Absinthe, or wormwood, has been used medicinally since ancient times but is more commonly known as an additive in certain alcoholic drinks, such as vermouth and absinthe. However, absinthe was associated with cases of serious toxicity and was banned from many places in the early 1900s. Wormwood’s medicinal use continues today, but there is insufficient scientific information to support its efficacy for any use. Consult with your physician before using wormwood medicinally.
Identification and Dosage
Wormwood is also commonly known as absinthium, absinthites, armoise and wermut, among other names. It is available as an essential oil and in pill, tincture and liquid extract dosage forms. Presently, there is insufficient scientific information on which to base dosing recommendations. However, Drugs.com reports that typical doses to treat heartburn are 3 to 5 g daily as the infusion or 2 to 3 g per day in herb formulations.
Wormwood tea is made by adding 1/2 to 1 tsp. of the herb to 1 cup of boiling water, then steeping for 10 to 15 minutes. Tea is typically taken in doses of 3 cups a day. Wormwood tincture is prepared by adding 10 to 20 drops in water and taken 10 to 15 minutes before each meal. Wormwood tea and tincture should not be taken continuously for more than four weeks, states PaloAltoMedicalFoundation.org.
Wormwood contains strong bitters called absinthin and anabsinthin, which act to stimulate the digestive tract by enhancing saliva, stomach acid and digestive enzyme production. According to PAMF, preliminary research shows that wormwood, in combination with peppermint, caraway seeds and fennel seeds, may relieve the abdominal tenderness and cramping associated with irritable bowel syndrome or spastic colon. Wormwood is also used as a bitter to possibly treat low stomach acidity. Other early research has shown wormwood to be potentially beneficial for treating intestinal parasitic worm infections.
Wormwood oil contains two poisonous substances called thujone and isothujone. Thujone can cause a condition called absinthism, which manifests as addiction, gastrointestinal ailments, hallucinations, seizures, brain damage and psychiatric problems--including suicide--warns Drugs.com. Avoid oil or alcoholic beverages made with the oil containing thujone. Thujone-free extract is now available and commonly used as a flavoring, mostly in vermouth and other alcoholic drinks. Wormwood should be avoided during pregnancy and breast-feeding.