Wormwood is perhaps best known because of the use of its oil to prepare certain alcoholic beverages, most notably vermouth and absinthe. Absinthe, popular in the 19th century in Europe, caused several cases of brain damage and even death and was banned in most places in the early 20th century. Wormwood oil continues to be used as a flavoring agent for foods, although in much smaller amounts than were found in absinthe.

As a traditional medicine, wormwood was used by herbalists as a bitter to improve digestion, to fight worm infestations (as its name suggests), and to stimulate menstruation. It was also regarded as a useful remedy for liver and gallbladder problems. Recent work suggests it may be a powerful anticancer agent also. Artemisinin has been used for about 30 years in Vietnam and China for cancer treatment. The experience with artemisinin for this purpose is increasing as are the studies of this application.

Active constituents: The aromatic oil of wormwood contains the toxins thujone and isothujone. Very little of this oil is present in ordinary wormwood teas or tinctures. Also existent in the plant are strong bitter agents known as absinthin and anabsinthin. These stimulate digestive and gallbladder function. Artemisinin is effective against malaria and possibly breast and other types of cancer.

A wormwood tea can be made by adding 1/2 to 1 teaspoon (2.5 to 5 grams) of the herb to 1 cup (250 ml) of boiling water, then steeping for ten to fifteen minutes. Many doctors recommend drinking three cups (750 ml) each day. Tincture, 10-20 drops in water, can be taken 10-15 minutes before each meal. Do not use for an extended period of time. Long-term, high dosage use can cause nausea, vomiting, insomnia, restlessness, vertigo, tremors, and seizures.

One study found there were no side effects when using less than 1ml tincture tid for as long as nine months to promote digestive function Naturopathic[/glossary] Med 1999;9]. Wormwood is not recommended during pregnancy and breast-feeding.

For a detailed program of several herbs in a parasite cleansing program, see the link between Parasites and Black Walnut.


Wormwood can help with the following





Wormwood contains artemisinin which has proved to be a dramatically effective anti-malarial. Clinical trials have shown it to be 90% effective and more successful than standard drugs. In a trial of 2000 patients, all were cured of the disease.

Artemisinin should be reserved for treating multidrug-resistant malaria. Artemisinin and its derivatives have an essential role to play in the treatment of multidrug-resistant falciparum malaria. The remarkable properties of these drugs are particularly valuable in the treatment of severe and complicated malaria caused by multidrug-resistant P. falciparum. Malaria mortality in Viet Nam dropped by 92% when these drugs were used on a nationwide basis from 1992 to 1996.

Artemisinin tends to be more expensive than other antimalarials, which has restricted its use in Africa. It is useful in both prevention and treatment of malaria. Some manufacturers of Wormwood extracts suggest taking a whole bottle (containing perhaps 150mg artemisinin) during travel to an area where malaria is present as a preventive.


Parasite, Giardiasis Infection

Wormwood has antiprotozoal activity and is especially effective against giardia, but caution is advised as it can cause a worsening of symptoms and mild intestinal irritation initially. It may be used with other herbs known for their antiparasitic activity.



Parasite Infection

Artemesia annua has primarily been used for treatment of protozoan infection. The most active ingredient, artemisinin, is a potent prooxidant whose activity is enhanced by polyunsaturated fats such as cod liver oil and antagonized by vitamin E. Artemisinin is used intravenously in Southeast Asia for the treatment of cerebral malaria; it has no known side-effects except for induction of abortion when used at high doses in pregnant animals.



Some physicians have reported good results from treating Lyme disease with artemisinin. These are experimental or untested applications of the product.


Cancer / Risk - General Measures

When Dr. Rowen discovered a report by Drs. Henry Lai and Narenda Singh, bioengineering professors at the University of Washington, that indicated that the herb “might provide a safe, non-toxic, and inexpensive alternative for cancer patients”, he started using it with cancer patients. “Chinese Herb Cures Cancer” by Dr. Robert Jay R Rowen, Second Opinion, May 2002. Dr. Lai and his colleague, Dr. Singh, had found its use dramatically killed breast-cancer cells and leukemia cells while leaving normal breast cells and white blood cells unscathed.

