Wormwood is an herb. The above-ground plant parts and oil are used for medicine.
Wormwood is used for various digestion problems such as loss of appetite, upset stomach, gall bladder disease, and intestinal spasms. Wormwood is also used to treat fever, liver disease, and worm infections; to increase sexual desire; as a tonic; and to stimulate sweating.
Wormwood oil is also used for digestive disorders, to increase sexual desire, and to stimulate the imagination.
Some people apply wormwood directly to the skin for healing wounds and insect bites. Wormwood oil is used as a counterirritant to reduce pain.
In manufacturing, wormwood oil is used as a fragrance component in soaps, cosmetics, and perfumes. It is also used as an insecticide.
Wormwood is used in some alcoholic beverages. Vermouth, for example, is a wine beverage flavored with extracts of wormwood. Absinthe is another well-known alcoholic beverage made with wormwood. It is an emerald-green alcoholic drink that is prepared from wormwood oil, often along with other dried herbs such as anise and fennel. Absinthe was popularized by famous artists and writers such as Toulouse-Lautrec, Degas, Manet, van Gogh, Picasso, Hemingway, and Oscar Wilde. It is now banned in many countries, including the U.S. But it is still allowed in European Union countries as long as the thujone content is less than 35 mg/kg. Thujone is a potentially poisonous chemical found in wormwood. Distilling wormwood in alcohol increases the thujone concentration.
How does it work?
Wormwood oil contains the chemical thujone, which excites the central nervous system. However, it can also cause seizures and other adverse effects.
Side Effects & Safety
Wormwood is safe when taken in the amounts commonly found in food and beverages including bitters and vermouth, as long as these products are thujone-free. Wormwood containing thujone is UNSAFE when it is taken in large amounts or over a long period of time. Thujone can cause seizures, muscle breakdown (rhabdomyolysis), kidney failure, restlessness, difficulty sleeping, nightmares, vomiting, stomach cramps, dizziness, tremors, urine retention, thirst, numbness of arms and legs, paralysis, and death.
Not enough is known to rate the safety of using wormwood topically.
Special Precautions & Warnings:Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Wormwood is LIKELY UNSAFE when taken by mouth in greater than food amounts. The concern is the possible thujone content. Thujone might affect the uterus and endanger the pregnancy. It’s also best to avoid topical wormwood, since not enough is known about the safety of applying wormwood directly to the skin.
If you are breast-feeding, don’t use wormwood until more is known about safety.
Allergy to ragweed and related plants: Wormwood may cause an allergic reaction in people who are sensitive to the Asteraceae/Compositae family. Members of this family include ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, daisies, and many others. If you have allergies, be sure to check with your healthcare provider before taking wormwood.
A rare inherited blood condition called porphyria: Any thujone present in wormwood oil might increase the body’s production of chemicals called porphyrins. This could make porphyria worse.
Seizure disorders, including epilepsy: Wormwood contains thujone, which can cause seizures. There is concern that wormwood might make seizures more likely in people who are prone to them.
Moderate Interaction Be cautious with this combination
- Medications used to prevent seizures (Anticonvulsants) interacts with WORMWOOD
Medications used to prevent seizures affect chemicals in the brain. Wormwood may also affect chemicals in the brain. By affecting chemicals in the brain, wormwood may decrease the effectiveness of medications used to prevent seizures.
Some medications used to prevent seizures include phenobarbital, primidone (Mysoline), valproic acid (Depakene), gabapentin (Neurontin), carbamazepine (Tegretol), phenytoin (Dilantin), and others.
The appropriate dose of wormwood depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for wormwood. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.