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Vermouth

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  • Botanical: Artemisia absinthium
  • Family: Asteraceae
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Vermouth

Botanical

Artemisia absinthium

Family

Asteraceae

Known as

Vermouth, Absinthium, Absinthe, Wormwood, Common wormwood, Green Ginger, Absinth, Aetsch, Bermet, Bitterals, Else, Eisenkraut, Gottvergesse, Hilligbitter, Magenkraut, Mottenstock, Würmut, Wiegenkraut

Parts Used

flowers, herb, leaves, twigs

Aroma

camphorus, earthy, medicinal, warm, woody

Medicinal

bad breath, blood cleansing, blood forming, bursitis, circulation, earache, flatulence, jaundice, kidney weakness, menstruation promotion, weakness, wounds, worm

Heart & Circulation

blood cleansing, blood forming, circulation

Hormone & Sexual Organs

menstruation promotion

Infection & Inflammation

earache

Mind & Nerves

weakness

Stomach & Intestinal

bad breath, flatulence, kidney weakness, worm

Skin & Hair

bruises, bursitis, jaundice, wounds

Note

base

Extraction

steam distillation

Description

Artemisia absinthium is a herbaceous, perennial plant with fibrous roots. The stems are straight, growing to 0.8–1.2 metres (2 ft 7 in–3 ft 11 in) (rarely 1.5 m, but, sometimes even larger) tall, grooved, branched, and silvery-green. The leaves are spirally arranged, greenish-grey above and white below, covered with silky silvery-white trichomes, and bearing minute oil-producing glands; the basal leaves are up to 25 cm long, bipinnate to tripinnate with long petioles, with the cauline leaves (those on the stem) smaller, 5–10 cm long, less divided, and with short petioles; the uppermost leaves can be both simple and sessile (without a petiole).

Its flowers are pale yellow, tubular, and clustered in spherical bent-down heads (capitula), which are in turn clustered in leafy and branched panicles. Flowering is from early summer to early autumn; pollination is anemophilous. The fruit is a small achene; seed dispersal is by gravity.

It grows naturally on uncultivated, arid ground, on rocky slopes, and at the edge of footpaths and fields.

Properties & Uses

Wormwood is a very bitter plant with a long history of use as a medicinal herb. It is valued especially for its tonic effect on the liver, gallbladder and digestive system, and for its vermicidal activity. It is an extremely useful medicine for those with weak and under-active digestion. It increases stomach acid and bile production, improving digestion and the absorption of nutrients. It also eases wind and bloating and, if taken regularly, helps the body return to full vitality after a prolonged illness.

The leaves and flowering shoots are anthelmintic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antitumor, carminative, cholagogue, emmenagogue, febrifuge, hypnotic, stimulant, stomachic, tonic and vermifuge. The plant is harvested as it is coming into flower and then dried for later use. Use with caution, the plant should be taken internally in small doses for short-term treatment only, preferably under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. It should not be prescribed for children or pregnant women. See also the notes above on toxicity. The extremely bitter leaves are chewed to stimulate the appetite.

The bitter taste on the tongue sets off a reflex action, stimulating stomach and other digestive secretions. The leaves have been used with some success in the treatment of anorexia nervosa. The plant is applied externally to bruises and bites. A warm compress has been used to ease sprains and strained muscles. A homeopathic remedy is made from the leaves. It is used to stimulate bile and gastric juice production and to treat disorders of the liver and gall bladder. 

Other Uses

The fresh or dried shoots are said to repel insects and mice, they have been laid amongst clothing to repel moths and have also been used as a strewing herb. An infusion of the plant is said to discourage slugs and insects. The plant contains substances called sesquiterpene lactones, these are strongly insecticidal.

Cautions

The plant is poisonous if used in large quantities. Even small quantities have been known to cause nervous disorders, convulsions, insomnia etc. Just the scent of the plant has been known to cause headaches and nervousness in some people. The plant contains thujone. In small quantities this acts as a brain stimulant but is toxic in excess. Avoid if prone to seizures. Avoid during pregnancy & breast feeding. Absinthism adverse effects include hallucinations, insomnia, loss of intellect, psychosis, tremor & seizures

Distribution

Temperate regions of Europe and Asia, including Britain, north to Lapland and Siberia.

Constituents

flavonoids (such as quercetin, rutin), caffeic acids, chlorogenic acid, syringic acid, salicylic acid, vanillic acid, carotenoids, coumarins, homo-diterpen peroxides, thiophene