According to Lai, it is believed to work because when artemisinin or any of its derivatives comes into contact with iron, a chemical reaction ensues, spawning charged atoms that chemists call free radicals. Cells need iron to replicate DNA when they divide, and since cancer is characterized by out-of-control cell division, cancer cells have much higher iron concentrations than do normal cells. What Lai did was to pump up cancer cells with even more iron and then introduce artemisinin to selectively kill them. Lai theorizes that more aggressive cancers such as pancreatic and acute leukemia, which are characterized by more rapid cell division and thus higher iron concentrations, may respond even better.

Dr. Rowen also reported on an article that appeared about a year ago in a major cancer journal demonstrating significant artemisinin anticancer activity in a wide variety of laboratory cultured cancer cells. Cancers resistant to common chemotherapy drugs showed no resistance to artemisinin. International Journal of Oncology 18; pp.767-773, 2001

One of the patient’s Dr. Rowen worked with was a 47 year old female with stage 4 breast cancer with metastases to the spine.. She used IPT, high-dose nutritional therapy, dietary changes, dendritic cell vaccine, multi-step oxygen therapy, and more. All of her symptoms regressed, but the CT showed no change. When artemisinin derivatives were added, greater results were obtained.

A Dr. Hoang of Hanoi, Vietnam, reports that 50 to 60% of 400 cancer patients have achieved long-term remission utilizing artemisinin together with a comprehensive integrative cancer strategy. Among these patients is a 47 year old female who, presented with terminal liver cancer from hepatitis B and abdominal ascites, was just days or weeks from death. Today; 2 1/2 years later, she is alive and well with no signs of any disease. Dr. Singh is currently following many cancer patients. While not reporting remissions or apparent cures, he says all patients are responding and have at least stabilized. He has found no type of cancer unresponsive to artemisinin derivatives in his studies. Dr. Hoang recommends treatment for two years. Cancer could be like the malaria parasite. If just one cell remains, it can find its way back. Thus, as in malaria, although the parasite is cleared in a few days, prolonged treatment best prevents relapse.

This treatment is said to be non-toxic, so you can continue taking it indefinitely with no expected side effects, though it does depend on the form of artemesia one uses. There are three common artemesia derivatives – Artesunate is water soluble and may be the most active and the least toxic, but it has the shortest life within the body. Artemether is oil or lipid soluble and has the longest half-life. It also has the most toxicity (but this is related to rather high dosages, which are not necessary. Its big advantage is that it can cross the blood-brain barrier to reach cancers in the nervous system. Artemisinin is the active parent compound of the plant. It has an intermediate half-life, is very safe, and also can cross the blood-brain barrier. The first two are slightly altered semi-synthetic derivatives of artemisinin, the concentrated and purified active agent.

Dr. Singh reports that a combination of the forms may be the very best treatment due to these different properties (based on a lab experiment). Thus, he feels the best preparation will contain artemisinin and artemether to provide a dose of 0.5-2 mg/Kg of each form once daily before bed (away from any residual iron left in the stomach from the evening meal). Dr. Hoang used 500mg twice daily of oral artemisinin with good success. The product is best taken on an empty stomach with some natural fat to enhance absorption. Any iron present from residual food may neutralize the peroxides. Milk is one of the few foods with minimal iron. Whole milk, cottage cheese, or yogurt have ample fat to enhance absorption.

Additionally, Dr. Rowen stated that he adds cod liver oil (for its omega-3 and vitamin D) and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) to this therapy. He says that, with the exception of patients very near death, taking artemisinin or derivatives have stabilized, improved, or remitted every cancer patient he has followed. Medical literature also seems to suggest that oxygenating the system might make the products effective. Administration of certain chemotherapy agents (IPT), which kill cells through free radical mechanisms, is another option.

Artemesia herb products are not the same as the concentrated forms of the derivatives described above. The highest concentration of artemisinin (the active agent) in the raw herb in best of conditions does not even get beyond one-half percent. Dr. Singh tested some products, finding perhaps only 10 to 20% of anti-cancer activity against cultured cancer cells compared to pure artemisinin. Allergy Research Group distributes a high grade artemisinin confirmed by independent lab analysis, so this is the one Dr. Rowen recommended.

Topical artemisinin (one capsule ARG artemisinin in 50% DMSO, BID) has been tried with some success also, so this method, along with internal use, is recommended when the tumor is accessible.

