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Artemisia absinthium

Artemisia absinthium              Common name: Wormwood
Family: Asteraceae

Parts used: Leaf & flowering top

Constituents: Volatile oils (thujone, absitol, azulenes), terpenoids, bitter sesquiterpenes & bitter sesquiterpene lactones (artemisinin), triterpenoid, flavone glycoside, hydroxycoumarins

Medicinal actions:  Anti-parasitic, anthelmintic, anti-neoplastic, bitter tonic & digestive stimulant, carminative, anti-microbial, choleretic, emmenagogue, aromatic, mental stimulant, narcotic, immuno-stimulant, anti-inflammatory, emmenagogue, diuretic.

Medicinal use:   CNS depressant and uterine stimulant. Antimalarial and anti-cancer. The common name, Wormwood, signifies its use as an anthelmintic (especially against roundworm and pinworm). Can be used to aid withdrawal of benzodiazepine addiction and as an antidepressant or sleep aid. Will promote appetite and bile secretions as wells as absorption of nutrients.  Can be applied topically for rheumatic pains.

Pharmacology:

  • Volatile oils such as thujone are nervous system stimulants and in high doses, toxic to the CNS and liver. Azulene is anti-inflammatory.
  • 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. 
  • Santonin is also insecticidal, anti-tumor and paralyzes worms.

Pharmacy: Infusion: 1-2 g, 1/2 cup water (extremely bitter!). Tincture: (1:1, 25%), 1-4 ml TID. Lotion or oil externally over intact skin. Use short-term or pulse-dosing (4-5 weeks).

Toxicity: Artemisia (primarily thujone isolated and in high doses) is very toxic to the CNS, causing 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 irritate stomach and dangerously affect the heart and arteries.

Contraindications: The use of Artemisia is contraindicated in pregnancy, lactation, gastric and peptic ulcers, irritable nervous states, and seizure disorders.

Interactions: May need to be combined with iron for optimal efficacy. 

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