Principal Proposed Uses
Artemisia absinthium , or common wormwood, is most famous as an ingredient of the alcoholic beverage absinthe. Wormwood is also found in vermouth, but at lower levels. Besides its common function as a flavoring, wormwood also has a long history of medicinal use. A reputed ability to kill intestinal worms gave rise to the herb’s name. Other traditional uses include treating liver problems, joint pain, digestive discomfort, loss of appetite, insomnia, epilepsy, and menstrual problems. The leaves and flowers, and the essential oil extracted from them, are the parts used medicinally.
Common wormwood is a relative of sweet wormwood ( Artemisia annua ), a source of the malaria drug artemisinin (also called artemesin).
What Is Wormwood Used for Today?
Wormwood is sometimes recommended today for the treatment of digestive conditions such as intestinal parasites, dyspepsia , esophageal reflux , and irritable bowel syndrome . However, there is no meaningful evidence to indicate that it is effective for any of these conditions. Only double-blind , placebo-controlled studies can show a treatment effective, and only one has been performed using wormwood. (For information on why such studies are essential, see Why Does This Database Rely on Double-blind Studies? )
These are extremely promising findings. However, it must be kept in mind that a great many treatments that show promise in a single study fail to hold up in subsequent independent testing. Further research will be needed to establish wormwood as a helpful treatment for Crohn’s disease. Other proposed uses of wormwood have far weaker supporting evidence. Extremely preliminary indications hint
In the study noted above, wormwood was taken at a dose of 500 mg three times daily. A typical traditional dose of wormwood is 3 cups daily of a tea made by steeping 2.5 to 5 grams of wormwood in hot water. Wormwood essential oil should not be used. Long-term use of any form of wormwood (over 4 weeks) should not be attempted except under physician supervision.
Despite the absence of firm evidence, wormwood is still considered a potentially toxic herb, especially if taken over the long term. Wormwood essential oil contains thujone at much higher levels than those found in absinthe, and should be avoided. Wormwood should not be used by young children, pregnant or nursing women, or people with severe liver or kidney disease.
- Reviewer: EBSCO CAM Review Board
- Review Date: 07/2012 -
- Update Date: 07/25/2012 -