what is wormwood used for

What Is Wormwood Used For?

Last modified on April 5th, 2024

Wormwood is an herb that has been used since ancient times as a treatment for many common ailments and a flavoring for a popular spirit called absinthe.

Wormwood is native to a variety of habitats in Africa, Europe, and Asia, it also grows wild in some parts of the United States.

The plant’s rich history as a “cure-all” of sorts has led to many scientific studies to evaluate the claims of ancient medical practitioners.

Studies have shown that wormwood shows promise in the potential treatment of a variety of diseases which will be discussed in this article. All-in-all it is an impressive herb with an impressive history that may be beneficial to sufferers of certain conditions.

What is Wormwood?

Wormwood is a perennial herb in the family Asteraceae: it is described as being a 1-3 endemic foot shrub (native to) parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa.

It has silky leaves and grayish-green or white stems, and it is cultivated widely in its native range and worldwide for its medicinal properties and as the main flavoring for the alcoholic beverage absinthe.

Many other related plants, such as tarragon and chamomile, are known for their culinary and medicinal properties.

The earliest recorded usage dates back to Roman times, when it was used as a medicinal plant to cure aches and pains; it was also used by ancient Egyptians as an antiseptic.

More recent historical usages, such as traditional European medicine, indicate the plant was used to treat everything from pain to impaired cognitive function and irritable bowel syndrome.

The most notable use was sparked when a Swiss inventor in the 1700s created Absinthe. This bitter, green, alcoholic beverage was immensely popular until fears about Absinthism, a syndrome allegedly caused by the spirit, arose in the early 1900s.

Recent studies have shown that thujone, the chemical compound responsible for absinthism that occurs in the essential oil of wormwood, does not occur in high enough doses to cause such harmful conditions. As a result, Absinthe is becoming a popular drink again, and wormwood is no longer considered dangerous in standard dosages.

What does Wormwood Do?

The plant has been studied in various settings for an extensive list of conditions.

There are many potential benefits of wormwood: neuroprotection, digestive tract health benefits, pain relief, and relief from certain autoimmune conditions.

This herb has a symptom-reducing effect for a diverse set of conditions, but make sure to speak with your healthcare provider before starting any new medication or herbal supplement.


Traditional European medicinal practices suggested using wormwood to clear the mind and aid in memory and cognitive health. Research has shown that wormwood contains many bioactive compounds, such as vitamin C, tannins, carotenoids, and flavonoids. These compounds all work differently to assist in whole-body health and brain health.

Vitamin C is a noted neuroprotective agent is it is a powerful antioxidant that destroys free radicals. Free radicals are molecules short of an electron that damage the body’s cells in pursuit of an electron to create a balance.

These damaging reactions are thought to be the cause of many neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, and memory loss associated with aging. Free radicals cause oxidative stress, which may also play a role in causing strokes. Vitamin C works as an electron donor, neutralizing the free radicals before they can cause cellular damage and oxidative stress.

Tannins are natural compounds found in many plants. Some studies suggest that tannins may assist in the prevention of certain cancers; they may also have an antioxidant effect similar to Vitamin C. Tannins may provide a number of health benefits, including reducing the risk of infection, lowering blood pressure, and decreasing the risk of oxidative damage.

Carotenoids are thought to reduce the risk of certain conditions and cancers. They are particularly useful in promoting eye health and are also thought to be antioxidant compounds that assist in neuroprotection.

A major carotenoid, beta-carotene, is converted by the body into vitamin A, which is known for its health benefits.

Flavonoids are naturally occurring plant compounds with many potential health benefits, such as the decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and anti-cancer effects.

These compounds are also thought to reduce the risk of neurodegenerative disorders with their antioxidant properties.

Wormwood is rich in many different compounds, all of which have suggested neurological benefits due to their strong antioxidant capabilities. It is important to remember to understand proper dosages of any supplement so that you don’t take too much of a compound. Improper consumption may reduce the health benefits or even potentially cause harm.


Wormwood and wormwood extracts have been used for centuries alongside other bitter-tasting herbs to facilitate proper digestion and promote gastrointestinal health. Digestion is an extremely complicated process requiring almost all of the body’s systems to work together; a study of encapsulated wormwood and wormwood extract added to water describes wormwood’s efficacy as a potential symptom reducer of dyspepsia(indigestion).

Pain Relief

Traditionally, wormwood was used to treat common aches and pains; recent studies have found that wormwood may be useful in relieving pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.

Both studies exhibited improved pain and tenderness from the wormwood supplementation or topical application.

Another recent finding suggests that wormwood has potential anti-inflammatory effects, which can reduce the pain and swelling associated with different types of arthritis.

Using natural aids such as wormwood reduces the need for steroids and artificially produced medications, which are considered beneficial by some.

