Wormwood oil extracted from Artemisia absinthium, a herb that grows in the temperate regions of North Africa, Asia, and Europe. Wormwood has been used for its medicinal properties for centuries. Wormwood oil is considered toxic in its pure concentrated form. It is extracted using the steam distillation method. Only the leaves and flowering tops of the plant are used for oil extraction.
The plant Artemisia absinthium belongs to the Asteraceae family and is also known as the green ginger, wormwood, absinthium, and armoise. The medicinal properties of this plant were recognized by early civilizations. In fact, the word absinthium comes from a Greek word apsinthion. Wormwood oil has been used in the treatment of several conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion, Gall bladder inflammation and as an agent that expels intestinal parasites. Wormwood oil’s aromatic and antiseptic properties were appreciated by medical practitioners for centuries.
At the end of the eighteenth century a French doctor Dr Pierre Ordinaire invented absinthe using wormwood to treat stomach ailments. It was also used a digestive tonic in those days. Absinthe soon caught the fancy of the public and by the end of nineteenth century it had become one of the most sought after liquors in Europe. So popular had absinthe become that at one time it rivaled wine in popularity. Absinthe however, had high alcohol content and its unique effects added to its popularity. It was the favorite drink of many intellectuals, artists and painters along with the common man. Absinthe was considered as a creative stimulant and many great artists, painters and writers of the eighteenth and nineteenth century attributed their creative genius to its unique effects.
Absinthe is made using various herbs and neutral spirits; the main herb being wormwood. Thujone a chemical present in wormwood oil and other essential oils from other herbs were considered responsible for the unique effects of absinthe liquor. Thujone consumed in higher concentrations can cause hallucinations, hyper excitability, and in some cases brain damage
The late nineteenth century also saw an increase in alcohol addiction levels amongst the general population in Europe. Due to unsubstantiated rumors and misinformation, absinthe was eventually banned in most parts of Europe and North America at the beginning of the twentieth century. However, in the light of new research published in the later part of the twentieth century and early twenty-first century most countries in Europe lifted the ban and allowed production, consumption, and sale of absinthe. The research clearly demonstrated, using sophisticated analytical tools that thujone content in absinthe was within safe limits and fit for human consumption in moderation.
Wormwood oil is today used by many herbalists to treat indigestion, worm infestation and other liver and gall bladder problems. Wormwood oil contains active substances like thujone and isothujone.
Wormwood oil is also used in the preparation of absinthe essence. Absinthe continues to be banned in America. However, American citizens can purchase absinthe essence and absinthe kits from non-US producers online and prepare their own absinthe liquor.
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