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Does wormwood work: Overview, Uses, Side Effects, Precautions, Interactions, Dosing and Reviews

Overview, Uses, Side Effects, Precautions, Interactions, Dosing and Reviews


Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) is an herb used in the alcoholic drinks vermouth and absinthe. Its oil contains the chemical thujone, which may be poisonous.

The thujone in wormwood oil excites the central nervous system and can cause seizures and other adverse effects. Other chemicals in wormwood might decrease swelling.

People use wormwood for digestion problems, Crohn disease, a kidney disorder called IgA nephropathy, osteoarthritis, and many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses. There is also no good evidence to support using wormwood for COVID-19. Using thujone-containing wormwood products can be unsafe.

Don’t confuse wormwood with Artemisia herba-alba, Mugwort, Sweet Annie, Wormseed, or Ginger. These are not the same.

Uses & Effectiveness ?

We currently have no information for WORMWOOD overview.

Side Effects

When taken by mouth: Thujone-free wormwood is commonly consumed in foods and beverages, such as bitters and vermouth. Thujone-free wormwood is possibly safe when used as medicine, short-term. But wormwood that contains thujone is possibly unsafe. Thujone can cause seizures, kidney failure, vomiting, and other serious side effects.

When applied to the skin: Wormwood extract is possibly safe as an ointment.

Special Precautions and Warnings

When taken by mouth: Thujone-free wormwood is commonly consumed in foods and beverages, such as bitters and vermouth. Thujone-free wormwood is possibly safe when used as medicine, short-term. But wormwood that contains thujone is possibly unsafe. Thujone can cause seizures, kidney failure, vomiting, and other serious side effects.

When applied to the skin: Wormwood extract is possibly safe as an ointment.

Pregnancy: Wormwood is likely unsafe when taken by mouth as medicine during pregnancy. Some wormwood products contain the chemical thujone. Thujone might affect the uterus and endanger the pregnancy. There isn’t enough reliable information to know if applying wormwood to the skin is safe when pregnant. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Breast-feeding: There isn’t enough reliable information to know if wormwood is safe when taken by mouth or applied to the skin while breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Allergy to ragweed and related plants: Wormwood may cause an allergic reaction in people who are sensitive to the Asteraceae/Compositae family. Members of this family include ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, daisies, and many others.

A rare inherited blood condition called porphyria: The thujone in wormwood oil might increase the body’s production of chemicals called porphyrins. This could make porphyria worse.

Kidney disorders: Taking wormwood oil might cause kidney failure. If you have kidney problems, talk with your healthcare provider before taking wormwood.

Seizure disorders, including epilepsy: Wormwood contains thujone, which can cause seizures. Wormwood might increase the risk for seizures in people who have a history of seizures.

Interactions ?

    Moderate Interaction

    Be cautious with this combination

  • Wormwood may increase the risk of seizures. Taking wormwood with medications used to prevent seizures may decrease the effects of these medications and increase the risk for seizures.


Thujone-free wormwood is commonly found in foods and alcoholic drinks such as bitters, vermouth, and absinthe.

As medicine, there isn’t enough reliable information to know what an appropriate dose of wormwood might be. Keep in mind that wormwood products that contain a chemical called thujone may be poisonous. Consult a healthcare professional before using.

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CONDITIONS OF USE AND IMPORTANT INFORMATION: This information is meant to supplement, not replace advice from your doctor or healthcare provider and is not meant to cover all possible uses, precautions, interactions or adverse effects. This information may not fit your specific health circumstances. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified health care provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor or health care professional before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your health care plan or treatment and to determine what course of therapy is right for you.

This copyrighted material is provided by Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Consumer Version. Information from this source is evidence-based and objective, and without commercial influence. For professional medical information on natural medicines, see Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Professional Version.
© Therapeutic Research Faculty 2020.

Wormwood: Uses, benefits, and risks

Wormwood is a bitter herb and an ingredient in the alcoholic drink absinthe. It may have antimicrobial properties, relieve pain, stimulate digestion, and more. However, it contains thujone, a toxic substance that can pose a health risk.

In this article, we examine wormwood and its chemical properties. We also look at the benefits and risks of consuming wormwood and the appropriate dosage.

Artemisia absinthium L., commonly known as wormwood, is a perennial shrub from the Asteraceae family of plants. It has deeply lobed, grayish-green leaves and small yellow flowers that bloom in July and August. It is an aromatic plant with a potent sage odor and bitter taste.

Herbalists and manufacturers use wormwood leaves and smaller stems to make medicines. There are many artemisia species, but people often use Artemisia absinthium L. and Artemisia annua L., or sweet wormwood, for medicinal purposes.

