Wormwood

Artemisia absinthium L.

Synonym: Artemisia vulgaris Lam.

Other common names: Absinthium, absinth, madderwort, mingwort, old-woman, warmot, mugwort.

Habitat and range: Wormwood, naturalized from Europe and mostly escaped from gardens in this country, is found in waste places and along roadsides from Newfoundland to New York and westward. It is occasionally cultivated.

Description: This shrubby, aromatic, much-branched perennial of the aster family (Asteracese) is from 2 to 4 feet in height, hoary, the young shoots silvery white with fine silky hairs. The grayish-green leaves are from 2 to 5 inches long, the lower long-stalked ones two to three times divided into leaflets with lance-shaped lobes, the upper leaves gradually becoming more simple and stemless and borne on short stems and the uppermost linear with unbroken margins. The flower clusters, appearing from July to October, consist of numerous small, insignificant, drooping, flat-globular, yellow heads.

Collection, prices, and uses: When the plant is in flower the leaves and flowering tops are collected. These were official in the United States Pharmacopoeia for 1890. The price paid for wormwood is about 4 cents a pound. Wormwood has an aromatic odor and an exceedingly bitter taste, and is used as a tonic, stomachic, stimulant, against fevers, and for expelling worms.

An oil is obtained from wormwood by distillation which is the main ingredient in the dangerous liqueur known as absinth, long a popular drink in France, in which country, however, the use of the oil is now prohibited except by pharmacists in making up prescriptions.


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