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Last modified on August 25th, 2020
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.
Wormwood’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 wormwood 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 foot shrub that is endemic (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 across the world for its medicinal properties and as the main flavoring for the alcoholic beverage absinthe. Many other plants that are related to wormwood such as tarragon and chamomile are known for their culinary and medicinal properties.
The earliest recorded usage of wormwood dates back to Roman times where 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 that wormwood was used to treat everything from pain to impaired cognitive function and irritable bowel syndrome.
The most notable use of wormwood 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?
Wormwood has been studied in a variety of different 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 a large number of 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, this may also play a role in causing strokes. Vitamin C works as an electron donor which neutralizes 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. Carotenoids are particularly useful in the promotion of eye health; they 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 which all 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 because 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 wormwoods efficacy as a potential symptom reducer of dyspepsia(indigestion).
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. These studies both exhibited an improvement in pain and tenderness from the supplementation or topical application of wormwood. 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.
Studies have also shown that wormwood may be effective in treating 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 stay 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 which may develop into life-threatening abscesses), and colon cancer. This condition is associated with an array of 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 may cause similar complications as well. Flare-ups of these diseases may be gradual or they may 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 of the disease achieve long term remission of symptoms.
Wormwood was used in ancient medicine as a cure for worms, and scientists are now studying its uses as an antimicrobial and antiparasitic medication. Wormwood has been used for some years now 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 cancer and especially colorectal cancer. The general safety of using wormwood has offered many research opportunities in the prevention and treatment of a wide assortment of diseases. The antioxidant capabilities of wormwood may assist in preventing many neurodegenerative diseases and cancers by protecting from oxidative damage.
Wormwood has been shown by studies to be 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 are taking 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, and even in capsules, extracts, ointments, creams, and teas. You may also notice that there are different species of wormwood that 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. It is a good idea to research and consult with your healthcare provider to determine if wormwood may be beneficial to you. It should be noted that 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 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 and scrapes, and bug bites. It may also be used to treat certain skin disorders. It is important to note when applying wormwood topically that if any rashes or skin irritation occurs, you should discontinue the use of 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, but 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 a variety of 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), it has been shown to have both constrictive and relaxant effects on the circulatory system depending on certain compounds that were 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 been proven to be a source of antimalarial medications as well. 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 a variety of 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 form of wormwood. Oftentimes supplementation is a very popular option for people who wish to avoid the engineering and human impact on 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.
Make sure 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, 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 facility producing the supplement follows strict safety and quality guidelines for each supplement that is produced. If you wish to take organic supplements, it is a good idea to ensure that these supplements 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.
Check to ensure you are familiar with the dosage so that you don’t take too much of the supplement. It is a good idea to research and consult with your medical provider to ensure that you are taking 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 out their that follow strict guidelines to ensure that there are no allergens. There are also companies that make sure 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. Keep in mind that all people are affected differently by different medications, 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 you consume too much. 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. Make sure to speak with your doctor about your diet and how adding wormwood may affect it. Don’t be afraid to ask your medical provider questions as they will be happy to 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 it 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 it is very important to avoid this particular type of wormwood. 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, as well as 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, make sure you know the safe and effective dose for you.
- 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 provide.
What are the Best Wormwood Supplements?
There are many supplements out there that may provide all the health benefits of wormwood, here we have compiled a few to help you get started on your search for wormwood. Remember to always speak with your healthcare professional to make sure wormwood is safe for you.
- Good source of vitamins and minerals like potassium and vitamin C.
- Contains tannins
- Certified USDA Organic
- No artificial colors or flavors
This wormwood tea may provide support for gastrointestinal health, as well as providing a good source of necessary vitamins and minerals. This tea may help with cognition and neuroprotection, and may improve digestion. This tea is very bitter because it is made from wormwood so it may not be for those who don’t like bitter tasting supplements.
- Tested for Safety and Efficacy
- Clean Manufacturing Practices
- Sustainably Made
Thorne Research’s supplement may help support healthy digestion. It accomplishes this by assisting in managing a healthy gut microbiome which are the good bacteria that aid in digestion. This product may also regulate enzyme secretion and provide balance in the gastrointestinal system. This product is free from all common allergens and is manufactured and tested in a sustainable and safe facility in Charleston, SC.
- Alcohol-Free Extract
- FDA Registered and Certified Facility
- Non-Genetically Modified, and Gluten-Free
Hawaii Pharm’s wormwood extract may aid with gastrointestinal health and may provide benefits to those suffering from inflammatory bowel syndrome. This supplement is alcohol and gluten-free, it is produced in an FDA recognized facility. The reviews on this extract say that it leaves the with a clean and relaxed feeling. It is made with wormwood from Hungary and claims to provide rapid absorption with maximum efficacy.
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!