Historically, people have used wormwood to treat a wide range of ailments. According to a 2020 article, wormwood’s confirmed biological activities include:

  • stimulating digestion and appetite
  • being antiparasitic
  • inhibiting the growth of protozoan infection
  • having antibacterial properties
  • being antifungal
  • being anti-ulcer
  • preventing damage to the liver
  • being anti-inflammatory
  • having antioxidants
  • stimulating the immune system
  • having the ability to damage cancer cells
  • being a pain reliever
  • protecting nerve cells against damage
  • being an antidepressant
  • reducing mental confusion
  • stabilizing cell membranes

Wormwood has numerous compounds responsible for its biological activities, including:

  • essential oils
  • bitter sesquiterpene lactones
  • absinthin isomers
  • bitter compounds, such as artemisinin
  • phenolic acids
  • flavonoids
  • coumarins

The most well-known active ingredient in wormwood is thujone. Wormwood contains two types of thujone called alpha thujone and beta thujone. The alpha form is more toxic than the beta form.

Animal research investigating wormwood’s neurotoxicity shows that alpha thujone could cause convulsions and death at higher doses.

Wormwood has the following potential uses and benefits:

Absinthe drink

Wormwood is the active component in the alcoholic drink absinthe. The U.S. government banned absinthe in 1912 because it believed it was hallucinogenic.

Since 2007, retailers can sell the beverage, provided its thujone level is below 10 parts per million, which they label as thujone-free. Additionally, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows manufacturers to use wormwood as a food additive, provided it has no thujone content.

Treating parasites and digestive disorders

People in Asia and Europe used wormwood traditionally for treating gastrointestinal disorders and expelling worms and parasites. Today, herbalists use wormwood to improve digestion and hypoacidity or lack of appetite.

A 2018 review explains that the bitter compounds in wormwood can stimulate gastric juices and bile and improve blood flow in the digestive system. It also suggests that the herb can force out parasitic organisms and act against several pathogens.

Treating inflammatory conditions and immune disorders

A 2017 study indicates that topical treatment with wormwood is comparable to piroxicam gel for knee osteoarthritis. Study participants had no pain after 2 weeks of treatment with wormwood ointment.

Another animal study found that wormwood has significant pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects due to its flavonoids.

According to a 2017 review, studies indicate that wormwood may also be beneficial for treating inflammation associated with Crohn’s disease. Furthermore, wormwood may inhibit the growth of human breast cancer cells.

Scientists have also examined wormwood’s effects on the immune system and cells, and they suggest it may be effective for treating immune disorders, intracellular viruses, and bacterial infections.

Treating tuberculosis

In 2019, researchers investigated wormwood’s effects on tuberculosis (TB) in animals. The authors found that extracts may be effective against mycobacterial infections that cause TB and are not toxic to animals.

Offering antidepressant and brain-protective effects

A 2020 review indicates that wormwood supports the formation of the body’s antioxidant glutathione and is protective of the brain. It notes that animal studies suggest wormwood has an antidepressant effect and may increase serotonin.

Another review suggests that wormwood may benefit those with neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, and may have properties that reduce confusion, delirium, and disorientation.

However, researchers need to conduct more human research to confirm these effects.

Balancing blood sugar

Research suggests that wormwood may be beneficial for balancing blood sugar and insulin.

Additionally, some research suggests that wormwood may prevent the accumulation of lipids in the blood and reduce blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes and hyperlipidemia.

Studies indicate that thujone in wormwood may cross the blood-brain barrier and affect the nervous system. In animal experiments, thujone causes convulsions and affects fertility. Studies warn that people should avoid it during pregnancy.

According to a 2021 review, wormwood may cause allergic reactions, including rhinitis and dermatitis, through contact with the skin, digestion in tea, or pollen.

However, another review suggests that wormwood is only toxic when used long term, and short-term use shows low toxicity.

If a person has a health condition or takes medication, they should speak with a healthcare professional before consuming wormwood products. People should not take wormwood during pregnancy.

There is no expert advice about wormwood dosages, and the FDA prohibits its active ingredient, thujone.

People can take wormwood as a liquid tincture, tablet, or dried herb. It is also available as a tea and an ingredient in absinthe.

A person should speak with a healthcare professional before taking wormwood, particularly if they have a health condition or are taking medication.

Wormwood has a long history of traditional use, and scientists today are interested in investigating its potential. Its herbal properties are wide-ranging, and its potential clinical benefits include supporting digestion and expelling parasites. It may also be beneficial for inflammatory or immune conditions.

