We had a lively meeting on Wednesday with lots of input from everyone on the topic of Artemisia. Here are my notes from the program...
Artemisia is a large, diverse genus of plants with between 200 to 400 species belonging to the daisy family Asteraceae.
It comprises hardy herbs and shrubs known for their volatile oils. They grow in temperate climates of the Northern Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere, usually in dry or semi-dry habitats. The fern-like leaves of many species are covered with white hairs.
Common names used for several species include mugwort, sagebrush, sagewort, and wormwood, while a few species have unique names, notably Tarragon (A. dracunculus) and Southernwood (A. abrotanum).
Occasionally some of the species are called sages, causing confusion with the Salvia sages in the family Lamiaceae.
Most species have strong aromas and bitter tastes from terpenoids and sesquiterpene lactones, which exists as an adaptation to discourage herbivory. The small flowers are wind-pollinated.
The aromatic leaves of many species of Artemisia are medicinal, and some are used for flavouring. Most species have an extremely bitter taste.
Wormwood has been used medicinally as a tonic, stomachic, febrifuge and anthelmintic- to destroy parasitic worms.
The mugwort plant contains essential oils (such as cineole, or wormwood oil, and thujone), flavonoids, triterpenes, and coumarin derivatives. It was also used as an anthelminthic, so it is sometimes confused with wormwood (Artemisia absinthium). The plant, called nagadamni in Sanskrit, is used in Ayurveda for cardiac complaints as well as feelings of unease, unwellness and general malaise.
Artemisia absinthium (Absinth Wormwood, Common Wormwood) was used to repel fleas and moths, and in brewing (wormwood beer, wormwood wine). The aperitif vermouth (derived from the German word Wermut, "wormwood") is a wine flavored with aromatic herbs, but originally with wormwood.
- 'While Wormwood hath seed get a handful or twaine
- To save against March, to make flea to refraine:
- Where chamber is sweeped and Wormwood is strowne,
- What saver is better (if physick be true)
- For places infected than Wormwood and Rue?
- It is a comfort for hart and the braine
- And therefore to have it it is not in vaine.'
This Artemisia will grow in sun to shade here in Texas. It will reach a height of about 4 or 5 feet in one season. It is not particular about soil type and needs very little water once it starts to gain some size. It looks good in containers, too. In fact, some people grow it in pots and shape it for a Christmas Tree.
The seeds are small, so if you purchase seed or harvest some and want to sow them yourself, just sprinkle the seed on the surface of the soil or potting medium and keep them moist. They should germinate within 2 weeks.