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Artemisia absinthium

Artemisia absinthium

Common name: Wormwood

Family: Asteraceae

Parts used: Leaf & flowering top

Constituents:

  • Volatile oil (thujone, absitol & azulenes)
  • Bitter sesquiterpenes & sesquiterpene lactones (artemisinin, absinthin, artabsin &  santoinin)
  • Flavone glycosides
  • Hydroxycoumarins
  • Lignans

Medicinal actions:

 

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antimicrobial
  • Anti-neoplastic 
  • Anti-parasitic (anti-malarial)
  • Bitter
  • Carminative
  • Choleretic
  • Diuretic
  • Emmenagogue & Uterine stimulant
  • Nervine tonic

 

 

Medicinal use:

  • The common name, Wormwood, signifies its use as an anthelmintic (especially against roundworm, Ascaris lumbricoides, and pinworm) with symptoms of intestinal irritation.  
  • A bitter & carminative herb useful for indigestion, sweet/sugar cravings & blood sugar dysregulation. Will promote appetite and bile secretions as well as absorption of nutrients, and decrease bile duct spasm while increasing efficient bile duct contractions and aid in the flow of gastric or pancreatic enzymes and bile.
  • Applied topically for rheumatic pains and infections.

Pharmacology:

  • Sesquiterpene lactones (absinthin, artabsin, santoinin) have bitter action which stimulates taste buds and by reflex action increases appetite, gastric secretions, bile flow, and promotes digestion.
  • Volatile oils (thujone) are nervous system stimulants and in high doses, toxic to the CNS and liver.
  • Azulene is anti-inflammatory.
  • Santonin is also insecticidal, anti-tumor and paralyzes worms.
  • Artemisin and derivatives demonstrate anti-malarial and cytotoxic effects.

Pharmacy:

  • Infusion: 1-2 g, 1/2 cup water (extremely bitter!).
  • Tincture: (1:5, 25%), 0.7-3 ml QD. 20 ml weekly max. 
  • Capsules: up to 250 mg, TID.
  • Lotion, compress or oil applied externally over intact skin.
  • Note: Use short-term or pulse-dosing (4-5 weeks). For bitter effect use low doses.
  • 1 mL extract 1:2, DHE 500 mg

Toxicity:

  • Physiologically both oil of wormwood and extract of absinthe act as nerve depressants. Constituent thujone (isolated and in high doses) is neurotoxic, causing headache, paralysis, decreased coordination, and (euphoric) hallucinations. These effects are said to be reversible. Thujone is not well preserved in water, thus water extractions are safer than alcohol extractions.  
  • Long-term or high dosing may cause headaches, irritate stomach and dangerously affect the heart and arteries.

Contraindications: 

  • In pregnancy & lactation due to uterine stimulant effects.
  • Caution in gastric and peptic ulcers, irritable/nervous states, and seizure disorders.
  • Allergy to Asteraceae family.

 

Interactions:

  • May need to be combined with iron for optimal cytotoxic effects.

References:

  • Find a complete list of references for this monograph as well as images and a review of its evidence based applications in Dr. Marciano’s Herbal Textbook.
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