Name: Green Wormwood (Artemisia cina)
Otherwise known as: Wormseed; Old Woman; Polin
Habitat: A perennial member of the Compositaea family growing to 1.25m in barren soil and native to southern Europe, north Africa and the Levant. It has highly pungent, deeply-indented grey foliage covered in fine hairs and displays small round sprays of yellow flowers: it is toxic in all parts.
What does it do: The plant is named after the goddess Artemis, according to the Herbarium of Apuleius.
St John the Baptist wore a girdle made of the stems and thereafter the plant has been associated with bitterness and self-discipline.
Wormwood is used to treat a number of disorders and is mainly associated with digestive problems. The bitter compounds trigger the taste receptors on the tongue which in turn set off a reflex action stimulating the digestive secretions in the stomach. This has proven most effective in treating anorexia and overcoming feeble appetite in the elderly.
Recent research has revealed that the plant has powerful liver protective properties, which is achieved by inhibiting metabolising enzymes in that organ.
Medieval physicians, particularly Paracelsus, recommended Wormwood for relief from jaundice and depression arising from gall bladder congestion. It was also prescribed to reduce the effect of lead poisoning. For centuries the plant has been most effectively used to expel intestinal worms of the Nematoda family; it will also reduce nausea from travel sickness, restore the menstrual cycle, and assist in withdrawal from benzodiazepine addiction. The chemical compounds of the plant make it a most effective insecticide and it will repel moths, fleas, beetles, carrot fly and aphids, some gardeners claim it is effective against slugs. A handful of the dried leaves may be scattered in wardrobes to repel the clothes moth.
Alexander McCowan is author of The World’s most Dangerous Plants