Artemisia absinthium or wormwood is one of the most bitter herbs known to man. A grey-green perennial, it is native to Europe, Central Asia and parts of North America. Wormwood tea primarily is made for medicinal purposes to cure for rheumatism, gout, and intestinal parasites, especially giardia. It is also a traditional remedy for "furred tongue," and stomach and gallbladder illnesses. You can also drink wormwood tea when you are recovering from a cold or the flu, since it is considered a strengthening, tonic drink. Finally, wormwood tea is sometimes consumed as a narcotic or mental stimulant.
Making Wormwood Tea
Place 1/2 teaspoon or 1 teaspoon of dried wormwood leaves in a cup or glass. Pour 1 cup of hot water over the leaves. Some recipes call for water that is hot but not boiling, and others specify boiling water. In either case, it is very important that you use no more than one teaspoon of the leaves as they are very strong and bitter.
Let the tea mixture steep for several minutes. You may sweeten if you like, but it is so bitter that even sweetening it may not alter the taste very much. You may want to drink wormwood tea after meals, since it will be more easily absorbed and digested on a full stomach.
Mix the wormwood tea with another herbal tea, such as peppermint or anise tea, to reduce bitterness. You can steep the leaves in hot or boiling prepared herbal tea.
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You can use wormwood tea in several external ways, also. Bathe your dog with diluted wormwood tea to prevent fleas. You can disinfect wounds and cuts with the tea and it may also be used as an insecticide.
Wormwood tea should not be consumed as a medicine for periods of time longer than three to four weeks. Even during the therapeutic period, you must be careful not to overuse wormwood as it can be poisonous in sustained amounts. Side effects include cramps, vomiting, delirium and even death. The toxicity of wormwood lies primarily in the essential oil - very little of which is in the tea leaves. However, many sources carry a warning about the possible toxicity of wormwood tea drunk to excess.
Wormwood is not legal everywhere, so make sure that you are legally permitted to purchase and use this herb.
Laura Crawley has been writing professionally since 1991. She has written about urban history for "The Hillhurst-Sunnyside Voice." She has also written about New York City history at the Virtual Dime Museum website and about popular culture at Kitchen Retro. Crawley holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Swarthmore College and a Master of Arts in English from the University of Toronto.