The Health Benefits of Wormwood

Improves Digestion, Reduces Pain and Inflammation

Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) is a perennial herb, or one that grows back every year. It has been used for medical purposes for thousands of years.

This strong plant can remove unwanted parasites, which is why it is named “wormwood.” The essential oil from this bitter-tasting herb has other health benefits too. It can help with digestion, pain management, and reduce swelling. 

This article explains how wormwood is used medicinally, including how to take it and possible side effects.

Also Known As

Other common names for wormwood include: 

  • Absinthe
  • Absinthium
  • Green Ginger
  • Mugwort
  • Madderwort
Wormwood and its essential oil
zetat / iStock / Getty Images

Health Benefits of Wormwood

There have been studies to test many uses for wormwood.

How Wormwood Treats Crohn's Disease

Crohn’s disease causes swelling of the digestive system and has unpleasant symptoms such as intense stomach pain, diarrhea, and tiredness.

In a study with 40 adults living with Crohn’s disease, patients were given 1,500 milligrams (mg) of wormwood a day. The patients showed fewer symptoms. They also did not need as many steroids (a common Crohn’s medication) after eight weeks of supplementation.

Another study showed that 65% of those given a wormwood supplement were “near complete remission” of the disease. Many patients also said their moods were better after six weeks of taking 750 mg of wormwood three times a day.

Wormwood Gets Rid of Parasites 

Parasites such as pinworm, roundworm, and tapeworms can infect human intestines and mess up digestive health. Wormwood can get rid of intestinal worms. In fact, the name wormwood is from its use to remove parasites from the body. 

A study published in the Journal of Helminthology showed that wormwood causes loss of muscle function and death in these parasites in animals. The treatment is shown to be as successful as leading anti-parasitic medications.

Wormwood Improves Digestion

About two-thirds of Americans experience gastrointestinal symptoms such as gas, bloating, heartburn, stomach pain, constipation, and diarrhea. Research shows that wormwood can help with digestion and reduce spasms in the intestines and stomach.

Wormwood can also increase appetite, help produce saliva, and other digestive enzymes, or proteins that help with your metabolism. All of these help food move along the digestive tract to support healthy digestion.

Since 70% of the immune system lives in the digestive tract, wormwood helps support overall health. 

Pain Management With Wormwood

Pain can make people feel weak and make day-to-day life harder. This can include the ability to sleep, work, and enjoy life. That’s why it’s so important to find pain management options that work.

A small study showed that wormwood can improve pain and reduce swelling in the body. Patients in the study said their pain levels were better after taking 150 mg of wormwood extract twice a day for 12 weeks.

Another study found that all Artemisia species like wormwood are helpful herbal medicines for pain. This is because they have antioxidants that help protect your cells through a chemical reaction. They also have been shown to reduce swelling.

How Wormwood Is Used for Arthritis and Immune Support

Inflammation, or swelling, is linked to many long-term diseases, acute and chronic pain, and reduced immune function. Artemisinin—a compound found in wormwood—may help reduce inflammation in the body by stopping the body from making cytokines. Cytokines are proteins made by the immune system that cause inflammation in the body.

Many people use wormwood to relieve the pain and swelling caused by arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis patients reported significant reductions in joint pain after 12 weeks of using wormwood extract.

Researchers found that wormwood is more effective and safer than the more common medications used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Another study showed that putting 3% wormwood ointment on sore joints reduced pain and improved physical function in patients with osteoarthritis. 

Recap

Wormwood is an herb used for medical conditions for thousands of years. It can be used to treat Crohn's disease, get rid of parasites in the digestive tract, and help people with digestion. It can also help improve the immune system and manage pain, including arthritis pain.

Possible Side Effects of Wormwood 

Wormwood is relatively safe for short-term use of two to four weeks. Long-term use for 4 or more weeks and/or taking higher amounts than recommended can cause serious side effects. These include problems with sleeping, vomiting, nausea, dizziness, hallucinations, the need to constantly move, and seizures.

Because wormwood contains ingredients that can produce dangerous effects, people with the following conditions should not take wormwood: 

  • Pregnant or breastfeeding: Wormwood may cause a miscarriage.
  • Epilepsy or another seizure disorder: Wormwood contains thujone—a chemical that is known to cause seizures. Wormwood may also reduce the effectiveness of some anti-seizure medications.
  • Heart disease: If you are taking warfarin for heart health, wormwood may cause bleeding in the intestines.
  • Kidney disease: Wormwood is toxic to the kidneys and may lead to kidney failure
  • Allergies: If you are allergic to the Asteraceae family (e.g., ragweed, marigolds), avoid wormwood. It is part of this plant family.

Though wormwood is safe for most adults to use for a short time, it is important to discuss using it with your healthcare provider, as it may contraindicate with certain medications. Wormwood is not safe for children. 

Wormwood Dosage and Preparation 

There are currently no specific dosage guidelines for wormwood. It is important to follow all recommended dosages on the labels of commercially available wormwood products. 

Wormwood is usually taken as a tea or used as an extract. Dried (not fresh) leaves can be used to make wormwood tea. 

Wormwood tea recipe: 

  • Let 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of dried wormwood leaves sit in one cup (250 mL) of boiling water
  • Steep, or let it sit, for 5-10 minutes; the longer you steep, the more bitter the flavor 
  • Add peppermint, honey, or lemon juice to taste (not required)

What to Look For

Wormwood is available at health food stores and online. It may be found in essential oil, pill, and liquid extract forms. It is important to follow all product label instructions carefully because large amounts can cause serious side effects.

The US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) lists wormwood as unsafe for internal use because it contains thujone. Thujone is toxic. The FDA requires all wormwood products sold in the US to be thujone-free, so it is generally safe when found in food and beverages (including bitters and vermouth). 

Summary

Wormwood is proven to have many benefits but be sure to talk to your doctor before taking it. It is also important to think about the possible side effects and decide if the benefit is worth the risk.

A Word From Verywell

Wormwood is a nutrient-dense herb that has proven benefits for people with Crohn’s disease and arthritis. It can also remove unwanted parasites from the body, such as pinworm and malaria, and helps with healthy digestion.

As with any dietary supplement, it is important to speak with your doctor before using wormwood. There are no exact dosage guidelines. Your doctor may be able to guide you to the correct form of wormwood and dosage for you. 

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