Artemisia Absinthium

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

Authors: Lana Dvorkin PharmD, Julia Whelan MS
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
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
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
Botanical.com: A Modern Herbal by Maude Grieve
Herbal Safety, University of Texas

1. Jellin JM. Natural medicines comprehensive database pharmacist's letter. prescriber's letter. Stockton, CA: Therapeutic Research Faculty.

2. Wyk vB, Wink M. Medicinal Plants of the World: An Illustrated Scientific Guide to Important Medicinal Plants and their Uses. Portland Oregon: Timber Press; 2004.

3. DeStefano A. Latino Folk Medicine: Healing Herbal Remedies from Ancient Traditions. Ballantine; 2001.

4. Melendez EN. Plantas Medicinales De Puerto Rico. Vol 1. 1st ed. Rio Pedras, PR: Editorial de la Universidad de Puerto Rico; 1982.

5. Davidow J. Infusions of Healing: A Treasury of Mexican-American Herbal Remedies. New York: Fireside; 1999.

6. Germosén-Robineau L, Enda-Caribe, Universidad de Antioquía. Hacia Una Farmacopea Caribeña : Investigacion Cientifica y Uso Popular De Plantas Medicinales En El Caribe. Santo Domingo; Enda-Caribo: Republica Dominicana; UAG & Universidad de Antioquia; 1995.

7. Li Y, Ohizumi Y. Pharmacological active substances from paraguayan medicinal plants. Pharmacometrics. 2004;66:133-139.

8. Kim D-, Na H-, Oh TY, Kim W-, Surh Y-. Eupatilin, a pharmacologically active flavone derived from artemisia plants, induces cell cycle arrest in ras-transformed human mammary epithelial cells. Biochemical Pharmacology. 2004;68:1081-1087.

9. Skyles AJ, Sweet BV. Wormwood. American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy. Vol. 2004;61:Date of Pubaton: 01 FEB 2004.

10. Rinner B, Siegl V, Purstner P, et al. Activity of novel plant extracts against medullary thyroid carcinoma cells. Anticancer Research. 2004;24:495-500.

11. Muto T, Watanabe T, Okamura M, Moto M, Kashida Y, Mitsumori K. Thirteen-week repeated dose toxicity study of wormwood (artemisia absinthium) extract in rats. J Toxicol Sci. 2003;28:471-478.

12. Walker JM. The bitter remedy. European Journal of Herbal Medicine. 2003;6:28-33.

13. Ramos A, Visozo A, Piloto J, Garcia A, Rodriguez CA, Rivero R. Screening of antimutagenicity via antioxidant activity in cuban medicinal plants. .

14. Oliveira FQ. Junqueira RG. Stehmann JR. Branda~o MGL. Potential of medicinal plants as source of new antimalarials: Species indicated in brazilian ethnomedical bibliography. Revista Brasileira de Plantas Medicinais. 2003;5/2.

15. Juteau F, Jerkovic I, Masotti V, et al. Composition and antimicrobial activity of the essential oil of artemisia absinthium from croatia and france. Planta Med. 2003;69:158-161.

16. Bnouham M, Mekhfi H, Legssyer A, Ziyyat A. Medicinal plants used in the treatment of diabetes in morocco. International Journal of Diabetes & Metabolism. 2002;10:33-50.

17. Ghedini PC, Dorigoni PA, Almeida CE, Ethur ABM, Lopes AMV, Zachia RA. Survey of data on medicinal plants of popular use in the county of Sa~o Joa~o do polesine, rio grande do sul state, brazil. Revista Brasileira de Plantas Medicinais. 2002;5:46-55.

18. Erdogrul OT. Antibacterial activities of some plant extracts used in folk medicine. Pharmaceutical Biology. 2002;40:269-273.

19. Swiatek L, Grabias B, Kalembra D. Phenolic acids in certain medicinal plants of the genus artemisia. Pharmaceutical & Pharmacological Letters. 1998;8:158-160.

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.

21. Gilani AH, Hussain Janbaz K. Preventive and curative effects of artemisia absinthium on acetaminophen and CCl<inf>4</inf>-induced hepatotoxicity. General Pharmacology. 1995;26:309-315.

22. Mukherjee T. Antimalarial herbal drugs. A review. Fitoterapia. 1991;62:197-204.



home BUSM