Wormwood, known scientifically as Artemisia absinthium, is a herbaceous perennial plant with a bitter flavor and woody growth. Renowned for its traditional medicinal uses and as an ingredient in absinthe, this plant has active compounds like thujone that may offer digestive and antimicrobial benefits, although these are supported by limited clinical evidence. Smoking wormwood for its anecdotal euphoric or relaxing effects lacks scientific substantiation, and due to potential toxicity, should be approached with caution.

Common name(s): Common Wormwood
Scientific name: Artemisia absinthium


Life Cycle

sagebrush, the blooming of the wormwood, flowers of wormwood

Known for its bitter taste, potential medicinal benefits, and historical use in the production of absinthe.


Native to North Africa and temperate regions of Eurasia, including Central Europe and southern Siberia.

Natural Habitat

Wormwood typically grows in arid to semi-arid conditions, on uncultivated, rocky slopes, and along roadsides and field edges.


Full sun or partial shade, well-drained soil, and moderate watering, tolerating some drought.

Traditional Usage

Wormwood has been held in high esteem in traditional medicine for its purported digestive benefits and other therapeutic properties. In many cultures, it was a go-to remedy for several health concerns.

Traditional uses of Wormwood include:

  • Creating infusions to aid in digestive disorders such as stomach aches and indigestion.
  • Stimulating appetite and promoting bile production for better digestion.
  • Serving as an antimicrobial agent and combating various infections.
  • Employing its bitter-tasting components in rituals and as a flavoring in spirits like absinthe.

Although historically significant, contemporary use of wormwood should always be approached with caution due to potential adverse effects.4

Historical Usage

Used in digestive disorder treatments and rituals; notable in traditional European and Central Asian medicine.

Common Usage

Commonly used in flavoring absinthe, as a digestive tonic, and in herbal remedies.


Wormwood has intriguing properties based on its composition of active compounds. These offer a variety of uses, historically grounded in European and Asian medicinal practices. Modern investigations into the plant highlight its:

  • Stimulation of the digestive system, which may help in boosting appetite and supporting bile production.
  • Potential anti-inflammatory effects, offering a natural avenue for soothing various ailments.
  • Antimicrobial activity, indicating a role in combating certain infections.

Yet, despite these potential benefits, it’s crucial to remain aware of the possible risks. Excessive intake of wormwood can cause adverse reactions including digestive issues and, in severe cases, kidney failure. With this in mind, responsible and moderate usage is highly advisable.

In any form, it’s important to respect dosage guidelines and consider personal health conditions before including wormwood in your routine. Always seek expert advice to ensure its safe application, according to personal health needs.

tansy, tanacetum vulgare, chrysanthemum vulgare

Promotes digestive health and appetite, with caution advised for high doses due to potential side effects.

Effects when smoking

When smoked, wormwood is reported to induce mild effects such as a sense of relaxation or slight euphoria. These findings largely stem from anecdotes rather than well-documented scientific research. Users often seek out wormwood for its potential to soothe and to unwind, looking to herbal remedies as a natural alternative.

However, it’s important to note that the specific impact of smoking wormwood on an individual can vary widely, and the general lack of scientific data means these effects are not guaranteed. Moreover, while wormwood contains active compounds such as thujone, which may contribute to perceived cognitive shifts, caution is advised. High dosages of thujone can be toxic and may lead to adverse reactions, including nausea, vomiting, or more severe effects1.

The herb’s distinctive bitter flavor is largely due to sesquiterpene lactones, compounds that also promote digestive function when consumed in moderate amounts. Because of its intense taste and the potential risks of thujone, wormwood is not typically used for smoking in mainstream practices, and anyone considering it should proceed with care, being mindful of dosage and individual tolerance.

Safety should be the top priority. Check local laws regarding wormwood’s legal status, as it is regulated in some areas1. Always remember, while exploring traditional herbal practices offers a connection to nature, it’s essential to respect your body’s limits and seek guidance from health professionals when necessary.

Flavor Profile

Bitter taste profile, characteristic of its sesquiterpene lactones content.

Edible Parts

This plant is not known to be edible.

Effects when Smoked

Said to induce mild euphoria and relaxation, but effects are largely anecdotal with minimal research.

User Experiences

User experiences vary widely, with some reporting digestive relief and well-being, and others cautioning about its bitter taste and potential side effects.

Medicinal Benefits

The potential medicinal benefits of wormwood are wide-ranging, though it’s important to note that clinical evidence to back these benefits is limited. Wormwood contains active compounds such as thujone, sesquiterpene lactones, flavonoids, and phenolic acids that contribute to its therapeutic properties. Here’s a succinct list of the potential benefits:

  • Digestive Aid: May stimulate the digestive system and help with issues like loss of appetite and indigestion2.
  • Anti-inflammatory Properties: Could reduce inflammation, offering relief in certain conditions4.
  • Antimicrobial Activity: Exhibits potential to fight certain bacteria and fungi4.

It’s crucial to adhere to safe usage guidelines, as high doses pose risks, including neurotoxicity due to the compound thujone1. Always consult with a healthcare provider before including wormwood in any health regimen.

History and Folklore

Wormwood has been recognized for its medicinal properties for centuries, valued in ancient practices. Historically, its uses ranged from digestive infusions to ceremonial practices. In regions of Central Asia and Europe, it was considered a fundamental medicinal plant. Artemisia abrotanum L., also known as southern wormwood, notably held a place of significance in traditional medicine. The 19th century saw wormwood draw attention for its role in absinthe, an alcoholic beverage that grew in popularity and, subsequently, controversy due to health concerns associated with thujone[1] [3].

tansy, flower background, flower

Wormwood has been cherished for its diverse medicinal uses across cultures, from aiding digestion to featuring in traditional ceremonies, and even sparking interest and debate as a key ingredient in absinthe.

Side Effects and Contraindications

  • Side Effects: High doses of wormwood may result in nausea, vomiting, and seizures. Renal issues, such as kidney failure, have also been reported.
  • Contraindications: Caution is advised due to the presence of thujone, which can be toxic in large quantities. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid use, as well as individuals with a history of seizures or kidney problems.

Note that proper dosage guidelines are not well established, making it essential to use wormwood with caution and preferably under professional guidance1.

Legal Status

The legality of wormwood varies by region. In some areas, wormwood and its preparations, including those used for smoking, are regulated due to the thujone content. Thujone can have psychoactive effects and in large amounts, may be toxic, which is why there are regulatory measures in place. Before using wormwood, it’s crucial to check the local regulations to ensure compliance with the law. These regulations can dictate whether you can purchase, possess, or consume wormwood products legally.

To avoid any legal complications, always seek the most up-to-date information on wormwood’s legal status in your specific area.


1. Healthline. “Wormwood: Benefits, Dosage, and Side Effects.” https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/what-is-wormwood
2. Drugs.com. “Wormwood Uses, Benefits & Dosage.” https://www.drugs.com/npp/wormwood.html
3. Wikipedia. “Artemisia absinthium.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artemisia_absinthium
4. National Center for Biotechnology Information. “Artemisia abrotanum L. (Southern Wormwood)—History, Current Knowledge.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8123286/
5. SpringerLink. “Chemical Composition and Biological Uses of Artemisia absinthium (Wormwood).” https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-030-04408-4_3