People and plants: Artemisia – Broomfield Enterprise

Artemisia is a relatively large genus containing numerous species. It is comprised of mainly aromatic plants that are commonly used as spices or flavorings. Tarragon, absinth and bitter wormwood are a few examples. Some of the species in this genus are used as medicine and even insecticides. I thought highlighting a few of these plants this week might be interesting.

Common wormwood and madderwort are two names associated with Artemisia absinthium. This particular plant is perhaps more famously known for the liquor associated with it – a once illegal substance called absinthe. According to the BBC, absinthe was banned in France for nearly 100 years. The The drink was nicknamed the “green fairy.” It is an anise-flavored beverage reportedly consumed by famous artists, such as Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

Absinthe was banned for wide reports that a compound, thujone, was inducing mind-altering and hallucinogenic states that contributed to insanity and criminal behavior. Go Ask Alice!, a service of Columbia University, suggests that due to the high alcoholic content of absinthe, it is difficult to separate the effects of thujone from those of alcohol. Thujone-free absinthe is legal here in the United States.

Another plant in this genus is Artemisia vulgaris, which is commonly known as mugwort or wild wormwood. Mugwort is a staple of Okinawan gardens – one of the Blue Zone areas with people who live long lives. According to Dr. Andrew Weil, mugwort is often viewed by gardeners as a noxious weed, since it grows so prolifically. Herbalists believe mugwort can offer health benefits.

Dr. Weil shares mugwort was known as the “mother of herbs” during the Middle Ages. It was thought to ward off evil spirits and animals, as well as protect against fatigue. It is one of the plants used in moxibustion – a traditional Chinese medicine technique that often accompanies acupuncture. Dr. Weil states that mugwort can be taken internally in the form of supplements or tea. It can also be smoked – his words, not mine.

A third species worth noting is Artemisia annua. This plant is commonly known as sweet wormwood or sweet Annie. Research is ongoing to discover whether extracts from Artemisia annua may inhibit COVID-19 virus. If you are interested in further reading, I would recommend university based websites, such as Worcester Polytechnic Institute ( and the University of Kentucky College of Medicine (

For a general overview of Artemisia annua, you can also check out the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center website.

Remember, herbs interact with over-the-counter and prescription medications, as well as other herbs. Speak to your health care provider before using herbs as medicine.

Arianna Kelley Rawlsky has a MS in horticulture and is the director of Bringing People and Plants Together, an organization dedicated to bringing horticulture education and therapy to the community. For more information: or follow us on Facebook.

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