The common Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) has been partly
considered here together with Mugwort, to which it is closely allied.
It is a Composite herb of frequent growth on waste ground, being a
bushy plant with silky stems, and collections of numerous small
heads of dull yellow flowers. The name Wormwood is from
wehren, to keep off--mought, a maggot or moth; and
absinthium, from-a-negative--psinthos, delight, in allu
the very bitter taste.
The whole plant is of an aromatic smell and bitter flavour. The
flowers, when dried and powdered, destroy worms more effectually
than worm seed, whilst the leaves resist putrefaction and help to
make capital antiseptic fomentations.
Wormwood tea, or the powdered herb in small doses, mixed in a
little soup, will serve to relieve bilious melancholia, and will help
to disperse the yellow hue of jaundice from the skin.
This herb was formerly thought to possess the power of dispelling
demons, and was thus associated with the ceremonials of St. John's
Eve, owning the name, on the Continent, of St. John's Herb, or St.
John's Girdle. Both it, and the Mugwort were dedicated to Diana:
 and Venus gave thereof (Ambrose) to AEneas. It bears the
provincial name old woman. The smell of common Wormwood is
very refreshing, and its reviving qualities in heated Courts are
almost equal to a change of air.
Dioscorides declared it a preventive of intoxication, and a remedy
for the ill-effects of any such excess; for which reason the poculum
absinthiacum was a favourite beverage.
Gerard says: The plant voideth away the worms, not only taken
inwardly, but applied outwardly; it withstandeth all putrefactions,
and is good against the stinking breath. It keepeth garments also
from the moths--A tineis tutam reddit qua conditur arcam
(Macer); and Dr. W. Bulleyne says it keepeth clothes from
moths and wormes. This is the great preventive used by cloth
manufacturers. Furthermore, adds Gerard, taken in wine it is
good against the biting of the shrew mouse, and of the sea dragon. It
may be applied against the Squincie, or inflammation of the throat,
with honey and water: likewise, after the same manner, to dim eyes,
and mattery ears.
The characteristic odour of the plant is due to a volatile oil which
consists mainly of absinthol; and the intensely bitter taste resides
The plant also contains tannin, resin, starch, succinic, malic, and
acetic acids, with nitrate of potash, and other salts. In some
districts it is popularly called green ginger.
Wormwood is of benefit for strengthless flatulent indigestion. An
infusion may be made of an ounce of the dried plant to a pint of
boiling water, and given in doses of from one to two tablespoonfuls
three times during the day.
 This infusion with a few drops of the essential oil will prevent
the hair from falling off.
Absinthe, a liqueur concocted from Wormwood, is used largely in
France, and the medical verdict pronounced there about its effects
shows that it exercises through the pneumogastric nerve a painful
sensation, which has been taken for that of extreme hunger. This
feeling goes off quickly if a little alcohol is given, though it is
aggravated by coffee, whilst an excessive use of absinthe from day
to day is not slow in producing serious symptoms: the stomach
ceases to perform its duty, there is an irritative reaction in the
brain, and the effects of blind drunkenness come on after each debauch.
The French Military call absinthe un perroquet. The daily taking
even for a short while only of a watery infusion of Wormwood
shows its bad effects by a general languor, with obscurities of the
sight, giddiness, want of appetite, and painful indigestion.
When indulged-in as an appetiser by connoisseurs, absinthe, the
fairy with the green eyes, is modified by admixture with anisette,
noted as an agreeable and bronchitis-palliating liqueur.
As a result of his experiments on animals, Dr. Maignan has come to
the conclusion that absinthe (Wormwood) determines tremblings,
dulness of thought, and epileptiform convulsions,--symptoms which
alcohol alone will not produce. Hence it may be inferred that
absinthe contains really a narcotic poison which should prevent its
being employed as a liqueur, or as a homely medicament, to any
Dogs are given to eat the Wormwood as a remedy for their ailments.
Its medicinal and curative uses have been already partly discussed,
together with those of Mugwort.