The wormwood shrub grows wild in Europe, North Africa, and western Asia. It is now cultivated in North America as well. The leaves and flowers, and the oil obtained from them, are all used in herbal medicine.
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3 StarsReliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2 StarsContradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1 StarFor an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.
This supplement has been used in connection with the following health conditions:
Whole peppermint leaf is often used either alone or in combination with other herbs to treat abdominal discomfort and mild cramping that accompany IBS. The combination of peppermint, caraway seeds, fennel seeds, and wormwood was reported to be an effective treatment for upper abdominal complaints in a double-blind trial.3
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Traditionally, wormwood is regarded as a useful remedy for liver and gallbladder problems. Wormwood contains strong bitter agents known as absinthin and anabsinthin, which stimulate digestive and gallbladder function.4
Indigestion, Heartburn, and Low Stomach Acidity
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Bitter herbs are thought to stimulate digestive function by increasing saliva production and promoting both stomach acid and digestive enzyme production.5 As a result, they are particularly used when there is low stomach acid but not in heartburn (where too much stomach acid could initially exacerbate the situation). These herbs literally taste bitter. Some examples of bitter herbs include greater celandine, wormwood, gentian,dandelion, blessed thistle, yarrow, devil’s claw, bitter orange, bitter melon, juniper, andrographis, prickly ash, and centaury.6. Bitters are generally taken either by mixing 1–3 ml tincture into water and sipping slowly 10–30 minutes before eating, or by making tea, which is also sipped slowly before eating.
Wormwood is sometimes used in combination with carminative (gas-relieving) herbs for people with indigestion. One double-blind trial found that a combination with peppermint, caraway, and fennel was useful in reducing gas and cramping in people with indigestion.7 The amounts used are the same as the general recommendations for bitters when they are employed for the treatment of indigestion.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (Bupleurum, Dan Shen, Ginger, Schisandra)
Take a Chinese herbal formula containing wormwood under the guidance of a qualified practitioner
Whole peppermint leaf is often used either alone or in combination with other herbs to treat abdominal discomfort and mild cramping that accompany IBS. The combination of peppermint, caraway seeds, fennel seeds, and wormwood was reported to be an effective treatment for upper abdominal complaints in a double-blind trial.8
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Several other herbs are traditionally used for treatment of parasites, including male fern (Dryopteris filix mas) root, tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) leaf, wormwood, sweet Annie, black walnut (Juglans nigra) fruit, and cloves (Syzygium aromaticum). Numerous case reports and preliminary studies from the late 1800s and early 1900s have suggested some of these herbs can be helpful for some parasitic infections.9
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As a traditional medicine, wormwood was used by herbalists as a bitter to improve digestion.2 4 It is often combined with herbs such as peppermint or caraway to treat heartburn and even irritable bowel syndrome, though these uses are not well demonstrated. Consult with a healthcare professional knowledgeable in herbal medicine before taking wormwood.
Traditional Use (May Not Be Supported by Scientific Studies)
Wormwood is perhaps best known because of the use of its oil to prepare certain alcoholic beverages, most notably vermouth and absinthe. Absinthe, popular in the 19th century in Europe, caused several cases of brain damage and even death and was banned in most places in the early 20th century.1 Wormwood oil continues to be used as a flavoring agent for foods, although in much smaller amounts than were found in absinthe.
As a traditional medicine, wormwood was used by herbalists as a bitter to improve digestion, to fight worm infestations, and to stimulate menstruation.2 It was also regarded as a useful remedy for liver and gallbladder problems.
How It Works
How It Works
The aromatic oil of wormwood contains the toxins thujone and isothujone. Very little of this oil is present in ordinary wormwood teas or tinctures.10 Also existent in the plant are strong bitter agents known as absinthin and anabsinthin. These stimulate digestive and gallbladder function.11 Modern herbal medicine rarely uses wormwood alone. It is typically combined with herbs such as peppermint or caraway to treat heartburn and even irritable bowel syndrome. Clinical trials are lacking to support the use of wormwood for any indication, however.
How to Use It
A wormwood tea can be made by adding 1/2 to 1 teaspoon (2.5 to 5 grams) of the herb to 1 cup (250 ml) of boiling water, then steeping for ten to fifteen minutes.12 Many doctors recommend drinking three cups (750 ml) each day. Tincture, 10–20 drops in water, can be taken ten to fifteen minutes before each meal.13 Either preparation should not be used consecutively for more than four weeks.14
Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds
At the time of writing, there were no well-known supplement or food interactions with this supplement.
Interactions with Medicines
As of the last update, we found no reported interactions between this supplement and medicines. It is possible that unknown interactions exist. If you take medication, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a new supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.
The Drug-Nutrient Interactions table may not include every possible interaction. Taking medicines with meals, on an empty stomach, or with alcohol may influence their effects. For details, refer to the manufacturers’ package information as these are not covered in this table. If you take medications, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.
Longer-term use (over four weeks) or intake of amounts higher than those recommended can cause nausea, vomiting, insomnia, restlessness, vertigo, tremors, and seizures.15 Thujone-containing oil or alcoholic beverages (absinthe) made with the oil is strictly inadvisable—the oil is addictive and may cause brain damage, seizures, and even death.16 Short-term use (two to four weeks) of a wormwood tea or tincture has not resulted in any reports of significant side effects. One study found there were no side effects when using less than 1 ml tincture three times per day for as long as nine months to promote digestive function.17 Nevertheless, consult with a healthcare professional knowledgeable in herbal medicine before taking wormwood. Wormwood is not recommended during pregnancy and breast-feeding.18
6. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin: American Botanical Council and Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 425–6.
7. Westphal J, Hörning M, Leonhardt K. Phytotherapy in functional upper abdominal complaints. Results of a clinical study with a preparation of several plants. Phytomedicine 1996;2:285–91.
8. Westphal J, Hörning M, Leonhardt K. Phytotherapy in functional abdominal complaints: Results of a clinical study with a preparation of several plants. Phytomedicine 1996;2:285–91.
9. Chopra RN, Chandler AC. Anthelmintics and Their Uses in Medical and Veterinary Practice. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins Co, 1928.
The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2014.
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