Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the December 15, 2013 Newsletter issued from the Frio Canyon Nature Education Center in the valley of the Dry Frio River in northern Uvalde County, southwestern Texas, on the southern border of the Edwards Plateau, USA
WORMWOOD

Wormwood, also called Sweet Wormwood, Sweet Annie, Sweet Sagewort and other such names, is ARTEMISIA ANNUA. It's, a native of Eurasia. I don't find it here but it's a common weed in much of the US, especially the east-central states.

My interest in Sweet Wormwood arose back when nearly every year I returned from Mexico with a case of intestinal worms. I read somewhere that wormwood, genus Artemesia, was good for treating worms, thus the name. Back then we had a barnyard full of Artemesia annua, Sweet Wormwood, so I began "cleaning myself out" each time I returned home by fixing up strong teas of Sweet Wormwood. At least, I thought I was cleaning out the worms.

Now that I can research the matter, I find a 2011 paper by JF Ferreira et al stating that ethanolic extracts of Sweet Wormwood do kill trematodes, which are parasitic "flukes," but not the intestinal worms I used to get in Mexico. In fact, that article states that aqueous solutions of Sweet Wormwood -- and my "teas" were aqueous solutions -- showed no activity.

Several Artemesia species do demonstrate anti-worm properties -- are "anthelmintic" -- but Artemesia annua isn't one of them.

Last year some friends sent me some Sweet Wormwood seeds from Kentucky, I grew them, and because over the years I'd taken a fancy to Sweet Wormwood tea, I dried the plants, hung them next to Juniper House's kitchen door, and now from time to time I reach out the door, break off a sprig, steep it in boiling water awhile, and have "wormwood tea," whether it keeps me free of intestinal parasites or not. Below you can see my kitchen-door stash of wormwood:

Sweet Wormwood, ARTEMISIA ANNUA, dried and ready for tea

A close-up of Sweet Wormwood's tiny flower heads appears below:

Sweet Wormwood, ARTEMISIA ANNUA, flower heads

Tea made from Sweet Wormwood is anything but sweet. It's fairly bitter and medicinal tasting, and most people would despise it. However, in my lifestyle and with my frame of mind, sometimes it just hits the spot.

The question is whether it might be medicinal even if it doesn't keep me worm free, or might wormwood tea even be bad for me.

Some years ago it was discovered that Sweet Wormwood contains the compound artemisinin and certain flavonoids that can be effective against malaria. It's been shown that artemisinin is indeed useful against malaria, but it's still debated whether simple teas will do any good. Beyond that, you may be interested in browsing a webpage entitled "The Most Important Medicinal Herb in the World," because they're talking about Sweet Wormwood, Artemesia annua. The page can be accessed here..

On that page, besides its use against malaria, we read that in traditional Chinese medicine Sweet Wormwood is used for fevers, bleeding and for conditions of the digestive tract like flatulence and diarrhea.

I find no reports of it producing toxic effects, though it is suggested that pregnant women and people taking certain medicines avoid it. I drink it only occasionally, when I feel like something bitter and somehow "cleansing," so I'll continue my occasional brews of snippings of the stash beside the kitchen door.