The botanical family of Artemisia is rather large and many writers don't differentiate much between different species. Thus, there is a lot of confusion over Wormwood, Artemisia absinthium, the green herb fairy. Most commonly it is confused with Mugwort and Southernwood, but in fact it is far more bitter than either of these and it is also more psychoactive. Back in the 19th century a, bright green drink was made from Wormwood and other herbs which became extremely fashionable with the Avant-garde. This concoction had a very high thujone content and it soon became evident that Absinth got its adherents more than just a little tipsy. Thujone is a nerve poison and Absinth became the 'designer drink' of choice among the artists of the 'belle epoch'. Numerous painters, writers and musicians succumbed to the allure of the green fairy, who drove many of them to edge and beyond the threshold between genius and madness. Absinth soon became illegal and still remains so in most countries. Nevertheless, Wormwood remains an elusive temptation among modern psychonauts, looking for cheap and exotic (albeit dangerous) thrills. Of course, Wormwood also has an ancient history as a sacred herb and powerful medicine. Used appropriately, in the right amounts, it can indeed be very beneficial. In medieval times Wormwood was used as an insect repellent strewing herb. It also produces compounds that suppress plant growth and gardeners sometimes use Wormwood infusion to keep weeds down. However - don't use this around baby plants that you want to encourage, but only near well established plants. This concoction also discourages bugs and slugs.
Wormwood is exceedingly bitter and thus stimulates the digestive system and metabolism like no other herb. It helps to regulate the balance of stomach juices and stimulates the flow of bile. Wormwood cleanses the liver and kidneys and is regarded as a tonic for the blood and circulation. However, large doses of Wormwood are toxic to the kidneys. As the name suggests, it is one of the best anthelmitics, which can ruthlessly kill and expel intestinal worms. The ancients recommended it as a preventative anti-infectious agent that could be used to ward off highly infectious diseases. Do not use during pregnancy.
Wormwood is a powerful protective plant. Our Neolithic ancestors used Wormwood and Mugwort as their primary sacred herbs for smudging and cleansing. Wormwood clears the psychic channels and can be used for astral travel and channelling. In folk-magical practice it was used to protect the grain or growing crops against mice, vermin and insects. It is said to protect against mischievous elves and evil spirits and was used in anti-daemonic spells, particularly at the beginning of the year or at winter solstice. Wormwood was also sprinkled around the house or hung above the windows and doors to ward off evil spirits and disease.
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.