Wormwood is an aromatic, bitter, hairy perennial herb. It has erect, angular and ribbed stems, 30 to 90 cms high. It has egg-shaped leaves, 2.5 to 5.0 cm long which are hairy on both sides and unequally cut into segments. It also has numerous, minute yellow drooping flower heads and small, dry and single seeded fruit.
The Latin name of the herb comes from the Greek goddess Artemis, who took care of women during childbirth.It could be used externally as a compress during labour to speed up birth and afterwards, internally and externally to expel the placenta. The active principles of Indian wormwood consists of volatile oil which has an odour resembling cajuput oil and camphor, santonin and an allied body artemisin.
The whole herb is used medicinally, but its leaves are preferred. The fresh plant is considered more efficacious than a dry one. The herb is a tonic, useful in strengthening the functioning of stomach and promoting its action. It stimulates appetite, the digestive juices, peristalsis or movement of the bowels, the liver and gall bladder. True to its name, it also expels intestinal worms, especially round and thread-worms.
Wormwood had been used by ancient Greek, Roman, Arab and Persian physicians to expel intestinal worms. The flowering tops have been, and are still, used in the Tibbi medicine in India as a drug to kill intestinal worms. They are usually powdered and administered in 8 to 16 gram doses for roundworms and tapeworms.
The oil distilled from the plant also possesses the property to kill worms. Mixed with eight times its weight of olive oil, it can be given in doses of 50 to 100 grams. An infusion of the herb can be given as an enema for killing worms in the rectum.
The herb is beneficial in the treatment of bilious melancholia besides dispersing the yellow bile of jaundice from the skin. An infusion of the herb or its powder can be given in small doses.
Wormwood helps disperse or absorb a tumour or any other coagulated fluid in case of skin diseases. It also acts as an antiseptic and cleanser. It can be pickled in vinegar and applied with beneficial results to sprains and bruises.
Wormwood is also useful in several other diseases such as atonic diseases of the digestive system, nocturnal pollutions or ejaculation without the sex act, involuntarily, during sleep without any erotic dream, anaemia, wasting diseases and general debility. It should be given in small doses of 0.73 to 1.25 decigrams in such treatments. The essential oil of the herb is used as a cardiac and respiratory stimulant.
Precaution : The drug should be avoided during pregnancy and if needed, should be taken only for short periods.