Autoimmune Disorders

Studies have also shown that wormwood may effectively treat gastrointestinal disorders such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which manifests in one of two categories: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome can be debilitating to sufferers of the condition- it makes life extremely difficult and sometimes restricts sufferers of the condition to staying in their homes because of the pain and fears of not being able to make it to the bathroom in time.

Crohn’s disease most often affects the colon and the lower end of the small intestine(ileum); it may cause complications such as inflammation, bowel obstruction, ulcers, and fistulas (tunnels through the skin or other organs that may develop into life-threatening abscesses), and colon cancer.

This condition is associated with various symptoms such as diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramping, fatigue, reduced appetite and/or weight loss.

Ulcerative Colitis may have similar symptoms to Crohn’s disease and cause similar complications.

Flare-ups of these diseases may be gradual or appear suddenly; there is no cure for Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative Colitis, but treatments and therapies may help put sufferers into long-term remission. Studies in 2007 and 2010 suggest that wormwood may assist in reducing symptoms of Crohn’s disease and may even help sufferers achieve long-term remission of symptoms.

Disease Prevention

Wormwood was used in ancient medicine to cure worms, and scientists are now studying its uses as an antimicrobial and antiparasitic medication.

Wormwood has been used for years as a strong antimalarial due to certain chemical compounds that attack parasitic cells.

Wormwood has also been studied as an anticancer medication and has shown some success in treating lung and especially colorectal cancer.

The general safety of using wormwood has offered many research opportunities to prevent and treat a wide assortment of diseases.

Wormwood’s antioxidant capabilities may assist in preventing many neurodegenerative diseases and cancers by protecting from oxidative damage.

Studies have shown that wormwood is a powerful medication when used properly. It is always a good idea to consult with your healthcare provider before beginning any new supplement or medication to ensure that you take a safe and effective dosage.

How to Use Wormwood

Wormwood is available for purchase in many different forms, such as powders, dried roots or leaves, capsules, extracts, ointments, creams, and teas.

You may also notice that different species of wormwood can be purchased, such as Sweet Wormwood (Artemisia Annua), Mugwort(Artemisia Vulgaris), and Common Wormwood(Artemisia Absinthium).

All of these varieties of species and forms of wormwood can be used in different ways to target specific conditions that may affect you.

Researching and consulting with your healthcare provider to determine if wormwood may benefit you is a good idea. It should be noted that the essential oil of wormwood is toxic and should not be applied topically or consumed.

Taking wormwood orally (by consuming extracts, teas, or capsules) may assist sufferers of Crohn’s disease and reduce symptoms, potentially causing long-term remission.

Wormwood contains many biologically active compounds that may prevent neurodegenerative diseases and certain cancers by reducing the risk of oxidative stress.

In places where malaria is a health risk, wormwood teas and supplements are being tested as cures for the mosquito-borne illness, this is an extremely important development as wormwood is widely cultivated and could be used to safely and cheaply treat sufferers of malaria that could not otherwise afford costly treatments.

When taking wormwood orally it is important to consult with your healthcare provider concerning dosages to ensure the safety and efficacy of your chosen way to consume wormwood.

Topical uses of wormwood most notably include treating the pain associated with osteoarthritis.

Wormwood ointments and creams possess anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects that may reduce the pain and swelling caused by minor cuts, scrapes, and bug bites. It may also be used to treat certain skin disorders.

When applying wormwood topically, it is important to note that if any rashes or skin irritation occurs, you should discontinue the wormwood and consult your medical provider to determine if topical wormwood is safe for you.

Common Wormwood is the species that gives absinthe its distinctive taste and color. Aside from its use as a flavoring, common wormwood has been studied and is shown to assist in treating chronic inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative colitis; it also may assist in reducing the pain associated with osteoarthritis when used as a topical medication.

When used in chronic inflammatory bowel diseases, common wormwood extract may reduce the need for steroidal treatments and may be more effective than steroids in reducing symptoms and putting patients into remission.

It may also increase the Tumor Necrosis Factor in sufferers of Crohn’s disease, which can improve a patient’s condition and expedite healing.

Sweet Wormwood has been used in various studies and has shown promise in treating malaria and other parasitic infections. It may also show promise as an anti-inflammatory medication and is known to have antioxidant effects that can assist in preventing cancers and neurodegenerative diseases.

Sweet Wormwood extract has also shown promise in treating a wide array of cancers; studies suggest it may also treat and reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

Mugwort was used in traditional Vietnamese medicine to reduce hypertension(high blood pressure), and it has been shown to have both constrictive and relaxant effects on the circulatory system, depending on certain compounds tested alongside the mugwort.

Recently, it has been shown to have a variety of health benefits, including anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and antioxidant effects. Mugwort has also been proven to be a source of antimalarial medications.

