Sweet wormwood is a wormwood that originates in temperate Asia and can be found around the world. Its scientific name is Artemisia annua, but it is also be referred to as sweet Annie, sweet sagewort or annual wormwood. It has a number of medicinal uses, including anti-malaria, anti-parasite and anti-cancer treatments, though it also can be incorporated into food to prepare delicacies.
One of the oldest applications for sweet wormwood is as a treatment for fever. Chinese herbalists used the dried leaves of the plant to create a tea that reduced fever. Though this practice was done in ancient times, its application was rediscovered in the 20th century.
Wormwood tea is popularly thought to be a good anti-malaria treatment. The active ingredient in sweet wormwood, artemisinin, along with the other substances that contribute to the plant's makeup, are said to be extremely effective against malaria. This effective and relatively available treatment makes it attractive to those who deal with the threat of malaria, such as inhabitants of the tropics. Pharmaceutical companies have challenged wormwood's effectiveness, but its success rate has caused in Ethiopia to change its official treatment choices for malaria to those that contain Artemisia annua.
Other popular uses for wormwood include anti-parasite and anti-cancer treatments. Tropical nations typically use wormwood in conjunction with other anti-malarial treatments to ward off parasites. The use of wormwood is believed to make the body more resistant to parasites. Wormwood's effect of making the body inhospitable to parasites is advantageous to those who live in countries that suffer from parasite problems.
Sweet wormwood can have an interesting effect on cancer cells, too. Research suggests that it targets breast cancer cells and cells of a certain form of prostate cancer, acting toxic to them and possibly destroying them or hindering their growth. Other forms of cancer, including leukemia, have responded to the use of sweet wormwood, and further research might prove wormwood's effectiveness as an anti-cancer treatment.
Wormwood is thought to help with hepatitis and jaundice, protect the liver, boost the immune system and lessen gall bladder inflammation. It also can increase hunger and digestive enzyme production, alleviate arthritis and food poisoning, heal skin problems and encourage colds and the flu to recede. Less common uses of wormwood include fly and insect deterrents and flea killers for pets.
Sweet wormwood also can be used in a culinary manner. The Chinese use it to construct salads. The salad itself is bitter and acidic because of a marinade that contains spiced rice vinegar. The meal is classified as a delicacy.