Since ancient times, this herb has been known as the herb of health. European healers traditionally painted wormwood on their doors to identify themselves as such. Legend tells us that St. John the Baptist wore a woven girdle of this herb. Written about in the Bible, and often used for fumigation, wormwood is a potent cousin of mugwort. It’s a nervine, narcotic, antiseptic, a vermifuge and an excellent bitter tonic to the digestive system. In small amounts it helps restore appetite. Wormwood flavors absinthe, a strong liqueur that was thought to have stimulated hallucinations in Impressionist painters in France during the nineteenth century.
Known as assenzio vero among my Southern Italia neighbors, the flowers and leaves are considered to be antiseptic and vulnerary. Due to its strong scent and bitter taste, it is traditionally used as an anthelmintic agent. Wormwood juice mixed with rue, mint, bay laurel and/or chamomile is used to soothe abdominal pains caused by helminthiasis. Anthelmintic action is also obtained using poultices of wormwood, mint and rue, cooked in vinegar and applied around the navel. Finally, to fight off intermittent fevers, poultices prepared of wormwood, garlic, rue and mint are applied to the wrists.
The Artemisias are an important food plant for pollinators such as American painted lady, and a source of nectar for tiger swallowtail, great spangled fritillary and the monarch butterfly.