Benefits and uses of wormwood
In addition to its use in absinthe and other spirits, wormwood has many applications in non-Western medicinal practices, including Traditional Chinese medicine.
Despite absinthe’s reputation for causing hallucinations, sleeplessness, and convulsions, wormwood is not considered a hallucinogen.
Although the drink’s high alcohol and thujone contents may play a minor role in these effects, this has not been confirmed by formal research. Thus, its historical associations with these mental and physical conditions are not well understood.
May alleviate pain
Wormwood has long been sought for its pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties.
For example, this herb may help relieve osteoarthritis, a painful condition resulting from joint inflammation.
In a 4-week study in 90 adults with knee osteoarthritis, applying a 3% wormwood skin ointment 3 times daily helped improve both pain levels and physical function. All the same, it didn’t reduce stiffness.
It should be noted that the plant itself should never be directly applied to the skin, as its compounds are too concentrated and can result in painful burns.
Currently, there’s not enough research to determine whether teas or extracts of wormwood also reduce pain.
May fight parasitic infections
Wormwood has been used to treat intestinal worms as far back as Ancient Egypt. This parasite-fighting property is attributed to thujone.
Yet, the evidence for this specific application is largely anecdotal.
Notably, animal and test-tube studies indicate that the herb may fight tapeworms and other parasites — though this research may not apply to humans.
Thus, more comprehensive studies are necessary.
Boasts antioxidant properties
Besides thujone, another notable wormwood compound is chamazulene. It acts as an antioxidant and is most concentrated in the essential oils of the plant’s pre-flowering stage.
Antioxidants like chamazulene may combat oxidative stress in your body, which is associated with cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and other ailments.
Nonetheless, more research on this compound’s properties is needed.
May fight inflammation
Artemisinin, another plant compound found in wormwood, may help fight inflammation in your body. Prolonged inflammation is associated with several chronic diseases.
Artemisinin is thought to inhibit cytokines, which are proteins secreted by your immune system that promote inflammation.
Studies suggest that wormwood may help relieve Crohn’s disease, which is characterized by inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract. Its symptoms may include diarrhea, fatigue, abdominal cramps, and other digestive issues.
In one study in 40 adults with this condition, those taking a 500-mg wormwood supplement 3 times daily had fewer symptoms and a reduced need for steroids after 8 weeks, compared with those in a placebo group.
Keep in mind that further research is needed.
Dosage and safety information
Due to a lack of research, no specific dosage guidelines for wormwood exist.
At the same time, various governmental institutions have placed restrictions on wormwood products, as its compounds can produce toxic effects.
For instance, the European Union (EU) limits foods prepared with wormwood to 0.23 mg of thujone per pound (0.5 mg/kg), while the threshold for alcoholic beverages like absinthe is 16 mg per pound (35 mg/kg).
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) restricts any commercial product containing thujone to 10 parts per million (ppm) or less. This amount is considered negligible and thus safe for most populations.
Keep in mind that wormwood tea and extracts aren’t regulated by the FDA. Thus, they don’t fall under these regulations and harbor significantly more thujone.
If you’re unsure how much to take, it’s best to speak to your medical provider.