobial effects of the essential oil of Artemisia absinthium was shown to be most pronounced in gram-positive bacteria. The reason for this is suggested to be due to gram-negative bacterias hydrophilic outer membrane which blocks the mainly hydrophobic compounds found in Artemisia absinthium volatile oil from entering the cell membrane [7]. 

     

    Anthelmintic

    In vitro studies have determined Artemisia absinthium to possess anti-parasitic activity [4]. 

     

    Anti-Cancer

    Wormwood extracts have been shown to possess anti-cancer effects via cell apoptosis signalling in human breast cancer cell lines. Its actions have been found to be through multiple apoptosis pathways, which suggests a powerful synergy contained within the chemistry of this plant. [14]. 

     

    Hepatoprotective

    An aqueous extract of Artemisia absinthium was shown to protect the liver cells from chemical toxins [5]. 

     

    Toxicity

    • Pregnancy and lactation [17]
    • Hyperacidity [17]
    • The essential oil of wormwood is considered highly toxic and neurotoxic and should not be used in aromatherapy [16]. 
     

    Cautions:

    • Use for a short time only, especially in the higher doses. The main chemical, thujone is highly toxic. It has been reported that thujone interacts with the same receptors sites that tetrahydrocannabinol interacts with. Prolonged use, or high dosage can cause restlessness, vomiting, vertigo, tremors, renal damage, and convulsions. [16].
    • Prolonged consumption of the wormwood based liquor absinthe leads to a condition known as "absinthism". This involved a development of visual and auditory hallucinations, hyperexcitability, reduction in cognitive function, and addiction [16]. 

    Traditional Chinese Medicine:

    Pinyin: Yin Chen (Alternate names are Yin Chen Hao or Mian yin chen)

    Taste: Bitter and pungent [18]

    Energy: Cool [18]

    Actions: Clears heat, drains dampness, promotes gallbladder function, relieves jaundice [18].

    Indications: Jaundice, scanty urine, eczema, itching, abdominal distention and fullness, greasy tongue coating [18]. 


    Synergy:

    Still compiling research. 

    Harmonic Arts Botanical Dispensary

    Author:

    Justin Cooke

    The Sunlight Experiment

    Updated: July 2017


    Recent Blog Posts:

    References:

    1. Ghafoori, H., Sariri, R., & Naghavi, M. R. (2014). Study of Effect of Extraction Conditions and Antioxidant Activity of Artemisia absinthium by HPLC and TLC. Journal of Liquid Chromatography & Related Technologies, 37(11), 1558-1567. doi:10.1080/10826076.2013.803200
    2. Bremer, K.; Humphries, C. J. (1993). Generic Monograph of the Asteraceae-Anthemideae. Bull. Nat. Hist. Mus. Bot. Ser. 23, 71–177.
    3. Hoffmann, B. Z.; Herrmann, K. (1982). Phenolic Species. 8. Flavonol Glycosides of Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus L.) and Absinthe (Artemisia absinthium L.). Z Lebensm Unters-Forsch. 174, 211–215.
    4. Gonzalez-Coloma, A.; Bailen, M.; Diaz, C. E.; Fraga, B. M. (2008). Major Components of Spanish Cultivated Artemisia absinthium Populations: Antifeedant, Antiparasitic, and Antioxidant Effects. Ind. Crops Prod. 37, 401–407.
    5. Amat, N.; Upur, H.; Blazekovic, B. (2010). In Vivo Hepatoprotective Activity of the Aqueous Extract of Artemisia absinthium L. Against Chemically and Immunologically Induced Liver Injuries in Mice. J. Ethnopharmacol. 131, 478–484.
    6. Bora, K. S.; Sharma, A. (2011). The Genus Artemisia: A Comprehensive Review. Pharm. Biol. 2011, 49, 101–109.
    7. Joshi, R. K. (2013). Volatile composition and antimicrobial activity of the essential oil of Artemisia absinthium growing in Western Ghats region of North West Karnataka, India.Pharmaceutical Biology, 51(7), 888-892. doi:10.3109/13880209.2013.768676
    8. Caner A, Doskaya M, Degirmenci A, et al. (2008). Comparison of the effects of Artemisia vulgaris and Artemisia absinthium growing in western Anatolia against trichinellosis (Trichinella spiralis) in rats. Exp Parasitol 119:173–9.
    9. Lee HG, Kim H, Oh WK. (2004). Tetramethoxy hydroxyflavone p-7F downregulates inflammatory mediators via the inhibition of nuclear factor kappa B. Ann N Y Acad Sci 1030:555–68.
    10. Brunet JMC, Djilas SM, Cetkovic GS, Tumbas VT. (2005). Free-radical scavenging activity of wormwood Sci Food Agric 85:265–72.
    11. Wake G, Court J, Pickering A, et al. (2000). CNS acetylcholine receptor activity in European medicinal plants traditionally used to improve failing memory. J Ethnopharmacol 69:105–14.
    12. Lopes-Lutz D, Alviano DS, Alviano CS, Kolodziejczyk PP. (2008). Screening of chemical composition, antimicrobial and antioxidant activities of Artemisia essential oils. Phytochemistry 69:1732–8.
    13. Orav A, Raal A, Arak E, Muurisepp M, Kailas T. (2006). Composition of the essential oil of Artemisia absinthium L. of different geographical origin. Proc Estonian Acad Sci Chem 55:155–65.
    14. Shafi, G., Hasan, T. N., Syed, N. A., Al-Hazzani, A. A., Alshatwi, A. A., Jyothi, A., & Munshi, A. (2012). Artemisia absinthium (AA): a novel potential complementary and alternative medicine for breast cancer. Molecular Biology Reports, 39(7), 7373-7379. doi:10.1007/s11033-012-1569-0
    15. Culpeper, N. (1995). Culpeper's complete herbal: A book of natural remedies for ancient ills. Ware, Denmark: Wordsworth Editions.
    16. Battaglia, S. (2003). The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy (2nd ed.). Brisbane, Australia: The International Centre of Holistic Aromatherapy. (Pg 325)
    17. Bone, K. (2003). A clinical guide to blending liquid herbs: Herbal formulations for the individual patient. Edinburgh [u.a.: Churchill Livingstone. (Pg. 469-470).
    18. Yang, J., Huang, H., Zhu, Li-Jiang, & Chen, Y. (2013). Introduction to Chinese materia medica (3rd ed.). (Pg 217-220).