Wormwood oil is an essential oil from the Common Wormwood plant, also known as Artemisia Absinthium. The wormwood plant is a perennial herb which often grows in rocky areas and on arid ground in the Mediterranean area, Asia and North Africa. It has also been found growing in North America. Wormwood has other names including green ginger, grande wormwood, armoise and absinthum or absinthium.

The plant has silver gray leaves and tiny yellow flowers and the leaves have tiny oil producing glands on them. It is in a group of plants called artemisias which are in the Aster family (Asteraceae). Other artemisia plants include tarragon, sagebrush, sweet wormwood, Levant wormwood, silver king artemisia, Roman wormwood and southernwood.

Its name Absinthium is thought to be from the Ancient Greek which may mean “unenjoyable” perhaps referring to its bitter taste. The Artemisia group of plants were linked to the moon goddess Artemis. In the Book of Revelation, in the Bible, the Wormwood star falls to Earth and poisons all of the Earth’s freshwater.

For use as a herb and essential oil, the leaves and aromatic flowers are collected and dried. Wormwood oil is an extraction from the flowers and leaves using the technique of steam distillation.

Wormwood Oil and Medicine

Wormwood has been used as a herb and essential oil in medicine since Ancient times. Here are some of its uses:-

– As a tea to give to women to help ease labor pains.

– As an antiseptic.

– In the pharmaceutical industry as a cardiac stimulant.

– As a digestive tonic, to stimulate digestion.

– As a anthemintic – to expel parasitic intestinal worms.

– To reduce fevers.

– To counteract poisoning caused by toadstools and hemlock.

Although it is an aromatizing herb and has been used since Ancient times, many aromatherapists will not now use it because it is a neurotoxin and convulsant and the oil contains large amounts of thujone which has been compared to THC the chemical in the narcotic drug cannabis. Thujone is on the banned substances list of the FDA in the USA and cannot be used as a food additive.

Wormwood and Cooking

Wormwood extract has been used by chefs in sauces and in stuffings for poultry and goose.

Wormwood and Absinthe

Wormwood is well known as being one of the natural primary ingredients of the strong herbal liquor Absinthe. It even gives Absinthe its name.

Absinthe, otherwise known as the Green Fairy, was a famous alcoholic beverage, of the Belle Epoque period in France. Absinthe contained many plant extracts and essences, which were natural and not synthetic, including wormwood, green aniseed, fennel, star anise, lemon balm, hyssop and many others. These essential oils in the Absinthe cause the Absinthe to louche when the water is added to the drink.

Absinthe was famously banned in the early 1900s because many believed that the wormwood in Absinthe caused hallucinations, addiction, weakened the intellectual part of the brain and was toxic. Some believe that Van Gogh’s suicide was caused by “absinthism”, his prolonged enjoyment of Absinthe.

Absinthe Today

The wormwood oil in Absinthe is now thought to only contain very small amounts of thujone and Absinthe has therefore been legalized for sale in most countries. You can even buy essences to make your own bottled Absinthe from companies like AbsintheKit.com whose essences include real wormwood in safe doses.