Medicinal benefits of wormwood have been known for quite some time. Ancient Egyptians used this plant to get rid of worms. It is also mentioned in the Bible. This herb is sought after for its anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties. It is also a great at treating intestinal worms and parasites. Wormwood stimulates and aids digestion, fights inflammation and is a great antioxidant.
This plant is confused with its cousins mugwort, which is more invasive, and sweet Annie. Wormwood is smaller, more like a shrub, and woody. It is quite easy to grow wormwood, which is part of the Artemisia family. Some people confuse it with sage, as it is also dried and tied into bundles for smudging ceremonies. This herb is resinous and aromatic.
Wormwood became quite popular because it is the base of absinthe (originally from Switzerland) which is distilled from its leaves. The plant’s Latin name is Artemisia absinthium. Conservative groups over exaggerated the mind altering effects of this spirit, which caused it to be banned for 100 years. Now it is available again in Europe. This spirit is quite bitter, which produces the medicinal benefits of wormwood. Other fragrant bitter herbs are sweet Annie, black walnut and elecampane.
How to use Wormwood
Medicinal benefits of wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) are due to the plant’s bitter compounds which have therapeutic properties. Bitter compounds include artemetin,matricin, isoabsinthin, artemolin, absinth and sesquiterpene lactones. This plant also has volatile oils which are divided in three:
Terpenes: trans-sabinyl, acetate, chrysantenyl acetate, alpha and beta thujone.
Monoterpenes: linalool, cineol, thujan, thujyalcohol, and flavonoids: quercetin and glycosides of kaempferol
There are several ways to use the medicinal benefits of wormwood.
- Liquid extracts
- Essential oils
Medicinal Benefits of Wormwood
Just like mugwort, this herb can treat malaria which is a very serious disease transmitted by mosquitos which are infected by a parasite. There are about 400,000 deaths of malaria per year, mostly of children in Africa and Asia.
Chinese researcher, Tu Youyou, and her team discovered in 1971 that wormwood could treat malaria. Her discovery saved millions of lives and she was awarded with the Nobel Price in 2015. Artemisinin, the most powerful antimalarial drug, is derived from isolated from Artemisia annua (often called sweet wormwood, sweet Annie or annual mugwort). Several varieties of Artemisia can quickly reduce the amount of parasites found in the blood.
Treat Worms and Parasites
As it name suggest, medicinal benefits of wormwood include the treatment of worms including roundworms and pinworms. This is a great anti-parasite because it is considered to be an anthelmintic, meaning its letal to worms. It is also a vermifuge, which makes the intestines and colon intolerable to worms and parasites. Use it to flush and clean your system if you think your intestines are compromised by parasites.
Many herbalists use wormwood with other anti parasitic herbs to make a blend that works against these organisms. It is quite useful when traveling. People from developing countries can benefit from this treatment as it is a lot cheaper than pharmaceutical drugs, which may not be available. Herbal protocols also use it for food poisoning and amoebic dysentery.
Those that have pets could benefit from doing woodworm cleans at least once per year. Drink two tea infusions per day for a week and then rest for a week and repeat once more.
Wormwood produces a boost to the immune system so it can fight bacterial diseases such as E. Coli and Salmonella. It is also efficient in treating fungal infections including Candida albicans, that produces yeast infections.
SIBO means small intestinal bacterial overgrowth which causes a whole range of symptoms that include osteoporosis, nutritional deficiencies, weight loss and chronic diarrhea. This condition is usually treated with antibiotics, but it can also be treated with the medicinal benefits of wormwood and other antimicrobial herbs such as thyme, oregano and berberine.
A study done in 2014 showed patients which were treated with herbal remedies were less likely to show signs of SIBO than patients that used the antibiotic rifaximin.
Stimulate the Digestive System
Medicinal benefits of wormwood include its ability to stimulate better digestion and alleviate symptoms of indigestion. This is due to the fact that it promotes the production of bile which supports the gallbladder and liver health. Wormwood is even more effective when combined with other digestive herbs such as peppermint or ginger.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
This common condition affects the colon, causing diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pains, bloating and cramping. Medicinal benefits of wormwood can treat these symptoms when used alone or combined with other herbal remedies according to this research.
Patients with Crohn’s disease can benefit from the medicinal benefits of wormwood. A study done in Germany used wormwood with other herbs to treat the symptoms of this disease. It was particularly beneficial at treating symptoms of depression. Wormwood can eliminate the use of steroids for some patients and improve overall gut health.
Medicinal benefits of wormwood include the ability to stimulate menstruation and regulate the menstrual cycle. This emmenagogue effect can be convenient even for women that want to get their periods early to avoid having it during a holiday. It can also be used as an emergency contraceptive. Wormwood should not be used by pregnant women because it can produce miscarriage.
Artemisia, the active ingredient in wormwood, is able to induce apoptosis in cancer cells. Studies have shown its effectiveness on breast cancer, while other types of cancers are still being researched. Terpenoids and flavonoids destroy cancer cell lines. Leaves are high in antioxidants. When used in combination with iron it has higher potential to kill cancer cells, while leaving healthy cells alone.
Stimulates appetite: which may be important for people suffering from illnesses or injuries which need to recover faster. It is also used as a treatment for anorexia.
Relaxes muscles: anti-inflammatory effects can ease the pain caused by conditions like arthritis and rheumatism which cause pain in the joins.
Anti anxiety: medicinal benefits of wormwood may include mild anti anxiety effects.
Detoxification: as a hepatic, this herb can help to detoxify the body since it cleans the blood and eliminates toxic substances.
Insect control: wormwood is considered a safe insect repellent that can be used on humans. It can keep mosquitos away, as well as prevent flea infestations.
Precautions of Using Wormwood
High levels of thujone are quite dangerous since it could cause seizures and other problems with the nervous system. Other side effects include nausea, vomiting, vertigo, insomnia, tremors and restlessness. Some people may be overly sensitive to the volatile components of wormwood causing them to experience these effects even with lower doses.
People with pre-existing conditions such as ulcers and gastric problems should not consume this herb as it could irritate them. Pregnant women should avoid wormwood since it can result in miscarriage. There is no evidence to suggest it may be dangerous during breastfeeding, but it is better to avoid it just in case.
Wormwood is toxic to the kidneys, so it should not be used by people with kidney problems. Those taking heart disease medication should avoid this herb which could cause intestinal bleeding. Medicinal benefits of wormwood should also be avoided by people who take anti-seizure medications.
Dried wormwood contains very little or no thujone, so it is the safest way of use. Drink a hot tea to get medicinal benefits of wormwood such as improved digestion. Do not boil this plant, simply add it to hot water.
It is better to use wormwood in powder for internal parasites or worms. Do not take this herb for long periods of time (over four weeks). This herb should be used under medical supervision. Dilute it in a lotion or with a carrier oil before applying it topically.