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Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Wormwood (Artemisia Absinthium). Fig. 4010. An erect hardy herbaceous perennial, native of middle and western Europe and the countries that bound the Mediterranean, and sometimes found in waste places as an escape from American gardens, having angular rather shrubby stems 2 to 4 feet tall, which bear abundant much-divided hoary leaves of intensely and persistently bitter flavor, and panicles of greenish or yellowish flower-heads. The seed, grayish and very small, retains its vitality for about four years, but is usually sown soon after harvesting. The tops and leaves, gathered and dried in July and August when the plant is in flower, are officially credited in America with aromatic, tonic, and, as its name implies, anthelmintic properties, although now, for no apparent reason other than caprice of practice, they are less popular with the profession than formerly. In domestic medicine they are employed as mentioned and as a diuretic; locally as a fomentation or as a decoction with vinegar to ulcers, sprains, and bruises. In the dry state they are occasionally placed among clothing as a moth-repellant. Formerly wormwood was used by brewers to embitter and preserve liquors, but at the present time it finds its most extensive use as the principal ingredient in absinthe, in the manufacture of which peppermint, angelica, anise, cloves, and cinnamon are also ingredients. According to Blythe, the green color of this liquor is due not to wormwood but to the chlorophyll of spinach, parsley, or nettles. The plant may be grown without trouble in light dry rather poor garden soil from seed which, owing to its small size, should be started where it may not be washed out or packed down by rain. When large enough to set out, the few specimens necessary to furnish a family supply should be placed not closer than 15 inches each way the first year. If alternate plants be removed with a good ball of earth early in the following spring and planted 30 inches apart, they will be sufficiently close together and the transplanted ones should suffer from no check. Ripened cuttings taken in March or October may be used for propagation. Clean cultivation and slight annual dressings of manure are the only other requisites. In the middle western states there are several localities where wormwood is grown for export.

Wormwood is used very extensively in the manufacture of certain medicines. The oil is produced largely in southern Michigan, and Wisconsin supplies a large acreage.

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.

Artemisia absinthium
Fossil range: {{{fossil_range}}}
Artemisia absinthium growing wild in the Caucasus
Artemisia absinthium growing wild in the Caucasus
Plant Info
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Kingdom: Plantae
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Class: Magnoliopsida
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Order: Asterales
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Family: Asteraceae
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Genus: Artemisia
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Species: A. absinthium
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Binomial name
Artemisia absinthium
Trinomial name
Type Species

Artemisia absinthium (Absinthium, Absinthe Wormwood, Wormwood or Grand Wormwood) is a species of wormwood, native to temperate regions of Europe, Asia and northern Africa.

It is a herbaceous perennial plant, with a hard, woody rhizome. The stems are straight, growing to 0.8-1.2 m (rarely 1.5 m) tall, grooved, branched, and silvery-green. The leaves are spirally arranged, greenish-grey above and white below, covered with silky silvery-white hairs, and bearing minute oil-producing glands; the basal leaves are up to 25 cm long, bipinnate to tripinnate with long petioles, with the cauline leaves (those on the stem) smaller, 5-10 cm long, less divided, and with short petioles; the uppermost leaves can be both simple and sessile (without a petiole). Its flowers are pale yellow, tubular, and clustered in spherical bent-down heads (capitula), which are in turn clustered in leafy and branched panicles. Flowering is from early summer to early autumn; pollination is anemophilous. The fruit is a small achene; seed dispersal is by gravity.

It grows naturally on uncultivated, arid ground, on rocky slopes, and at the edge of footpaths and fields.


Cultivation and uses

The plant can easily be cultivated in dry soil. They should be planted under bright exposure in fertile, mid-weight soil. It prefers soil rich in Nitrogen. It can be propagated by growth (ripened cuttings taken in March or October in temperate climates) or by seeds in nursery beds. It is naturalised in some areas away from its native range, including much of North America.

The plant's characteristic odour can make it useful for making a plant spray against pests. In the practice of companion planting, because of the secretions of its roots, it exerts an inhibiting effect on the growth of surrounding plants, thus weeds. It can be useful to repel insect larvae but it need only be planted on the edge of the area of cultivation. It has also been used to repel fleas and moths indoors.

It is an ingredient in the liquor absinthe, and also used for flavouring in some other spirits and wines, such as vermouth and pelinkovac. It is also used medically as a tonic, stomachic, febrifuge and anthelmintic.

Therapeutic uses

The leaves and flowering tops are gathered when the plant is in full bloom, and dried naturally or with artificial heat. Its active substances include silica, two bitter elements (absinthine and anabsinthine), thujone, tannic and resinous substances, malic acid, and succinic acid. Although a hallucinogen, its use has been claimed to remedy indigestion and gastric pain, it acts as an antiseptic, and as a febrifuge. For medicinal use, the herb is used to make a tea for helping pregnant women during pain of labor. A wine can also be made by macerating the herb. It is also available in powder form and as a tincture. The oil of the plant can be used as a cardiac stimulant to improve blood circulation. Pure wormwood oil is very poisonous, but with proper dosage poses little or no danger. Wormwood is mostly a stomach medicine. [1]

Absinthium oil is a main ingredient in Absorbine Jr.

Etymology and folklore

The word "wormwood" comes from Middle English "wormwode" or "wermode". The form "wormwood" is influenced by the traditional use as a cure for intestinal worms. An interesting theory attributes the etymology as coming from Old English "wermōd" (compare with German Wermut and the derived drink Vermouth). This probably comes from the word "wer", meaning "man" (as in "werewolf"), plus "mōd", meaning "mood".

See Artemisia (plant) for its relationship to the Book of Revelation, Chernobyl and other associations in human culture.

See Also

External links


  1. Lust, John, N.D. "The Herb Book", Bantam Books. 1979. ISBN: 0879040556.


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