Health Benefits of Wormwood

Wormwood plant

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Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) is an herb that grows in areas of mild temperature worldwide. It is also commonly known as madderwort and green ginger. 

Wormwood is a perennial bush with leaves that smell like sage. With a bitter taste, wormwood is used in the making of the alcoholic drinks vermouth and absinthe.

People have also used wormwood in medicine for many years. Wormwood has been used for many reasons, including killing parasites, improving digestion, and managing pain.

Dietary supplements are minimally regulated by the FDA and may or may not be suitable for you. The effects of supplements vary from person to person and depend on many variables, including type, dosage, frequency of use, and interactions with current medications. Please speak with your healthcare provider or pharmacist before starting any supplements.

Benefits of Wormwood

Wormwood has many purported benefits, but only a few uses of the herb have been backed by research. 

May Help Treat Crohn’s Disease

Wormwood may have the potential to aid in certain conditions, particularly those related to inflammation. 

Research has looked into the effectiveness of wormwood in the treatment of Crohn’s disease, a gastrointestinal condition that causes inflammation in the digestive tract. 

For one small study, 20 people with Crohn's disease continued their existing treatment and then added either wormwood or a placebo. The results showed that 80% of those using wormwood achieved clinical remission (clearance of symptoms) compared to only 20% of those using a placebo.

Another small study found that 65% of the 40 participants who took wormwood each day showed almost complete remission. None of those taking a placebo showed any relative improvement in symptoms.

Wormwood’s benefit for conditions like Chron’s, an inflammatory bowel disease, may be due to the plant’s ability to fight inflammation. 

One of the compounds in wormwood is artemisinin. Some research has shown that artemisinin has anti-inflammatory properties. Artemisinin may also inhibit cytokine, a type of protein that promotes inflammation.

More large-scale research is needed to confirm the relationship between wormwood and Crohn’s disease. 

May Improve Digestion

Wormwood may help improve digestion.

One study showed that wormwood helps digestion by reducing spasms in the stomach and intestines. Ideally, a calmer gastrointestinal tract would promote better digestion.

Another study showed that people who took 1500mg of wormwood tincture reported better digestion.

Some research suggests that herbs with a bitter taste, such as wormwood, help produce saliva, increase gastric juice, and boost appetite, all of which may aid in digestion. However, the research on the effect of bitter herbs on digestion is limited to know for sure. 

May Ease Arthritis Pain

Since wormwood contains artemisinin, an anti-inflammatory compound, the plant may be helpful for arthritis.

One study found that participants with knee osteoarthritis who applied a topical ointment that contained wormwood reported less pain after two weeks of use. However, the study notes that the way people measure pain is subjective, which could have impacted the results.

Has Antioxidant Properties

Wormwood is considered to have antioxidant properties due to a component in the plant called chamazulene, an antioxidant. 

Antioxidants are substances that reduce or delay cell damage caused by oxidative stress. 

Oxidative stress can potentially lead to cancer, chronic inflammation, and other diseases. Some things that may produce or lead to oxidative stress include sun exposure, smoking, obesity, and alcohol.

Wormwood and Parasites

There is a popular belief that wormwood can target and kill parasites. However, the research is limited to only animal testing. There are no studies yet that wormwood—in its raw form or in supplements—can treat parasites in humans.

Using mice, one study looked at the therapeutic effects of wormwood against a common parasite called Hymenolepis nana. This is an intestinal tapeworm that affects humans. Usually, people have to take medication such as Biltricide (praziquantel) to cure it. 

The study found that wormwood effectively paralyzed and killed the parasite in mice. However, this result may depend on the active ingredients, extract, and potency. 

Without any human-based research, the ability of wormwood to treat parasitic infections in humans is uncertain. 

How to Take Wormwood

Wormwood is available in many forms, including:

  • Tea
  • Supplements
  • Herbal blend
  • Essential oils
  • Topical products, such as lotions and ointments
  • Dried leaves and flowers
  • Capsules
  • Extracts
  • Tinctures

Talk to a healthcare provider about the best way to take wormwood based on the benefit you hope to gain from the product. Also be sure to follow the product’s instructions.


There is little research that suggests specific dosages for wormwood. Talk to a healthcare provider about how much wormwood you should take, how often, and for how long.

Is Wormwood Safe?

There are no human studies that indicate whether wormwood is safe for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding. There is also no research on whether it’s safe for young children.

However, there has been some research on mice that suggests the Artemisia plant species (of which wormwood is a part) could be harmful for pregnancy and fertility. While these studies did not specifically test wormwood, the research indicates you should not take it if you are or plan on becoming pregnant.

People allergic to the Asteraceae family, which includes ragweed and marigolds, should also avoid wormwood.

Those who have kidney disease should avoid wormwood, as well. Some anecdotal evidence suggests oil from wormwood leaves may cause kidney toxicity or kidney failure. However, this effect is likely rare. 

Wormwood also contains a component called thujone that is toxic and can be fatal in large doses. To avoid this component, confirm that the wormwood product is thujone-free.  

Potential Drug Interactions

Wormwood may interact with certain medications. 

One of the potential effects of thujone is seizures. That means that if you take wormwood with thujone, the thujone in the supplement can interfere with the effects of anti-seizure medications, such as Mysoline (primidone).

If you are taking any other supplement that might contain thujone, such as mugwort, there is also a possibility that you are taking too much thujone, increasing your risk for its negative effects.

Wormwood has also been shown to negatively react with blood-thinning medication, such as warfarin. 

What to Look For

People can find wormwood supplements in stores, such as health and herb shops, and online.

If you are looking for a high concentration of chamazulene, an antioxidant found in wormwood, look for a wormwood essential oil made during the plant’s pre-flowering stage. 

Before purchasing, consider that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not regulate supplements and herbs the same way it does drugs. This means that companies producing supplements are not required to go through strict testing for safety and efficacy. 

When buying wormwood, look for a product that has been third-party tested to ensure quality.

Can You Take Too Much Wormwood?

You can take too much wormwood, especially if you take it from the wild or in its raw form. Taking too much wormwood can be harmful without proper extraction that removes the component thujone.

Side Effects of Wormwood

The main risk of wormwood is toxicity from the compound thujone. 

However, even if a product with wormwood has no or very little levels of thujone, other potential adverse effects still exist.

These side effects include:

  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea 
  • Vertigo (a spinning or dizzy sensation)
  • Vomiting
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia (trouble sleeping)
  • Stomach cramps
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Seizures

A Quick Review

Wormwood is an herb that can be used in supplement form. Potential benefits of wormwood include symptom relief for Crohn’s disease, aid with digestion, and lower arthritis pain. The supplement also has antioxidant benefits. Certain people should not use or take wormwood, including those who are pregnant or breastfeeding and individuals taking blood thinning or anti-seizure medications. There is insufficient research to determine the long-term benefits and risks of wormwood. Talk to a healthcare provider before using the supplement. 

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