However, its active ingredient, thujone, is toxic, and there is no guidance on how much is safe to use. Additionally, the FDA prohibits thujone in foods and beverages, so people must seek medical advice before taking wormwood.

medicinal properties, contraindications, use, reviews of doctors

“All the flowers withered, and only wormwood-grass is bitter” – once the star of the Soviet stage Maya Kristalinskaya sang. And this is absolutely true. Wormwood is indeed considered the most bitter among all plants in Russia.

According to one of the legends this plant was presented to people by the goddess of hunting Artemis. It was believed that she gave courage and strength to the soldiers. In Rus’, wormwood was called wormwood, wild pepper, and even God’s tree, royal grass. With its help, they got rid of worms and fleas, relieved toothache, and also treated wounds and stomach diseases.

Wormwood is widely used in the modern alcohol industry. It is one of the main components of absinthe and vermouth, as well as some other alcohol tinctures. By the way, “vermouth” is one of the names of wormwood. In rare cases, wormwood is also used in cooking, mainly as a seasoning for roast goose.

It was also used in household chemicals. Plant-based preparations are used to control agricultural pests, cockroaches, moths and fleas. The above ground part of the plant can also be used as green fabric dye.

What kind of wormwood is

In botany, wormwood is described as a perennial plant up to 1.5 – 2 m high with a characteristic smell. This grass is unpretentious, and, being a weed, grows along roads and highways, in wastelands, meadows and vegetable gardens throughout the European part of Russia up to the Kola Peninsula and Western Siberia. The plant propagates by seeds and is resistant to frost. In nature, there are more than 200 species of wormwood, but in folk medicine, wormwood has gained the greatest popularity due to its healing, cleansing and cosmetic properties.

Chopped wormwood grass can be bought at a pharmacy or prepared by yourself. You need to collect it before the start or during the flowering period in mid-summer. For medicinal purposes, the lower stem leaves and the tops of the stems are used. Before drying, the inflorescences baked by the sun are removed. Dry the grass in a room with good ventilation for a week. Ready raw materials are stored in bales or bags for no more than 2 years.

In the middle lane, wormwood grows everywhere, so you can collect and dry it yourself. Photo: Wikipedia

Medicinal properties of wormwood

Wormwood has pronounced antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic and soothing properties. This is due to the presence in its composition of essential oils, active and tannins, phytoncides, alkaloids, ascorbic, malic, salicylic and succinic acids, provitamin A and carotene.

Phytoncides kill and inhibit the growth and development of bacteria, microscopic fungi and protozoa. Absinthine has anti-inflammatory properties and stimulates natural immunity. In the roots of the plant there is a natural prebiotic – inulin. That is why the healing properties of wormwood are recognized not only by traditional medicine, but also by official ones.

In a pharmacy you can buy:

  • crushed wormwood herb in packs;
  • alcohol tincture of wormwood;
  • wormwood extract;
  • essential oil from wormwood.

Wormwood contraindications

Wormwood is a poisonous medicinal plant and has a number of serious contraindications and strict dosage requirements.

The plant contains such dangerous substances as thujone, which is a hallucinogen and in large doses affects a person similarly to marijuana.

– Abuse of wormwood preparations and even their use in usual doses, but for a long time, can lead to strong excitation of the nervous system, symptoms of poisoning, which are accompanied by severe nervous disorders, up to convulsions, hallucinations, with nausea, vomiting and anemia. Therefore, do not exceed the dosage and apply wormwood for more than 2 weeks or a maximum of a month. Between courses of admission, it is necessary to take breaks of at least 2 weeks. In cases where longer treatment is required, they take a break for a month, and then start taking wormwood preparations again, emphasizes Candidate of Medical Sciences, Head of the Department of Phytotherapy of the Institute of Medicine of the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia, Head of the Educational and Health Center at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine Elena Korsun.

Caution should be taken when treating with wormwood preparations for people with cholelithiasis and urolithiasis, as well as gastritis against the background of increased acidity of the stomach and cardio patients.

Wormwood is strictly contraindicated during pregnancy, lactation, enterocolitis, bleeding, anemia, low stomach acidity and allergies to this plant.

Long-term use of absinthe can also lead to serious health problems and severe nervous disease up to wormwood epilepsy.

– Wormwood is also an anti-atherosclerotic agent, but the stomach of patients with cardiac diseases, due to the daily intake of ulcerogenic drugs that form erosion and ulcers, is not always able to tolerate bitter wormwood, explains Ph.D., cardiologist of the highest category, phytotherapist Svetlana Barnaulova.

