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Artemisia Absinthium


Picture courtesy of J.S. Peterson @ USDA-NRCSLANTS Database

Authors: Lana Dvorkin PharmD, Julia Whelan MS
Overview
A European herbal remedy brought to the New World by the Spanish. A perennial herb up to 1 meter high; the leaves are feathery and silvery in color with pale yellow flowers. A very bitter plant, extracts are used as food additives such as seasonings for food and drinks, especially in a bitter tonic used for dyspepsia and bile disorders. Can stimulate appetite. A hot water infusion is taken before meals or as a chololagogue after the meal. Traditionally wormwood has been used to flavor absinthe, vermouth, and other alcoholic beverages, but has been banned due to the CNS toxicity of the constituent, thujone. Painter Vincent Van Gogh produced some of his masterpieces under the influence of absinthe. According to Aztec religious practice the plant belongs to Tlaloc the god of water and rain. And was used to remedy illness involving too much water in the body: epilepsy, gout, and leprosy. In celebrations honoring this god, children were fanned with this herb to protect from intestinal parasites
Historical Uses
Aphrodisiac, flavoring for alcohol, tonic, antispasmodic, indigestion, loss of appetite, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, insecticide. The infusion is used as febrifuge, vermifuge and emmenagogue, hepato-protective, gall bladder complaints, for flatulence, and as a diaphoretic
Distribution
Originally from Euorpe and western Asia, presently in parts of Asia, North and South America. The main commercial source is Eastern Europe. Spaniards brought the plant to Mexico where it started to grow wild as a weed. There is now confusion among Mexicans between several related plants
Active Ingredients
Bitter principles (absinthin and anabsinthin), volatile oil (70% thujone) Antimicrobial activity of volatile oils, 14 phenolic acids, caffeic acid, ferulic acid, sinapic acid, p-hydroxyphenol acidid acid, vanillic acid, salicylic acid, p-coumaric acid responsible for some therapeutic effects Absinthin artabsin are sesque terpines lactones Sesque terpinoids alpha tujone, beta tujone, chrysanthenyl acetate Thujone enhances the effect of alcohol but at high doses acts as convulsant poison
Proven Scientific Evidence
There is no data on effectiveness; Research shows promise of antioxidant, antimicrobial and antifungal activity. Phenolic acids are responsible for choleretic and cholagogic effects Effect of aqueous extract investigated against Tylenol and CCL4 induced hepatic damage. Pretreatment of rats with plant extract prevented rise in serum transamanases. Post treatment restricted hepatic damage with Tylenol but not CCL4.Crude extract exhibits hepatic protective action partly through microsomal drug metabolizing enzymes. Inhibits MDME. Under investigation as an anti-malarial
Dosage Information
A typical dose is one cup of tea before eating. In US it may be used in foods up to 0.024% provided the extract is thujone free. Rated possibly safe if used orally for a short term
Toxicities
Safe in moderation, but large doses are toxic! Poisoning leads to seizures, delirium, and hallucinations and DEATH. Mind-altering effects similar to tetrahydrocannabinol. Also can cause dermatitis and allergic reactions. Use of large amounts can produce restlessness, insomnia, nightmares, vomiting, intestinal cramps, dizziness, tremors, urinary retention, renal damage and convulsions. Absinthism, a group of symptoms, presents with digestive symptoms: thirst, restlessness, vertigo, tremor, numbness of extremities, diminished intellect, delirium paralysis and death. Interactions with acid inhibiting drugs and anticonvulsants
Where Sold
Botanicas
Links
Botanical.com: A Modern Herbal by Maude Grieve
HerbMed
Herbal Safety, University of Texas
References

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20. Meschler JP, Howlett AC. Thujone exhibits low affinity for cannabinoid receptors but fails to evoke cannabimimetic responses. Pharmacology, Biochemistry & Behavior. 1999;62:473-480.

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