Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium)
Wormwood is a feathery herbaceous perennial native to temperate Eurasia and North Africa that has naturalized in North America. It has a long, interesting history of use as a bitter flavoring for alcoholic drinks and medicinal treatment for a wide number of ailments.
Wormwood is an attractive plant in the Daisy family (Asteraceae) with deeply lobed, silvery gray-green leaves with a fragrance of garden sage and small, yellow flowers blooming in the late summer. It grows to 3' tall and 2' wide and is sometimes grown as an ornamental for borders, rock gardens, and containers.
Its main uses, though, are medicinal and as a flavoring. Wormwood has antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties. It is used to stimulate digestion and for loss of appetite, as an antidepressant, and to treat arthritis and Crohn's disease. It gets its name, Wormwood, from its use to treat parasitic worms and is being studied as a potential bio-insecticide.
Wormwood is well-known as the anise or licorice flavoring in vermouth and green absinthe liquor. However, oils in the foliage contain thujone that can cause seizures and neural damage if ingested in large quantities. Before the amount of thujone was regulated in the liquor industry, absinthe was banned in the United States and some European, African, and South American countries for most of the 20th century because it was thought to be hallucinogenic and poisonous. It is now legally available in the United States since the ban was lifted in 2007 with a limit on the amount of thujone allowed.
Wormwood grows best in full sun in average, excellent draining soil. It will readily self-seed, so it is well to deadhead the flowers to prevent it from spreading. It is hardy in USDA zones 4+