Artemisia absinthia

Family: Asteraceae
Genus: Artemesia
Species: absinthia

Synonyms and Common names: Lad's love, Boy's love, Old man, Appleringie.

Description and Habitat: Wormwood is a native of the South of Europe, found indigenous in Spain and Italy. It is a familiar and favourite plant in our gardens although it does go by the name of Wormwood here in Britain.

The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, requires well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It requires dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought. It is found on the edges of fields, in woodlands and almost anywhere in the countryside.

Wormwood has an unpleasant odour, very similar to sage but not quite as pleasant.  The stems and leaves are usually covered with silky grey hairs, especially when the plant is young.   Its stems are grooved and branched almost from top to bottom, it grows in clusters of several upright stems from one taproot.   Plants tend to be up to five feet tall and up to two feet wide.

The leaves are olive green on top and white below and covered with silky grey hairs, the leaves are around one to five inches long and are deeply lobed.   Leaves are spirally arranged on the stem.

Flowers are small yellow and disc-shaped, arranged in a leafy spike at the top of the stems.

The lower stems and the base of the herb are usually woody.  Flowers are present from July to September.

Parts used: Aerial parts.

Harvesting: Because Wormwood rarely flowers and sets seeds it is propagated by cutting. Do not prune or harvest after midsummer, this makes sure that new growth has time to harden before winter.  Harvest by cutting off branches in spring and Summer and drying them in bunches or in paper bags hung upside down. The feathery leaves yield only a small amount of dried material but the aroma is very strong.

Constituents: Volatile oil with bitter sesquiterpene lactones.

Actions: Bitter digestive tonic, emmenagogue, anthelmintic, antiseptic, uterine stimulant, chlorotropic.

Indications: Delayed menstruation, threadworms in children.

Therapeutics and Pharmacology: Wormwood encourages menstruation (Culpeper 1653), is antiseptic and kills intestinal worms.  It was used to treat liver, spleen and stomach problems.  It is seldom used medicinally today, except in Germany, where poultices are placed on wounds, splinters and skin conditions and it is employed occasionally to treat frostbite.  Its constituents have been shown to stimulate the gallbladder and bile, which improves digestion and liver functions.  The leaves are mixed with other herbs in aromatic baths and are said to counter sleepiness.  An infusion of the leaves is said to work as a natural insect repellent when applied to the skin or if used as a hair rinse is said to combat dandruff.

Contraindications: Should be avoided during pregnancy due to its stimulating action on the uterine muscles.

Preparation and Dosage:
: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1 - 2 teaspoonfuls of the dried herb and leave to infuse for 10 - 15 minutes in a closed container. This should be drunk three times a day.
Tincture: take 1 - 4 ml of the tincture three times a day.

Wormwood rose and lavender moth repellent
2 cups dried lavender buds
1 cup dried rose leaves
1 cup dried wormwood
2 drops of oil of roses
Crush all the ingredients together, cover, and cure in a small covered bag or pot for 4 weeks. Shake up the contents every day or two. Divide among small muslin bags, tie the bags, and place them among the woollens.

Additional Comments & Folklore: The scent of Wormwood repellent to insects.  The French call it garden robe because when it is laid among clothes it repels moths.

It was traditionally believed to ward off infection and, up until the early part of last century, a bunch of wormwood and rue was placed at the side of a prisoner in the dock to prevent the contagion of jail fever.

Women used to carry sprigs of the herb for its pungent odour, which they hoped might keep them awake during church services.  The foliage is used in aromatic vinegars, floral waters and incense.

The Romans believed it protected men from impotence. It is also said that young men in areas like Spain and Italy rubbed fresh wormwood leaves on their faces to promote the growth of a beard.

In rural areas, where wormwood was known as Lad's Love and Maid's Ruin, the herb acquired a reputation for increasing young men's virility. It was popularly employed in love potions and adolescent boys rubbed an ointment on their cheeks to speed up the growth of facial hair.  It is associated with sexual appeal and has been used by males to attempt to increase their virility.  Wormwood was put under mattresses in Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome for its aphrodisiacal properties to rouse lust in its occupants. Its common nickname, Lad's Love, refers to the habit of including a spray of the plant in country bouquets presented by lovers to their lasses in order to seduce them.

Absinthe was first made as a health tonic in the 1700s and was composed of a variety of different herbs.    The tonic was often used as a pain reliever and since it was a ‘folk cure’ it had a multitude of different recipes.

As absinthe continued to evolve it became mostly know for the ‘Holy Trinity’ of fennel, anise and wormwood.   By the late 1800’s it was both a curative potion and a libation, and there was a general consent of how absinthe was made.

For a long time, absinthe was illegal in Europe, most companies that made absinthe were closed down due to the hallucinogenic reputation it had.

This resulted in that most people stopped producing absinthe, and recipes were lost or forgotten.

Wormwood used for hallucinogenic absinthe will have a compound called thujone, and it goes by the scientific name artemisia absinthium.   Hallucinogenic wormwood is also known as "grand wormwood," and is part of the flavouring profile of quality absinthe.

It is neither easy nor quick to make Absinthe, requiring both the tools to make an Infusion and to make a Spirit.

To make Absinthe you will need to find a recipe, it is difficult to find one in Britain, although an online search will find recipes which may make a worthwhile spirit.  Although I don’t personally recommend making Absinthe, I nevertheless wish you good luck with this one!!!