The fact that artemisinin’s direct antineoplastic effect- closely resemble that of high-dose intravenous vitamin C is intriguing. The potential benefit of artemisinin in cancer treatment should be further explored because it is simple, safe, well-understood, and capitalizes on the multifold weakness in cancer cells to defend themselves against oxygen radicals. Enhancing the oxidant activity with other oxidation agents (such as carnivora, ultraviolet blood irradiation, H202, or higher oxygen tension itself) may add significant synergism. Adding artemisinin to low dose chemo-therapeutic regimens inducing cytotoxicity via free radical mechanisms (such as doxorubicin), may safely add to the effectiveness of such treatment. Dr. Singh has shared that he has been following a series of cancer patients with nearly universal improvement on artemisinin or its derivatives.

Please note: Dr. Rowen warns that this is not a singular therapy and should be used in conjunction with a comprehensive cancer management strategy, together with the help of an integrative medicine physician or an open-minded oncologist.

Tumors, Malignant  

Breast Cancer

Experiments into why artemisinin works as an anti-malaria agent led to its tests as an anti-cancer drug. The key turned out to be a shared characteristic of the malaria parasite and dividing cancer cells: high iron concentrations.

When artemisinin, or any of its derivatives, comes into contact with iron, a chemical reaction ensues, spawning charged atoms called free radicals. In malaria, the free radicals attack and bind with cell membranes, breaking them apart and killing the single-cell parasite.

Cells, too, need iron to replicate DNA when they divide. And since cancer is characterized by out-of-control cell division, cancer cells have much higher iron concentrations than do normal cells.

On their surfaces, cancer cells also have more so-called transferrin receptors, cellular pathways that allow iron to enter, than healthy cells. In the case of breast cancer, the cells have 5-15 times more transferrin receptors on their surface than normal breast cells.

Henry Lai, a bioengineering researcher at the University of Washington, reasoned why not target cancer cells with the anti-malaria treatment? The thrust of the strategy, according to Lai, is to pump up cancer cells with even more iron and then introduce artemisinin to selectively kill them.

In the experiments, Lai subjected sets of both breast cancer cells and normal breast cells to either:

1. A compound known as holotransferrin, which binds with transferrin receptors to transport iron into cells and thus further increases the cells’ iron concentrations.

2. A water-soluble form of artemisinin; or

3. A combination of both compounds.

Cells exposed to just one of the compounds showed no appreciable effect, Lai reports. But the response by cancer cells when hit with first holotransferrin, then artemisinin, was dramatic, he says.

The success is particularly noteworthy in that breast cancer cells that were resistant to radiation were utilized in the experiment. Further research will be necessary to detail and confirm the use of wormwood for breast cancer patients.


May do some good
Likely to help
Highly recommended



A small, digestive organ positioned under the liver, which concentrates and stores bile. Problems with the gallbladder often lead to "gallbladder attacks", which usually occur after a fatty meal and at night. The following are the most common symptoms: steady, severe pain in the middle-upper abdomen or below the ribs on the right; pain in the back between the shoulder blades; pain under the right shoulder; nausea; vomiting; fever; chills; jaundice; abdominal bloating; intolerance of fatty foods; belching or gas; indigestion.


Refers to the various types of malignant neoplasms that contain cells growing out of control and invading adjacent tissues, which may metastasize to distant tissues.


(tsp) Equivalent to 5cc (5ml).


(gm): A metric unit of weight, there being approximately 28 grams in one ounce.


Herbs may be used as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise indicated, teas should be made with one teaspoon herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Tinctures may be used singly or in combination as noted. The high doses of single herbs suggested may be best taken as dried extracts (in capsules), although tinctures (60 drops four times per day) and teas (4 to 6 cups per day) may also be used.


An alcohol or water-alcohol solution, usually referring to a preparation from herbal materials.


Symptoms resulting from an inclination to vomit.


The sensation of spinning or whirling; a state in which you or your surroundings seem to whirl dizzily.


While there are over 40 types of seizure, most are classed as either partial seizures which occur when the excessive electrical activity in the brain is limited to one area or generalized seizures which occur when the excessive electrical activity in the brain encompasses the entire organ. Although there is a wide range of signs, they mainly include such things as falling to the ground; muscle stiffening; jerking and twitching; loss of consciousness; an empty stare; rapid chewing/blinking/breathing. Usually lasting from between a couple of seconds and several minutes, recovery may be immediate or take up to several days.


Three times a day.


An organism living in or on another organism.

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