Description: Natural Order, Compositae. This is a familiar garden herb, perennial, growing from two to three feet high, and presenting a hoary, pubescent appearance. Stems numerous, furrowed, angular, in panicled branches at the summit, with a compact, bushy appearance. Leaves parted pinnately two or three times, with lanceolate-dentate lobes. Flowers small, yellow, with a brownish-green involucre; in terminal panicle racemes, slightly nodding; florets all fertile, ray florets few and pistillate. Involucre ovoid, imbricated, compact; receptacle hairy. The plant was introduced from Europe, but is now found wild in some parts of New England. July and August. The whole bush has a strong, aromatic smell; and a taste slightly nauseous, and most intensely bitter. It yields its properties to water and alcohol, the leaves and flower-heads being the medicinal parts. A moderate portion of volatile oil is obtained from it.
Other species of artemisia have been used in medicine. The vulgaris (mugwort) has been reputed tonic, nervine, and emmenagogue; and the Pontica (Roman wormwood) is about the same as the absinthium, but weaker.
Properties and Uses: The leaves and flowers were used by the ancients. They are stimulating and relaxing tonics, bitter and strong to the highest degree, and acting upon the stomach and gall-ducts. It improves appetite and digestion, and slightly influences the bowels; for which effects it has been a favorite addition to tonic preparations for low and bilious conditions, intermittents, jaundice, hypochondria, and similar maladies. A small portion of it serves a good purpose, in such cases, when there is decided languor and sluggishness of action; though its intense bitterness has pretty much driven it from use. Considerable doses, or its long-continued use, leads to excitement of the stomach, pulse, and brain; which results have been attributed to a narcotic property in it. I wholly doubt its narcotism; but trace these effects to its very slow and persistent stimulating and tonic action upon both the heart and the nervous centers. It is quite popular in the treatment of worms; and is good for the stomach worm, when the stomach is languid, and the abdomen tumefied and flaccid. It makes a good fomentation in sprains, rheumatism, and other sub-acute difficulties about the joints; and in bruises and local congestions. As a result of its influence on digestion, it sometimes proves useful in atonic leucorrhea and diarrhea; and exerts a little stimulating influence upon the uterus, which may be taken advantage of in atonic amenorrhea.
The oil is not used internally; but makes a good ingredient in liniments designed for sprains, bruises, congestion of the kidneys and uterus, and other places, where an outward application needs to be strengthening as well as stimulating.
Dose of the powder, five to fifteen grains, three times a day. Usually it is given as infusion–half an ounce macerated in a pint of boiling water, is strong enough; and two to four drachms or this is a dose. A habit in families is, to make a tincture with an ounce of the herb to a quart of whisky, sweetened, and used for jaundice and biliousness in the spring. In combining it with other tonics, I seldom use more than half an ounce of this in each gallon of the preparation; for it is too concentrated an article to employ in such large doses as are generally used. It is most appropriately combined with slow relaxants, such as boneset, wahoo, etc.
The Physiomedical Dispensatory, 1869, was written by William Cook, M.D.
It was scanned by Paul Bergner at http://medherb.com