Artemisia (plant)

From Academic Kids

Artemisia dracunculus
Artemisia dracunculus
Scientific classification
L., 1753

See text

Artemisia is a large, diverse genus of plants with about 180 species belonging to the sunflower family (Asteraceae). It comprises hardy herbs and sub-shrubs known for their volatile oils. They grow in temperate climates of the Northern Hemisphere, usually in dry or semi-dry habitats. The fern-like leaves of many species are covered with white hairs.

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Maui Wormwood (Artemisia mauiensis)

It contains many well known species, such as Roman wormwood, Sagebrush, Tarragon, Mugwort, and Southernwood. The aromatic leaves of many of these species are medicinal, some are used for flavoring, and some are important range species. All types of wormwood have an extremely bitter taste.

Occasionally some of the species are called sages, causing confusion with the Salvia sages in the family Lamiaceae.

Artemisia abrotanum and the artemisias that are lumped together as "Dusty Miller", and wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) were used to flavor the liqueur Absinthe.

A few wormwoods are garden plants, the fine-textured ones used for clipped bordering. All artemisias are hardiest in free-draining sandy soil, unfertilized, and in full sun.


Absinth wormwood or green ginger (Artemisia absinthium) was used to repel fleas and moths, and in brewing (wormwood beer, wormwood wine). The aperitif vermouth (derived from the German word Wermut, "wormwood") is a wine flavored with aromatic herbs, but originally with wormwood. It is also used medicinally as a tonic, stomachic, febrifuge and anthelmintic. It is native to Europe and Siberia and is now widespread in the United States.

Artemisia arborescens L. (Tree Wormwood, or Sheeba in Arabic) is a very bitter herb indegenous to the Middle East that is used in tea, usually with mint. It may have some hallucinogenic properties.

The bitterness of all plant parts also led to its use by wet-nurses for weaning infants from the breast, as in this speech from Romeo and Juliet Act I, Scene 3:

Nurse: ...
And she [Juliet] was wean'd,--I never shall forget it,--
Of all the days of the year, upon that day:
For I had then laid wormwood to my dug,

"As bitter as wormwood" is also a common expression.

Roman wormwood (Artemesia pontica) is a flavouring ingredient that contains thujone used in the alcoholic drink absinthe. Although used in absinthe (thujone), purified wormwood is a neurotoxin. See: A near-fatal incident involving wormwood oil (

Associations in human culture

Wormwood (Apsinthos in the Greek text) is the "name of the star" in the Book of Revelation (8:11) (kai to onoma tou asteros legetai ho Apsinthos) that John the Evangelist envisions as cast by the angel and falling into the waters, making them undrinkably bitter. Outside the Book of Revelation, there are up to eight further references in the Bible showing that wormwood was a common herb of the area and its awful taste was known, as a drinkable preparation applied for specific reasons. This makes sense since the people of those days lived so much closer to the ground and must have appreciated the effects of wormwood to control parasites.

Some authors thought that Chernobyl translates as "wormwood" in the above sense of "Apsinthos", which is "Absinth wormwood". However, the correct translation is mugwort, sometimes referred to as "common wormwood" (see Chernobyl: Name origin).

Wormwood is a junior devil in The Screwtape Letters, a novel by C. S. Lewis on human temptation. Miss Wormwood is the name of Calvin's teacher in Calvin and Hobbes, a former daily comic strip by Bill Watterson. This character is named after the Screwtape Letters character mentioned above.

In Russian culture, the fact that Artemisia species are commonly used in medicine, and their bitter taste is associated with medicinal effects, has caused wormwood to be seen as a symbol for a "bitter truth" that must be accepted by a deluded (often self-deluded) person. This symbol has acquired a particular poignancy in modern Russian poetry, which often deals with the loss of illusory beliefs in various ideologies.


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Artemisia alba
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Southernwood (Artemisia abrotanum)
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California Sagebrush (Artemisia californica) - leaves
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Roman Wormwood (Artemisia pontica)
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Beach Sagewort (Artemisia pycnocephala)- flowers
 (Artemisia absinthium)
Absinth Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium)

de:Artemisia_(Pflanze) fr:Artemisia pl:Bylica


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