Wormwood is a natural herb found in North America and Europe. It is also known as Artemisia absinthium and one of the main ingredients of the alcoholic beverage absinthe. The herb is used by some as a remedy to treat liver and kidney disease, kill intestinal parasites and counteract poison. Wormwood is believed to have some dangerous side effects for people who smoke it.
Thujone is a component of wormwood that is believed to cause the majority of damage to the body. It is considered toxic for the brain and liver cells in high doses. Thujone in the liquid form of oil and alcoholic beverages is addictive and could cause brain damage, seizures and death. It can also cause central nerve problems that result in anxiety and sleeplessness.
Effect on Kidney and Liver
Although wormwood is taken as a remedy to treat kidney and liver disease, there are examples of it doing more damage than good. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, ingesting wormwood essential oil caused kidney failure in one person. Smoking wormwood isn't thought to have as extreme an effect as ingesting the herb. However, large amounts of wormwood inhaled can attack the liver and kidney cells.
Effect on Muscles
Thujone also affects the muscles. It's known to cause muscle contractions and spasms in parts of the body such as the stomach and intestines. According to the American Cancer Society, pregnant women should avoid wormwood because it could cause contractions in the uterus. It can also cause tremors and muscle breakdown.
Wormwood is a plant that is a relative of ragweed and daisies. People who smoke wormwood and are allergic to these types of flowers may suffer an allergic reaction. Effects of an allergic reaction to the herb include a rash and hay fever.
Other Side Effects
If wormwood is smoked excessively for a long period of time, other effects can include dizziness, headaches, vomiting and vertigo.