Southernwood is a soft, feathery and dainty species of Artemisia, a relative of the more robust Wormwood and Mugwort. Its original homelands are the southern parts of Europe. It is common throughout the Mediterranean region and was well known to the ancients. When it arrived in northern Europe it was named 'Southern Wormwood', which in time became shortened to Southernwood. Its common names, such as 'Lad's Love, Kiss-me-once-and-go, Maid's Love and Old Man's Love all refer to its reported use in love magic. According to Culpeper, the ashes mixed with oil were supposed to promote the growth of hair. The strongly aromatic leaves are insect repellent. Southernwood is often included in herbal moth-balls and the French even call the herb 'Garde-robe'. In the past Southernwood featured as a cooking herb, used much like Wormwood to compliment greasy meats. However, modern pallets seem to be unanimously unimpressed by this culinary extravaganza. There are two varieties, a lemon-scented and a camphor scented one. As the aromatic component is due to an essential oil compound, the herb should not be cooked for long so as to prevent it from turning bitter. Likewise, when making a tea, cover the mug and steep only 3-5 minutes.
Southernwood is not commonly used for medicinal purposes. In the past it was used for worming children (threadworm) and to bring on delayed menstruation. In the past it was also used as an antidote to poison and to treat the bites of spiders and scorpions. It was said to drive away serpents. Sometimes it was used as a bedding or strewing herb to ward off infectious diseases. The old herbalists describe its nature as warm and dry, just like Mugwort. It was indicated for all kinds of ills that had their cause in excessively cold and damp conditions. Externally it was used as a wash or ointment for wounds and ulcers and as an eyewash. Do not use pregnancy.
Southernwood was said to attract 'quick love' and a sprig placed beneath the pillow could counteract any evil spells intended to hinder successful cohabitation. A man could win a girl's affection if he managed to secretly place a sprig of Southernwood beneath her apron. However, the affections would not last long and would turn to hatred in a few years. Southernwood could also protect cattle from the effects of evil sorcery that caused their milk to turn.
Not all herbs are suitable in pregnancy, breastfeeding or for young children, or if you are unwell, or taking any medication. If in doubt, please ask a medical herbalist or healthcare practitioner.