Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) is a perennial herb native to Europe and now grown around the world. Used therapeutically for millennia, the earliest record of the plant used medicinally dates back to the time of Hippocrates.
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This potent plant has traditionally been used to rid the body of unwanted parasites, hence the name “wormwood”. The essential oil extracted from this bitter-tasting herb has many other powerful health benefits, including improving digestive health, pain management, and reduced inflammation.
Also Known As
Other common names for wormwood include:
- Green Ginger
There have been studies to test many uses for wormwood.
Crohn’s disease causes inflammation of the digestive system and is associated with unpleasant symptoms such as intense abdominal pain, diarrhea, and fatigue.
In a study with 40 adults living with Crohn’s disease, patients given 1,500 milligrams (mg) of wormwood a day experienced a reduction in symptoms of the disease and did not need as many steroids (a common Crohn’s medication) after eight weeks of supplementation.1
Another study showed that 65% of those given a wormwood supplement were “near complete remission” of the disease.2 Many Crohn’s disease patients also reported improved mood after six weeks of supplementing with 750 mg of wormwood three times a day.3
Gets Rid of Parasites
Parasites such as pinworm, roundworm, and tapeworms can infect human intestines and wreak havoc on digestive health. Humans have been using wormwood to eliminate intestinal worms for thousands of years. In fact, the name wormwood stems from its traditional use to eliminate parasites from the body.
A study published in the Journal of Helminthology showed that wormwood induces paralysis and death in these unwanted parasites in animals as effectively as leading anti-parasitic medications.4
Wormwood’s effectiveness in eliminating malaria—a fever caused by a protozoan parasite—is well-documented, too. Research shows that drinking tea made from dried wormwood leaves is the most effective anti-malarial therapy available.5 6
A recent survey showed that 61% of Americans reported experiencing at least one gastrointestinal symptom (e.g., gas, bloating, heartburn, stomach pain, constipation, and diarrhea) in the past week.7 Research shows that wormwood stimulates digestion and relieves spasms in the intestinal tract.8
Wormwood’s medicinal properties increase appetite and encourage the production of saliva and other digestive enzymes that encourage movement of the intestinal muscles, helping food move along the digestive tract to support healthy digestion.9
Since 70% of the immune system resides in the digestive tract, wormwood indirectly helps support and sustain overall health.
Pain can be debilitating and interfere with day-to-day life, including the ability to sleep, work, and enjoy life. That’s why it’s so important to find effective pain management methods.
A small clinical trial showed promising results that wormwood has potential pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory benefits.10 Patients in the study reported significant reductions in pain levels after taking 150 mg of wormwood extract twice a day over a 12-week period.
Another study found that all Artemisia species (including wormwood) are beneficial herbal remedies for pain, thanks to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.11
Arthritis and Immune Support
Inflammation is linked to many chronic diseases, acute and chronic pain, and reduced immune function. Artemisinin—a compound found in wormwood—may help reduce inflammation in the body by inhibiting the production of cytokines. Cytokines are proteins produced by the immune system that lead to inflammation in the body.
Many people supplement with wormwood to relieve the pain and swelling caused by arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis patients given wormwood extract supplements reported significant reductions in joint pain after 12 weeks of wormwood supplementation.12
The researchers found that wormwood is more effective and safer than traditional medications used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Another study showed that when 3% wormwood skin ointment is applied to sore joints three times a day, it can help reduce pain levels and improve physical function in patients with osteoarthritis.13
Possible Side Effects
Wormwood is relatively safe for short-term use (two to four weeks). Long-term (4 or more weeks) and/or taking higher amounts than recommended can cause serious side effects such as insomnia, vomiting, nausea, vertigo, hallucinations, restlessness, and seizures.
Because wormwood contains compounds that can produce toxic effects, people with the following conditions should avoid taking wormwood:
Pregnant or breastfeeding: Wormwood may cause a miscarriage.14
Epilepsy or another seizure disorder: Wormwood contains thujone—a chemical that is known to cause seizures. Wormwood may also reduce the effectiveness of some anti-seizure medications.15
Heart disease: If you are taking warfarin for cardiac health, wormwood may cause intestinal bleeding.16
Kidney disease: Wormwood is toxic to the kidneys and may lead to kidney failure17
Allergies: If you are allergic to the Asteraceae family (e.g., ragweed, marigolds), avoid wormwood, as it is in this botanical family.
Though wormwood is safe for most adults to use for a short time, it is important to discuss using it with your doctor, as it may contraindicate with certain medications. Wormwood is not safe for children.
Dosage and Preparation
There are currently no specific dosage guidelines for wormwood usage. It is important to follow all recommended dosages on the labels of commercially available wormwood products.
Wormwood is primarily taken as a tea or used in a tincture. Dried (not fresh) leaves can be used to make wormwood tea.
Wormwood tea recipe:
- Steep 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of dried wormwood leaves in one cup (250 mL) of boiling water
- Steep for 5-10 minutes; the longer you steep, the more bitter the flavor
- Add peppermint, honey, or lemon juice to taste (not required)
What to Look For
Wormwood is available at health food stores and online in essential oil, capsule, tablet, tincture, and liquid extract forms. It is important to follow all product label instructions carefully, due to the potentially serious side effects large amounts may cause.
