What do Edgar Degas, Vincent van Gogh and Pablo Picasso all have in common aside from their incredible painting abilities? These three artists all shared a love of absinthe, a botanical spirit made from wormwood, anise and fennel.
Absinthe is currently illegal in the U.S. as well as many other countries, but it’s still available in Europe. You may have heard of wormwood because of its inclusion in this famous European beverage, but did you know that it also holds an ability to aid many common and serious health concerns?
It’s true. Wormwood is actually used to eliminate intestinal worms, especially roundworms and pinworms. This is exactly why it’s commonly recommended as part of a parasite cleanse.
Just how powerful is wormwood? Well, it’s owed thanks and praise for being the source of the key ingredient for the herbal drug artemisinin, which is touted as the most powerful anti-malarial on the market.
And it doesn’t stop there. Scientific research also shows that wormwood can even kills cancer cells. Wormwood tea can also be used to treat anorexia, insomnia, anemia, a lack of appetite, flatulence, stomach aches, jaundice and indigestion.
Wormwood herb is used in alcoholic beverages while the wormwood star is mentioned in the bible. Truly an intriguing plant to say the least, but can this herb really kill parasites and cancer? Studies say yes, and the positive medicinal effects keep on coming.
Of course, there is good reason for caution with wormwood products (like absinthe) as well, but once you learn about thujone, you’ll see why not all wormwood products are created equally.
What Is Wormwood?
What is wormwood exactly? Artemisia absinthium is an odorous, perennial that belongs to the Asteraceae or Compositae family, more commonly known as the daisy family. This artemisia plant releases an aromatic odor and has a spicy, bitter taste.
Many species of the artemisia family tend to have medicinal properties. It’s related to Artemisia vulgaris, or mugwort, another medicinal herb.
The wormwood plant is native to Europe and parts of Africa and Asia. Today, it also grows wild in the U.S., most commonly along roads or paths.
Also called shrub wormwood, Artemisia absinthium is a shrubby plant that typically grows to be one to three feet tall. It has gray-green or white stems covered by fine hairs and yellowish-green leaves that are hairy and silky. The leaves of the plant have glands that contain resinous particles where the natural insecticide is stored.
Sweet wormwood (Artemisia annua), also known as sweet annie, sweet sagewort, annual mugwort or annual wormwood, is a common type of wormwood native to temperate Asia but naturalized in parts of North America.
Wormwood can be used either fresh or dried. All the aerial portions (stem, leaves and flowers) of the plant have medicinal uses and wormwood tea is commonly consumed for a range of ailments.
The essential oil is extracted from the leaves and flowering tops by steam distillation. One study of the essential oil of Artemisia absinthium found that it contains at least 28 components representing 93.3 percent of the oil. The main components are β- pinene (23.8 percent) and β- thujone (18.6 percent).
Thujone is the potentially poisonous chemical found in wormwood. Distilling the herb in alcohol increases the thujone concentration, which is what makes absinthe such a debatable liquor of choice.
Wormwood’s biologically active compounds include: