I’m so happy that today you get to meet Larissa! Following is a guest post from her about a valuable plant in Alaska, but a little about what Larissa offers first. Her friendly blog at Alaska Herbal Solutions will give you great info on useful plants. She does serious research and brings it to you in a delightful, easy reading manner that also includes the technical goodies.
She even has a page of videos! And herbal how-to’s! Yep, this woman has it together. So enjoy this post that she gifted us with, and then check out her website.
Today Larissa is telling us about wormwood and its uses. She sent wonderfully illustrative photos of this herb. Wormwood doesn’t just pop up everywhere in Southeast Alaska, although I have read that it occurs throughout the area. I have found wormwood on gravel river bars up the Stikine River. It might be a good addition to your garden, so that you have a supply close by.
Here’s Larissa - enjoy!
The Wonderful World of Wormwood!
Hi there! My name is Larissa, over at Alaska Herbal Solutions . I live on the Kenai Peninsula and love Alaskan herbs and plants. In addition to teaching people about the food and medicinal uses of Alaskan plants, I make products of only ingredients that grow in Alaska. One day I was searching for an article about harvesting devil’s club and found Alaska Floats My Boat. After getting what I needed, I wandered around the website some more.
“This information is wonderful!” I thought to myself. So I contacted Jo to see if I could help her write an article about any herbs she didn’t have down in Southeast Alaska. The one she wanted was artemisia, or wormwood, so here it is!
Disclaimer: This article is informational only. The information is not meant to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease or illness. Any information should be discussed with your doctor before trying.
Wormwood is one of my favorite herbs and there are several different types in Alaska. The ones pictured in this article are Artemisia tilesii. The other two, that I’m aware of, are A. frigida and A. artica artica (yes, there are two “articas” in there). In the world, there are between 200 and 400 plants in the Artemisia genus - not all of them have the same uses. Here in Alaska, wormwood is also known as stinkweed, mugwort, Caiggluk by the Yupik, caribou leaves, prairie sagewort, and wild sage.
I tend to find wormwood in rocky outcroppings while I'm hiking. They seem to grow nicely in well drained soil if you're going to try to transplant them.
Food Uses for Wormwood:
Wormwood is extremely bitter, so it’s best used as a spice. I like to replace regular sage with it when I’m cooking.
You may be thinking “Isn’t artemisia what they make absinthe out of?” Yes, and no. There is a specific strain called A. absinthium that is used to make absinthe, so if you were excited to go make some, I’m sorry to burst your bubble and tell you that it doesn’t grow up in Alaska. However, you can still use it in brews for beer and other alcohols. Other than that, wormwood is so bitter that it doesn’t make a good food source. Plus it also has some components that cause problems when it builds up in your system. I’ll go over those more in the cautions section.
Medicinal Uses for Wormwood:
Medicinal actions - Anthelmintic, antimicrobial, aromatic, bitter, emmenagogue, hepatic, stimulant, tonic, vulnerary, carminative. The genus name Artemisia comes from Artemis, the Greek Goddess of wild animals, the hunt, vegetation, chastity and childbirth. This is thought to be assigned to plants that helped bring on menstruation for women, which all of the wormwood that grow in Alaska can definitely help with. Drinking the tea during particularly painful menstruation or if it’s late (make sure you’re not pregnant) is very helpful.
One of my favorite uses for wormwood is as an insect repellent. This is especially useful if I’ve forgotten my bug spray. I take the leaves, crush and rub them between my hands to get the juices coming out. Then I rub the juices over all of my exposed skin to keep those pesky bugs away. You can also plant it on the perimeter of your garden to help keep pests away.
For colds, a tea can be made to drink or gargle. Combine it with yarrow, chamomile (pineapple weed), white clover buds, and spruce tips to pack a whammy against that cold! The volatile oils of it can also help clear up sinuses, so mix it with yarrow, spruce tips, and juniper in a steam bath.
Topically, it can be used for sore muscles, it works well with devil’s club or arnica. It can also be used on cuts and scrapes due to its antimicrobial properties. If you don’t want to make a salve out of it, you can add it to a bath.
As the common name suggests, a tea of wormwood can help get rid of worms in the digestive system. Drink a cooled down tea to get help your body expel them. Additionally, it can help with digestion in general.
There is also promising research that wormwood can be used to help with cancer. I wrote a whole article on it here if you want to read up more on it.
Internally, wormwood should be used in moderation and small doses. Besides being in the asteraceae (daisy) family meaning you should avoid using it if you’re allergic to daisies, it also contains thujone in the leaves. Thujone, also known as absinthol, is the volatile oil that makes Absinthe dangerous (the A. Absinthium has the most from what I can gather, which is why it’s made from that strain specifically). It can build up in your system with use over time, which is why it should be used moderately.
A big thank you to Jo for letting me write this article for Alaska Floats My Boat. As a special thank you for reading my post on Alaska Floats My Boat, I have a PDF just for you! Sign up for my weekly newsletter here and you will receive a complimentary PDF about 15 Alaskan Weeds That Are Useful.
Thank you so much for reading this article, I hope you found it helpful,
And a few related links from Alaska Beachcomber at Alaska Floats My Boat: