The Benefits of Wormwood

Wormwood is a substance long used in herbal medicine. Sourced from the Artemisia absinthium plant, wormwood is also used as a flavoring in absinthe and other alcoholic beverages. Taking wormwood in dietary supplement form is said to aid in treatment of a variety of health conditions, including digestive disorders.

Uses for Wormwood

In alternative medicine, wormwood is thought to stimulate the digestive system, reduce inflammation, and act as a sedative.

Some alternative medicine proponents claim that it may help with the following health problems:

In addition, wormwood is said to act as an aphrodisiac and boost energy levels.

When applied directly to the skin, wormwood is used to speed up wound healing and treat insect bites.

Benefits of Wormwood

Although few studies have tested the health effects of wormwood, some preliminary research shows that it may offer certain health benefits. Here's a look at some findings from the available studies on wormwood:

1) Crohn's Disease

Wormwood may be of some benefit to people with Crohn's disease (a type of inflammatory bowel disease), according to a small study published in Phytomedicine in 2010. For the study, 10 patients with Crohn's disease were given wormwood in combination with their standard treatment for six weeks.

The study also included an additional 10 patients who received standard care but did not receive wormwood.

By the study's end, eight of the patients in the wormwood group experienced significant remission of symptoms (compared to just two patients in the control group). In addition, patients given wormwood showed a significant improvement in mood.

2) Kidney Disease

Wormwood shows promise in the treatment of IgA nephropathy, a kidney disorder that occurs when immunoglobulin A (a type of antibody) builds up in kidney tissue, triggers inflammation, and impairs kidney function.

For a preliminary study published in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases in 2010, researchers assigned 10 patients with IgA nephropathy to six months of treatment with wormwood (taken in combination with their standard treatment). At the end of the six-month period, the study's participants showed a significant improvement in proteinuria (a nephropathy-related condition marked by the presence of abnormal amounts of protein in the urine). Study members also showed a moderate decrease in blood pressure.

Caveats

Wormwood contains thujone, a chemical with potentially toxic effects. Many wormwood supplements are marketed as "thujone-free."

Taking wormwood in excessive amounts may lead to major health issues, including liver and kidney damage. Large doses of wormwood are also thought to trigger side effects like delirium, nausea, seizures, stomach pain, and vomiting.

Keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and dietary supplements are largely unregulated. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals. Also, the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. 

Learn more about using wormwood and other dietary supplements safely here.

Alternatives to Wormwood

Several natural remedies may help stimulate your digestive system and treat digestive problems. For instance, research shows that herbs like slippery elm and marshmallow may help alleviate heartburn, while remedies such as artichoke leaf extract and peppermint oil may ease indigestion.

In addition, several natural therapies (including acupuncture and probiotic supplements) show promise in the treatment of Crohn's disease. However, it's important to note that self-treating Crohn's disease (or any chronic condition) with any type of natural therapy and avoiding or delaying standard care may be harmful to your health.

Where to Find It

Dietary supplements and teas containing wormwood can be purchased at many natural-foods stores, drugstores, and stores specializing in dietary supplements. Wormwood products are also sold online.

Using Wormwood for Health

Due to the limited research, it's too soon to recommend wormwood as a treatment for any condition. It's also important to note that self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. If you're considering using wormwood for any health purpose, make sure to consult your physician first.

Sources

American Cancer Society. "Wormwood." March 2012.

Krebs S, Omer TN, Omer B. "Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) suppresses tumour necrosis factor alpha and accelerates healing in patients with Crohn's disease - A controlled clinical trial." Phytomedicine. 2010 Apr;17(5):305-9.

Krebs S, Omer B, Omer TN, Fliser D. "Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) for poorly responsive early-stage IgA nephropathy: a pilot uncontrolled trial." Am J Kidney Dis. 2010 Dec;56(6):1095-9.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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