scientific name: Artemisia absinthium
other common names: Artemisia, absinthe, ajenjo, estafiate
growing areas: Native to Europe; grows in the eastern United States
physical description: Wormwood is a perennial that has grayish-green stems. It can grow to a height of 4 feet, and its leaves, which are in blunt segments, have silvery hairs on both sides and resembleieathers.
traditional uses: Beginning/in the late eighteenth century, wormwood was used to give a popular liqueur called absinthe its bitter flavor. But within that alcoholic mix lurked a great danger. Thujone, a volatile oil within the plant, is believed to have a narcotic effect and is reported to have been responsible for hallucinations, psychosis, and possible brain damage, a syndrome labeled "absinthism." The great painter Vincent van Gogh was reported to have been a habitual user of absinthe, and experts believe the heavy use of yellow in his art may have resulted from thujone-caused brain damage. After much controversy, the drink was banned in France in the early twentieth century.
Herbalists report that wormwood is useful for expelling intestinal worms and stimulating the gastrointestinal tract and uterus. It is also reported to work as an anti-inflammatory. It is a Hispanic folk remedy for diarrhea, arthritis, gout, and late menstrual periods. In one survey of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans it was found to be one of the top ten herbal remedies used in households. In Central America it is used" to treat