A practical guide for nutritional and traditional health care.
Primarily native to Europe, wormwood is a perennial shrub-like herb that has grayish-white colored stems wrapped with delicate and glossy hairs. Wormwood normally grows up to a height between one and three feet and bears leaves that are smooth, hairy and contain secretary cells. They also have resinous particles (viscous substances) and have a yellowish-green appearance. The wormwood plant produces a fragrant scent and has a highly spiced that is rather bitter in taste. Although the plant is indigenous to Europe as well as northern Africa and western Asia, currently it is commercially cultivated in many parts of the world. The useful parts of the herb include its leaves and the fresh or dried flowering tops that are normally harvested before or during the blossoming season. Wormwood is generally used in the manufacture of vermouth or white wine, while another species known as sweet wormwood (A. annua) is grown as a decorative plant. However, in addition to being an ornamental plant, sweet wormwood is rich in vital oil that has powerful functions against fungus and bacteria.
Some time back, chemists at the Experimental Therapeutics of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Washington DC have initiated prolonged researches into the sweet wormwood's aptitude in reducing fevers caused by killing parasites in the intestines. A tincture prepared from sweet wormwood may be helpful in healing fevers caused by intestinal parasites. For effective use, try ten drops (use an eye dropper) of the wormwood tincture blended with one teaspoonful of dark honey or black molasses (thick and dark syrup made by boiling down juice from sugar cane) may be useful in curing the ailment. Since the honey or the molasses aids in getting rid of the bitter flavor of the tincture, it is advisable to blend the substance before using.
Here is how you may make best use of wormwood to keep off flies and pests. Smash a small quantity of woodworm leaves into a moist mash and then blend it with a little apple cider vinegar. Then place a small quantity of this soaked combination into a six-inch square bandage cloth, draw up the corners of the gauze and tie the corners at the top. You may wipe the skin systematically with the mixture in the gauze to ward off horseflies, gnats, mosquitoes and other insects while you are away in the open. The consistent mixture can straightway be applied externally on pets to keep them off any botheration from all kinds of pests, insects, and fleas.
Recent reports published in the Planta Medica issue says that the some species of wormwood have been used in medical examinations for healing hepatitis as well as safeguard the liver from scratches produced owing to intake of injurious chemicals. In a report published in another medical journal called the Chern. Phann Bulletin, it has been stated that wormwood is a vital medication in healing jaundice as well as swelling and irritation of the gall bladder (cholecystitis). The report further states that a tea prepared with wormwood is likely to be beneficial in curing jaundice and the gall bladder inflammations.
The procedure to prepare the wormwood tea is simple. Boil two cups of water and then remove it from heat. Next, add four teaspoons of the dried wormwood leaves or flower tops to it. Cover the potion allowing the wormwood to be soaked in the boiling water. For effective use, drink the lukewarm infusion on an empty stomach thrice daily – morning, noon and night. One may add a little maple syrup to sweeten the otherwise bitter infusion. Alternatively, one may also take two capsules prepared from woodworm ingredients twice every day to get relief from these problems on an alternating basis. Here is a piece of advice. Wormwood is an herbal remedy like goldenseal root, chaparral and such other therapeutic herbs and it should be used discreetly and not taken erratically.
As mentioned earlier, as a herbal medicine, wormwood is beneficial in healing fevers and infections and it also enhances the immune system. The herb is also useful in getting the body rid of toxins and clearing heat and clogging in the system. For most effective use, wormwood can be blended with mint for a better flavor and taken to heal colds and flu, persistent or chronic fever, food poisoning, catarrh (inflammation of a mucous membrane, especially of the respiratory tract), skin problems and arthritis. History reveals that woodworm has also been beneficial for women. It has been a favorite herb with the women to incite uterine narrowing or contractions during childbirth. It may be mentioned here that wormwood is especially useful when the birth is sluggish in getting going and contractions are weak and ineffective. On the contrary, wormwood can also be used to usher in belated or holding back menstruation owing to stagnation (a state of inactivity) in the uterus and also for distressing periods. At the same time, wormwood has a diuretic action and it is useful for any liquid retention during the time of period.
Like any other herb, wormwood too has numerous therapeutic uses. Absinthe, a spirit drink made with aromatics including fennel seed, star anise and crushed wormwood leaves. This drink has green color but turns white when you add some water, is derived from wormwood. It was very popular in France as well as in the United States in the 19th century. The addictive drink was flavored with oil extracted from wormwood and contained thujone, a toxic substance (if it is used in high dosages), and hence overindulgence with it may prove to be lethal.
Besides this, wormwood is exceptionally useful medication for anyone suffering from poor or under active digestion. Herbal medicines prepared from wormwood extracts stimulate the secretion of stomach acid as well as bile and thereby help in the digestive process. This in turn enhances the body's capacity to absorb nutrients and helps in tackling certain ailments like anemia. In addition, wormwood is beneficial in releasing gas as well as easing bloating conditions. Herbal medicine practitioners recommend regular intake of wormwood tincture as this enhances the digestive process helping the body gain vigor and energy while recuperating from lingering ill health. As the herb's name suggest, wormwood is also beneficial to some extent in destroying or throwing out worms from the body.
Apart from its medicinal values, wormwood is also an excellent insecticide and help in repelling insects.
Habitat and cultivation
Though an important therapeutic herb, wormwood is generally found growing along the pavements. Although it is native to Europe, wormwood is also found aplenty in central Asia as well as in the eastern regions of the United States. Currently, wormwood is commercially cultivated in all temperate regions across the world. The herb is propagated in two manners – either by sowing the seeds in spring or by root division in autumn. Cultivators harvest the above ground parts of the herb in late summer.
Scientific researches conducted during the 1970s have proved that the wormwood plant contains a number of therapeutic benefits. The herb greatly contributes to herbal medicinal activities. A number of plants in this species are very bitter to taste and when they are taken in, they set off a stimulating action in the stomach resulting to a number of digestive discharges. The wormwood plant contains a number of chemical ingredients such as azeulenes, sesquiterpene lactones and thujone. While the azulenes are anti-inflammatory, sesquiterpene lactones produce anti-tumor consequences and are very powerful insecticides. On the other hand, thujone is capable of inciting the brain. But one must be cautious while using it as owing to its toxic nature, it may prove to be poisonous if taken in excess.
Wormwood extracts can be taken in either as a tea or a tincture. Preparing wormwood tea is extremely simple and can be done by adding one teaspoon of the herb to 250 ml or one cup of boiling water. After putting the herb in the boiling water, it is left undisturbed for about 10 to 15 minutes allowing the medicinal properties to soak in the water. Normally, for good results, people drink three cups of the tea daily. Alternatively, if anyone desires to use the wormwood tincture, he or she can put 10 to 20 drops of it in water and consume the same 10 to 15 minutes before every meal. Here is a word of caution. Neither the wormwood tea, nor the tincture should be used for more than four weeks at a stretch.
Side effects and cautions
If wormwood is consumed for a long period at a stretch it may prove to be detrimental for the health. It is strictly inadvisable to prepare any medication with the toxic absinthe oil as it is not only addictive, but may also lead to the damage of brain, seizures and even death. Short term usage of wormwood tincture or tea has no major side effects. On the other hand, prolonged usage of wormwood has its ill effects. It can lead to nausea, vomiting, insomnia, restiveness, vertigo or dizziness, trembling as well as convulsions or seizures. Use of wormwood is strictly inadvisable during pregnancy as well as lactation periods for it may cause severe harm to the body.
Wormwood moth bags
In a bowl, combine all the ingredients, then crush them together. Divide the mixture among small muslin bags, tie securely, and place with the woolens.