Use of wormwood

In official medicine, medicines based on wormwood are prescribed for atrophic gastritis without pronounced inflammation and other disorders of the normal functioning of the gastrointestinal tract. The bitterness of the herb, along with its general tonic effect, has a beneficial effect on the nervous system and improves digestion. Therefore, wormwood preparations are taken before meals.

Traditional medicine assigns wormwood a wider range of applications. Healing infusions, decoctions and compresses from the stems, roots and inflorescences of wormwood are used to treat a variety of conditions and diseases, ranging from problematic childbirth to headaches. Decoctions of wormwood reduce high temperature and even stop bleeding. Phytotherapeutists recommend not to abuse the treatment with wormwood and use it in strictly indicated dosages.

For cystitis


Photo: Рixabay

Steam a handful of herbs with 2 cups of hot milk, cover and insist until cool.

The broth should be poured into a plastic bucket and sit on it, tied with a downy scarf. Milk can be replaced with water, but the effectiveness of treatment will then decrease.

For gastritis and stomach ulcers

Chew a pinch of fresh or dry wormwood herb and swallow the resulting saliva.


Photo: Pixabay

A pinch or one sprig of wormwood is brewed with a glass of boiling water. Insist 20 minutes.

Drink half a glass 2 times a day.

For excessive sweating

Decoction baths

Mix half a glass of crushed wormwood twigs with a glass of oak bark, pour 1 liter of boiling water and boil for about half an hour.

Strain the finished broth and pour into a bath with warm water.

For headaches

There are two uses here:

  • apply wormwood to the temples and forehead;
  • to fumigate the room with wormwood cigars, like incense.

One use for wormwood is to burn wormwood cigars like incense sticks. Photo: Pixabay

To normalize sugar in diabetes of any type

Bread ball with wormwood

Grind wormwood herb into a powder with a blender. Roll up a ball of black bread crumb and make a small indentation in it. Then put grass in it and roll it into a ball again.

Wormwood flavored bread can be eaten with meals, but not more than 2 weeks.

For worms

Phytoncides, alkaloids and thujone, contained in wormwood, affect the growth and development of parasites, removing their waste products.

Before using bitter wormwood to prepare the gastrointestinal tract, doctors advise drinking a course of sorbent preparations or flax oil. Wormwood from worms is taken, both in its pure form and with other herbs before meals.


Photo: Pixabay

Pour 1 teaspoon of dried herb into a glass of drinking water and bring to a boil. Leave for about 30 minutes.

Take 100 – 150 g 3 times a day for a month.

Universal infusion

Photo: Pixabay

Dilute 10 g of cut grass with 200 ml of water.

Store the infusion in a cool place for no more than two days and take 2 tbsp. spoons before meals.

For healing wounds and abrasions

In this case, crushed fresh leaves of the plant can be applied to damaged areas.


Infusions from this plant are often recommended for babies with poor appetite, anemia and worms. This herb is also included in some cough preparations. At the same time, pediatricians recommend giving preparations based on wormwood to children with caution. When preparing medicinal infusions, decoctions and teas for kindergarten children, a third of the adult dose is used, and for schoolchildren – half. In this case, only glass or enamelware with intact enamel is used.

Reviews of doctors about wormwood

Svetlana Barnaulova, PhD, cardiologist of the highest category, herbalist:

– To be honest, in my practice as a cardiologist I rarely had to use wormwood. The plant has a pronounced bitterness and is an anti-infective and anti-parasitic agent. This herb stimulates appetite and improves digestion, so it is recommended for anorexic people.

Elena Korsun, Candidate of Medical Sciences, Head of the Department of Phytotherapy, ICM PFUR, Head of the Educational and Health Center at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine:

– The value of wormwood increased with the discovery of such slow but sure destroyers of the human body as toxoplasma, chlamydia, trichomonads, gonococci, yeasts, viruses, mycoplasmas, ureaplasmas, gardnerella and other microorganisms. In addition, wormwood is an excellent remedy for parasites.

Doctors explained how a decoction of wormwood can help patients with coronavirus

A hot decoction of wormwood can help fight the spread of coronavirus throughout the human body, American scientists believe. In the future, they plan to create a medicine from this plant that will become an alternative to a vaccine. Russian doctors were skeptical about the idea: according to them, a decoction of wormwood really has antiviral properties and even helps fight thrombosis associated with COVID-19, but in general can only be used as an aid.

