Artemisia absinthium: Wormwood

Family: Asteraceae
Common name: Wormwood, Absinthe, Grand wormwood, Absinthium, Absinthe wormwood, Mugwort, Wermout, Wermud, Wormit, Wormod

The silver-white leaves of Wormwood plants make them a unique, exquisite ornamental plant for your garden. They can grow to a height of 1 meter, with beautiful, silver, pinnately compound leaves that look like snowflakes or Christmas decorations.

The leaves have tiny hairs all over the surface and also has many minute oil glands. The leaves don’t have separate petioles or stalks. They just seem to taper towards the stem and become thinner. The distinct venation of the leaves also make them look like snowflakes.

Though not very frequent, Wormwood plants produce small, rounded yellow flowers that bend downwards so that only the sepals are visible on top. The fruits contain a single seed, which falls to the ground and germinates to form baby plants.

The name Artemisia comes from the Greek God Artemis, the God of the wild animals and vegetation. Wormwood plants contain essential oils and bitter substances like Absinthin, which is used in making the alcohol Absinthe. All parts of the plant have been used for food and medicine for many years. They are used in making herbal tea, mother tincture in medicines, and in flavoring alcoholic beverages.

Medicines for dyspepsia, liver diseases, worm infections, depression, memory loss and stomach disorders are made from chemicals found in the Wormwood plants. Wormwood oil is used to give fragrance to soaps, perfumes and cosmetics; and also used in medicine drops and ointments.

Wormwood essential oil contains a chemical Thujone which can excite the central nervous system, but can also cause adverse side effects when taken in excess doses. Wormwood is applied externally for insects bites, wounds and other skin diseases.

The term Wormwood stands for bitterness in early literature, and is mentioned in Shakespeare. The Bible also mentions a star called Wormwood that can turn the water bitter.

Propagation is from seeds and stem cuttings.

Image credits: love4gardening.com

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