The anticancer effects of mugwort have been tested on colon cancer patients, and studies have shown that mugwort may reduce the spread and growth potential of cancer cells.

How Do You Choose the Best Wormwood?

If you choose to begin consuming wormwood or using it topically, you will be presented with various options that you should consult with your healthcare provider about because they can provide insight into the potential benefits and risks of a particular species or wormwood.

Supplementation is often a very popular option for people who wish to avoid the engineering and human impact of medications, but it is very important to speak with your healthcare provider before taking any supplements.

Here are a few guides on taking any medication, vitamin, or supplement.

Ensure your supplement is certified by a credible organization for safety and compliance with the quality rules and standards set by organizations such as the FDA, GMP, and USDA, and check for third-party testing.

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) certifies the safety and efficacy of a product, as well as ensuring the facility complies with the quality and purity standards. GMP(Good  Management Practices) certifications ensure that the supplement facility follows strict safety and quality guidelines for each supplement produced. If you wish to take organic supplements, it is a good idea to ensure that they are certified by the United States Department of Agriculture to ensure they follow all the protocols for organic supplements.

Third-Party Testing means that the supplement has been studied by another laboratory to ensure safety and efficacy.

Ensure you are familiar with the dosage so you don’t take too much of the supplement. It is a good idea to research and consult with your medical provider to ensure you take the proper dosage.

This is very important with wormwood supplements, as too much wormwood can cause negative health effects.

If you have allergies or other dietary restrictions, there are supplements that follow strict guidelines to ensure no allergens.

Some companies ensure that their products are vegan or vegetarian, and they may be certified as such. There are many different supplement companies; make sure you take the time to find one that is right for you.

A final aspect of research you can complete is looking at the reviews of supplements.

Verified purchases often show an accurate overview of what to expect from your purchase and how well it worked for them.

Remember that different medications affect people differently, so it is always best to consult your healthcare provider if you have questions about how safe the supplement may be for you.

Can You Take Too Much Wormwood?

Wormwood is a very useful and beneficial herb when used in appropriate quantities, but it is also very toxic if consumed in excess.

The main culprit in causing wormwood to be toxic is a compound called thujone, in larger doses it can cause hallucinations, liver damage, epileptic seizures, kidney damage, and other neurotoxic effects.

This is true for many members of the Asteraceae family, such as sage.

There are ways to prevent thujone toxicity; it is a fairly simple method.

Speak with your doctor about your diet and how adding wormwood may affect it. Don’t be afraid to ask your medical provider questions; they will happily answer them and keep you safe.

Be familiar with proper dosages of wormwood, and do not take it if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Historically, absinthe was considered dangerous due to the wormwood it contains, but alcohol has been proven to be the culprit in most absinthe-related illnesses because the spirit is about 75% alcohol by volume.

Wormwood is considered safe when consumed in proper dosages and has many potential benefits when used properly.

Do not ingest or use oil of wormwood topically, this essential contains about 33% thujone which is not a safe amount.

There are many reported cases of wormwood oil causing convulsions, confusion, and even kidney failure, so avoiding this particular type of wormwood is very important.

Supplements and teas made of wormwood should not contain such high doses of thujone and are considered safe when taken in lower doses.

Tips for Buying and Using Wormwood

Wormwood is available for purchase at many different vitamin and herb stores and online. It is a very good idea to remember to research the wormwood you are buying to ensure that it follows safety and purity guidelines. Here are a few tips:

  • Always consult with your healthcare provider to find the best wormwood for you.
  • Read about the wormwood and check for certifications.
  • Learn where the wormwood is from if you are concerned about sourcing.
  • Read the reviews on wormwood products to determine how previous purchasers of the product feel about it.
  • After you purchase the wormwood, ensure you know the safe and effective dose.
  • Do not take wormwood if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Discontinue use if you begin experiencing negative reactions and consult your medical provider.

Stay informed and do research. It is very important to ask your medical provider questions you have, as they can provide insight into your personal health that generalized articles and studies cannot.

Final Thoughts

Wormwood is a very useful and beneficial herb with a complicated history.

People have used it for centuries, even thousands of years, to treat everything from minor aches and pains to worms and certain diseases. More recently, it has been shown to be a neuroprotective agent that can cure malaria and assist in reducing the pain associated with different types of arthritis.

This herb has a diverse set of uses, from medicine to flavorings, and remains a popular subject of health studies.

The benefits of wormwood may be negated if you take it in doses that are too high, so it is exceedingly important and necessary to speak with your healthcare provider to develop a plan to maximize your health.

Wormwood may be a very powerful addition to your health maintenance plan, but it is always a good idea to speak with a medical professional to fully understand the potential benefits and risks.

As always, thank you for reading, feel free to contact us if you have questions or personal experiences pertaining to wormwood that you would like to share!

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