The US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) lists wormwood unsafe for internal use due to the toxicity of thujone found in the plant. The FDA requires all wormwood products sold in the USA to be thujone-free to prevent wormwood-induced toxicity, so it is generally safe when found in food and beverages (including bitters and vermouth).
A Word From Verywell
Wormwood is a nutrient-dense herb that has proven benefits for people living with Crohn’s disease and arthritis. It is also effective at eliminating unwanted parasites from the body, such as pinworm and malaria, and aiding in healthy digestion.
As with any dietary supplement, it is important to speak with your healthcare provider before using wormwood, as there are no specific dosage guidelines, and they may be able to guide you to the proper form of wormwood and dosage for you and your health needs.
- Holleran G, Scaldaferri F, Gasbarrini A, Currò D. Herbal medicinal products for inflammatory bowel disease: A focus on those assessed in double-blind randomised controlled trials. Phytother Res. 2020;34(1):77-93. doi:10.1002/ptr.6517
- Omer B, Krebs S, Omer LM, Noor TO. Immune modulation by wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) – results of a double blind, placebo controlled trial on Crohn’s disease patients. Planta Med 2007;73-P_007. doi:10.1055/s-2007-986789
- Krebs S, Omer TN, Omer B. Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) suppresses tumour necrosis factor alpha and accelerates healing in patients with Crohn’s disease – A controlled clinical trial. Phytomedicine. 2010;17(5):305-9. doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2009.10.013
- Beshay EVN. Therapeutic efficacy of Artemisia absinthium against Hymenolepis nana: in vitro and in vivo studies in comparison with the anthelmintic praziquantel. J Helminthol. 2018;92(3):298-308. doi:10.1017/s0022149x17000529
- Elfawal MA, Towler MJ, Reich NG, Golenbock D, Weathers PJ, Rich SM. Dried whole plant Artemisia annua as an antimalarial therapy. PLoS One. 2012;7(12):e52746. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0052746
- Weathers PJ, Towler M, Hassanali A, Lutgen P, Engeu PO. Dried-leaf Artemisia annua: A practical malaria therapeutic for developing countries? World J Pharmacol. 2014;3(4):39-55. doi:10.5497/wjp.v3.i4.39
- Almario CV, Ballal ML, Chey WD, Nordstrom C, Khanna D, Spiegel BMR. Burden of gastrointestinal symptoms in the United States: Results of a nationally representative survey of over 71,000 Americans. Am J Gastroenterol. 2018;113(11):1701-1710. doi:10.1038/s41395-018-0256-8
- Mcmullen MK, Whitehouse JM, Whitton PA, Towell A. Bitter tastants alter gastric-phase postprandial haemodynamics. J Ethnopharmacol. 2014;154(3):719-27. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2014.04.041
- Mcmullen MK, Whitehouse JM, Towell A. Bitters: Time for a New Paradigm. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:670504.
- Stebbings S, Beattie E, Mcnamara D, Hunt S. A pilot randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial to investigate the efficacy and safety of an extract of Artemisia annua administered over 12 weeks, for managing pain, stiffness, and functional limitation associated with osteoarthritis of the hip and knee. Clin Rheumatol. 2016;35(7):1829-36. doi:10.1007/s10067-015-3110-z
- Forouzanfar F, Hosseinzadeh H. Medicinal herbs in the treatment of neuropathic pain: a review. Iran J Basic Med Sci. 2018;21(4):347-358. doi:10.22038%2FIJBMS.2018.24026.6021
- Yang M, Guo MY, Luo Y, et al. Effect of Artemisia annua extract on treating active rheumatoid arthritis: A randomized controlled trial. Chin J Integr Med. 2017;23(7):496-503. doi:10.1007/s11655-016-2650-7
- Basiri Z, Zeraati F, Esna-ashari F, et al. Topical Effects of Artemisia Absinthium Ointment and Liniment in Comparison with Piroxicam Gel in Patients with Knee Joint Osteoarthritis: A Randomized Double-Blind Controlled Trial. Iran J Med Sci. 2017;42(6):524-531.
- Hijazi AM, Salhab AS. Effects of Artemisia monosperma ethanolic leaves extract on implantation, mid-term abortion and parturition of pregnant rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 2010;128(2):446-51. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2010.01.030
- Lachenmeier DW. Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium L.)–a curious plant with both neurotoxic and neuroprotective properties?. J Ethnopharmacol. 2010;131(1):224-7. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2010.05.062
- Açıkgöz SK, Açıkgöz E. Gastrointestinal bleeding secondary to interaction of Artemisia absinthium with warfarin. Drug Metabol Drug Interact. 2013;28(3):187-9. doi:10.1515/dmdi-2013-0021
- Brown AC. Kidney toxicity related to herbs and dietary supplements: Online table of case reports. Part 3 of 5 series. Food Chem Toxicol. 2017;107(Pt A):502-519. doi:10.1016/j.fct.2016.07.024
Important Notice: This article was originally published at www.verywellhealth.com by Lindsay Curtis where all credits are due.