Oil Of The Week: African Wormwood
Wormwood is one of the most popular traditional medicines in China and Africa and has a long history. There are three varieties of the plant: Artemisia afra, Artemisia annuum,and Artemisia absinthium. All varieties are used in traditional medicine and have some very interesting properties which make them particularly applicable in today’s world. The chemical component artemisinin, found in theA. annuum variety is used to treat malaria, which makes it noteworthy, but for the purpose of this blog we will focus on Artemisia afra.
Artemisia afra, the variety of wormwood native to the African continent, is used extensively in traditional medicine in Southern and East Africa. African wormwood is also known as Wilde als, Lengana or Umhlonyane, and both the plant and the oil extracted from it are utilised medicinally and also have various other uses. The essential oil is steam distilled from the leaves, roots and stems of the Artemisia afra plant, which is a perennial shrub that grows all over SA, with the Northern Cape as an exception.
The essential oil is described as smelling like wine gums, with a delicate boozy-floral scent with medicinal, herbaceous notes.
Wormwood is well known for its pungent, unique aroma and antiviral, antibacterial and anti inflammatory properties. Let’s take a look at its uses.
It is the main ingredient in the alcoholic drink absinthe, and the plant is a bitter.
It is a great general bodily tonic when drunk as a tea!
Organic insecticide and fungicide:
Insects and moths do not like wormwood, so the plant material and oil can be used to make an effective natural insecticide and fungicide spray.
Wormwood and its oil are primarily used medicinally. The wormwood plant is drunk as a tea, but can also be used as a poultice, infusion, rinse, and even smoked. It is used to treat coughs, colds, headaches, chills, influenza, fever, diabetes, digestive issues and a range of other maladies. Studies have shown it to exhibit strong antiviral and immune boosting properties, and it has been shown to inhibit various microorganisms such as certain bacteria, viruses and yeasts.
The oil has similar properties as well as some mild anesthetic ability, and is highly antimicrobial and antiviral. It can be applied topically (always do a patch test first and dilute), added to personal care products, added to bath water, or diffused into the air. Inhaling the healing aroma will treat headaches and congestion, and help with the symptoms of colds, coughs and flu. Topical application can also assist with menstrual cramps, insect bites, wound care, and local anesthetic for rheumatism, neuralgia and arthritis.
The powerful medicinal properties of African wormwood make it a good natural option for treating the symptoms of Covid-19.
Warning: the main chemical component of African wormwood is thujone which can be a neurotoxin in consistently large doses, causing vomiting, convulsions and restlessness. Do not use during pregnancy.
Wormwood Salve For Pain
This is a vegan salve that is lovely and gentle and can be massaged in to help with cramps or joint pain.
10g macadamia oil
25g shea butter
1 drop Vitamin E oil
3g carnauba or candelilla wax
2-3 drops wormwood essential oil
Optional: 1 tsp wormwood plant tied up in gauze to infuse
Weigh out the macadamia oil, shea butter and Vitamin E oil. Gently melt it together in a water bath. If you want to, you can infuse some wormwood into the oil mixture as well, to make it more potent. Do this by leaving the gauze bag in the melting oil mixture for 30 mins to 1 hour. Remove everything from the water bath and leave the wormwood bag in the oils to cool and infuse overnight. Remove the bag and squeeze out the oil. Melt the wax and add it to the oils, stirring to combine, then add the essential oil. Pour into a glass jar and leave to set.
Wormwood Diffuser Blend
This is a great oil blend which you can drop straight into your diffuser or oil burner to diffuse into the air. Use for congestion, coughs and colds, headaches or other discomforts.
10 drops wormwood essential oil
5 drops lemon bush
African wormwood blends well with chamomile, geranium, buchu, lemon bush, Cape snowbush, helichrysum, rose and frankincense.
African wormwood is truly a traditional medicine for the modern era!