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
ion to

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:

[613] 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

in absinthin.

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.

[614] 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.