Absinthium. N. F. IV. Wormwood.—It was official in the U. S. P. 1890 and is now recognized by the National Formulary. The definition is as follows: "The dried leaves and flowering tops of Artemisia Absinthium Linne (Fam. Compositae), without the presence of more than 5 per cent. of foreign matter." N. F. IV. Several species of Artemisia have enjoyed some reputation as medicines. The leaves of A. Abrotanum L., or southernwood, are reported by Craveri to contain a crystallizable alkaloid, abrotine; they were formerly employed as a tonic and anthelmintic. A. pontica, L. has been substituted for common wormwood, but is weaker. A. vulgaris L., or mugwort, has been used in Germany in epilepsy, chorea, and amenorrhea. A. ludoviciana Nutt., a native of the southwestern regions of the United States, has been commended as a stimulant to the hair. (A. J. P., 1872, p. 106.) In China, moxa is prepared from A. chinensis L. and A. indica, Willd.
Wormwood, also known as Madderwort, Wermuth, Mugwort, Mingwort and Warmot, is a shrubby, more or less herbaceous, finely canescent plant, growing to a height of 2 to 4 feet. The leaves are 1 to 3 pinnately divided, the lobes being lanceolate or obovate, the basal leaves being petiolate while the floral ones are linear and entire; the flowers are all fertile, yellowish, and occur in hemispherical panicled heads. The plant is a native of Europe and is to some extent cultivated in the United States. It is now naturalized and rather common in eastern Canada to Pennsylvania, growing along roadsides and waste places. It should be gathered in July or August, during flowering.
The N. F. description is as follows: "Stems and leaves gray-green, finely silky-hairy and glandular throughout; largest leaves reaching 10 or 12 cm. in length, and of nearly equal breadth, on long petioles, two to three times pinnately lobed or divided, the ultimate segments oblong or obovate, obtuse, entire or slightly toothed; upper leaves becoming shorter petioled, small and narrower, the uppermost being only about 2 cm. in length and resembling the ultimate segments of the larger ones; heads racemose-paniculate, drooping on short peduncles, greenish-yellow, from 3 to 4 mm. in breadth, round-ovoid, the outer bracts linear-oblanceolate, obtuse, the inner broader and scarious-margined; receptacle hairy; outer flowers sometimes pistillate. Odor characteristic, aromatic; taste very bitter. The powdered drug is brownish to yellowish-green and, when examined under the microscope, exhibits numerous, characteristic, T-shaped, non-lignified hairs, consisting of a short, one- to four-celled stalk bearing a single apical cell attached near the center and up to 0.8 mm. in length and 0.035 mm. in width. Many of the hairs are more or less collapsed, twisted or broken; glandular hairs, some with one- or two-celled stalk, the glandular portions consisting of from four to eight secreting cells surrounded by a membrane; few simple hairs from the flowers, some of which are very long and up to 0.085 mm. in width; epidermal fragments with elliptical stomata, the latter up to 0.035 mm. in length; fragments of mesophyll and palisade cells containing chloroplastids; tracheae mostly spiral, up to 0.035 mm. in width; few sclerenchymatous fibers, with thick, usually lignified walls and simple pores, up to 0.02 mm. in width; pollen grains few, somewhat spherical or triangular in outline, up to 0.03 mm. in diameter; calcium oxalate crystals in rosette aggregates about 0.01 mm. in diameter. Absinthium yields not more than 10 per cent. of ash." N. F.
The volatile oil (oleum absinthii) is usually dark green, sometimes yellow or brownish or even blue, having a strong odor of the plant, an acrid peculiar taste, and the sp. gr. 0.925 to 0.950. It is sometimes adulterated with alcohol, oil of turpentine, etc., which lessen its specific gravity. It is composed of: thujone (absinthol), which has the specific gravity 0.926, composition C10H16O, boiling point 200° C. (392° F.) to 205° C. (401° F.), and when heated with phosphorus pentasulphide or zinc chloride yields cymene (C10H14); thujyl alcohol (C10H18O), both free and as the esters of acetic, isovaleric, and palmitic acids; phellandrene and possibly pinene; cadinene; and a blue oil of as yet undetermined composition. (Gildemeister and Hoffmann, Aetherische Oele, 1899.) The absinthic acid found by Braconnot is said to be succinic acid. Caventou first obtained absinthin in an impure condition. (See U. S. D., 14th ed., p. 5.) P. Senger (A. Pharm., 230, p. 94) has obtained absinthin as a yellow substance of an intensely bitter taste melting at 55° C. (131° F.). He gives it the formula C15H20O4 and considers it to be a glucoside, as on boiling with diluted sulphuric acid it yields dextrose and absinthic acid. Kromayer gives the formula for absinthin as C40H56O8 + H2O. Absinthin is soluble in water, alcohol, and ether and has been introduced into medicine for use in the treatment of constipation and chlorosis. Dose, one and one-half to three grains (0.1-0.2 Gm.). Adrian and Trillat isolated a new crystalline body (C53H51O20) from wormwood by treating an alcoholic extract with amyl alcohol, the absinthin having been previously removed. They also isolated another crystalline principle, anabsinthin, C18H24O4 (P. J., 1899, 1, 75). The old salt of wormwood (sal absinthii) was impure potassium carbonate, made from the ashes of the plant.
Wormwood, which was formerly in vogue as a stomachic tonic, antiperiodic, and anthelmintic, is at present very seldom used. The volatile oil is an active narcotic poison. In dogs and rabbits from thirty to fifty drops (1.5-2.5 mils) of it will cause trembling, stupor, hebetude, and even insensibility; one to two fluidrachms (3.75-7.5. mils) of it causes violent epileptiform convulsions, with involuntary evacuations, unconsciousness, and stertorious breathing, which may or may not end in death. (Marce, B. G. T., Mai, 1864; Amory, B. M. S. J., March, 1868, p. 83.) In man the oil acts similarly; a half ounce (15 mils) of it caused, in a male adult, insensibility, convulsions, foaming at the mouth, and a tendency to vomit; though the patient recovered under the use of emetics, with stimulants and demulcents. (L. L., Dec. 6, 1862.) According to J. L. Corning, the volatile oil is a powerful local anesthetic, locally useful in rheumatic pains. Bohm. and Kobert affirm that the oil escapes through the kidneys unchanged. Dose, of wormwood in substance, from twenty to forty grains (1.3-2.6 Gm.); of the infusion (one ounce in a pint of boiling water), from one to two fluidounces (30-60 mils); of the oil, one to two minims (0.06-0.12 mil).
Absinthe is a liqueur containing oils of wormwood, angelica, anise, and marjoram. According to Baudrimont, the absinthe ordinaire contains 47.66 per cent. of alcohol, the demi-fine 50 per cent., the fine 68 per cent., and the absinthe Suisse 80.66 per cent. The preparation, if manipulated properly, possesses naturally a bright green color, brought to an olive-green by slight addition of caramel coloring; but artificial coloring was formerly often resorted to, and indigo, turmeric, cupric acetate, and aniline green have been used to produce the proper shade. The importation of absinthe liqueur into the United States is now prohibited by law. Absinthism differs from ordinary alcoholism in its manifestations; its characteristic symptoms are restlessness at night, with disturbing dreams, nausea and vomiting in the morning, with great trembling of the hands and tongue, vertigo, and a tendency to epileptiform convulsions.
The Dispensatory of the United States of America, 1918, was edited by Joseph P. Remington, Horatio C. Wood and others.