Wormwood, or Artemisia absinthium, is a perennial plant from the daisy family. Wormwood, which is also called absinth, has a bitter flavor and is used in making bitters and vermouth. It can also be used to make wormwood tea, which is used to treat gastric pain and indigestion, stimulate the appetite, and protect the liver.
Wormwood has a long history. Ancient Egyptians, Syrians, Greeks, and Romans knew of this herb. The bible mentions wormwood as marking the ground where the serpent slithered as the snake left the Garden of Eden. The bible also mentions wormwood in the Revelations of St. John. More recently, wormwood was an essential ingredient in absinthe.
Absinthe was first used as a medication when the liquor was developed France in the late 18th century. By the 1830s, absinthe as a liquor had crossed the oceans and landed in New Orleans. Legend has it that artists such as Ernest Hemingway and Vincent Van Gogh touted the creative benefits of drinking absinthe. In 1912, absinthe was banned in the United States. This liquor had more to it than just a high percentage of alcohol and was thought to cause madness.
Wormwood has a high content of thujone, which is structurally similar to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the ingredient that gives marijuana users their high. Drinking absinthe can lead to having altered senses. Animals that have been given high dosages of thujone under laboratory conditions have gone into convulsions, with some eventually dying. The absinthe that is legally sold today in the United States does not have any thujone content.
While the thought of thujone may give pause, drinking wormwood tea may have benefits beyond helping with gastric problems. For example, wormwood tea is carminative, meaning it helps the body deal with flatulence. In addition, drinking wormwood tea has anthelmintic properties, meaning it helps the body rid itself of worms. This tea also has febrifuge properties to help to body fight fevers.
Wormwood tea can be made by adding one teaspoon of dried wormwood to one cup of boiling water and letting the mixture sit for 10 to 15 minutes before drinking. Alternatively, 10 to 20 drops of wormwood tincture can be added to one cup of water. Some tea drinkers add maple syrup or honey to help counteract the bitter taste. The tea should be taken three times a day, 10 to 15 minutes before a meal.
Wormwood tea should not be used for a long period of time as the thujone in the tea can prove toxic. Most suggest that the tea should not be consumed for more than three to four weeks. Drinking too much wormwood tea over a prolonged period of time can lead to insomnia, dizziness, and vomiting as well as trembling, convulsions, and seizures. Women who are pregnant or are breast feeding should not drink wormwood tea. People should consult their physicians before using wormwood to make sure that the wormwood will not interact negatively with other drugs or herbs that they may be taking.