The first clinical trials of wormwood extract proved the effectiveness of this agent in the fight against SARS-CoV-2 – American scientists managed to stop the spread of the virus in cells in the laboratory with its help. The results of the study were published on the bioRxiv website.

Artemisia annua, or mugwort, is widely used in several countries to treat tropical malaria and even helped fight SARS-CoV-1, the virus that caused the SARS outbreak in 2002-2003. Now scientists have proven that in the form of a hot water extract, it has antiviral activity against SARS-CoV-2. Moreover, wormwood fights the virus after it has entered the cells.

“The results indicate that the active ingredient in the extracts, probably not artemisinin, but some other or combination of ingredients, act synergistically to block viral infection after entry,” study leader Pamela Weathers of the Department of Biology and Biotechnology was quoted as saying by the portal. Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Researchers will now have to continue testing to see if it is possible to create a drug based on dried wormwood leaf powder. They predict that it could be an inexpensive and safe treatment for the new coronavirus, which can be used in places where vaccination is difficult.

Russian doctors have recognized the presence of a whole range of useful properties in wormwood. As the therapist Ekaterina Yashina explained to Gazeta.Ru, a decoction of this herb has been used in Russian folk medicine for a long time:

“It was given for fever, diseases of the liver and spleen, and dropsy. Fresh juice mixed with alcohol – for kidney stones, insomnia, as an antihelminthic and wound healing agent.

Doctors single out antiviral, immunomodulatory and antibacterial effects among the beneficial properties of wormwood. “It has a complex effect on the human body. It may not have a direct effect on the focus of the disease, but it kills secondary infections. Also important is the anti-inflammatory and antithrombotic effect of wormwood. It improves blood flow. With covid, this is just an important aspect, ”immunologist Vladimir Bolibok told Gazeta.Ru.

At the same time, allergy sufferers should treat preparations containing wormwood with caution, the doctors warned. Before use, it is better to take allergy tests.

“In some cases, the extract can cause heartburn, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea. In case of an overdose, tremor, headache, dizziness, convulsions and hallucinations are observed, and allergy sufferers may experience anaphylactic shock, ”said Ekaterina Yashina.

According to her, the drug based on wormwood, which can be regarded as a dietary supplement, should be used only as an adjunct therapy for coronavirus, but not as a cure for it. “This is closer to folk remedies than to a real drug. Of course, there are advocates of homeopathic treatment of all diseases who take herbal supplements and believe that this cures them 100%, but this is not always the case. COVID-19is an insidious disease, and where a complication can come out, we cannot predict, ”the doctor is sure.

I agree with my colleague, pulmonologist Marina Kazakova, who advised not to draw conclusions based on the first clinical trials: “The drug may turn out to be toxic, for example. Therefore, such preliminary data is absolutely no reason to run to brew wormwood or eat it. It can really only hurt.”

Moreover, as noted by Vladimir Bolibok, in Russia the production and use of drugs based on wormwood has been banned since 2013, despite their positive properties.

“We had very powerful drugs based on wormwood, but then the State Drug Control Service classified it as a drug or precursor, and the enterprises stopped producing a number of drugs. And this is a disaster, to be honest, because we have lost good results from treatment with wormwood.

American doctors, in fact, are rediscovering what we Russian doctors have known for a long time,” concluded the immunologist.

Previously, Russia has already tried to find ways to treat coronavirus infection in traditional medicine. So, garlic, turmeric, lemon and ginger were in special demand at the height of the pandemic. Demand for the latter, for example, increased by 80% at the end of March. Chaga, a mushroom that most often grows on a birch, also attracted extensive attention from Russians. It appears on injured or old trees and protects them from pests, drying out and mold. In the case of a person, chaga is able to strengthen the body’s immunity, dietitian Elena Solomatina told Gazeta. Ru.

“Chaga has long been used as a therapeutic agent – antiviral, bactericidal and antitumor. It will not be superfluous to use it for the treatment or prevention of coronavirus. Chaga stimulates the immune response and even modifies it: it does not allow the development of a cytokine storm, that is, it causes the number of soldiers that is necessary to kill the enemy – the virus, ”she explained.

Chaga is available in pharmacies as tea, cream, coffee, face serum and jam. It is this processed mushroom that should be used for the prevention of diseases, since the one on the tree could absorb harmful substances.

“We don’t know what heavy metal salts, radionuclides this tree has accumulated. Chaga can absorb the harmful waste that this tree contains. Either we run with an ax into the taiga, or we buy pharmacy chaga, which has been tested for radiation and other toxins, ”concluded Elena Solomatina.

At the same time, doctors still do not recommend relying entirely on traditional medicine to fight the coronavirus.