Wormwood gets its name from its ability to get rid of parasites and, for hundreds of years, people worldwide have used it for its many health benefits. The plant is native to Europe but grows in many places, including parts of Asia, Africa, and the United States.
Once best known for its potent hallucinogenic effects, wormwood was a primary ingredient in absinthe, which was banned in the United States for nearly a century. Recent studies into wormwood show that this plant may have many practical applications for the future of medicine.
Several varieties of wormwood have been studied for their antimicrobial effects. One variety,, is effective against many opportunistic pathogens, including Staphylococcus aureus and E. coli. Extracts of another variety of wormwood called A. gmelinii suggest it has broad effectiveness as an antibacterial and antifungal, and these qualities warrant further study.
Researchers studied the variety of wormwood as a potential cancer treatment. Results of this study show that A. absinthium extract has anticancer activity for certain types of breast cancer. Some studies also show that this extract can inhibit cancer from forming in the large intestine, liver, and tongue and has antitumor effects against some types of melanoma and leukemia, ovarian cancer, and cervical cancer. Though these results are promising, more research is needed.
Th wormwood variety has been shown to protect the brain in animal studies, potentially due to its ability to inhibit unstable oxygen molecules. Researchers have also studied this variety of wormwood as an anti-depressant, and the results show it to be as effective as imipramine, a common antidepressant medication.
Wormwood may also be beneficial in wound healing. One study of done on rabbits showed that this variety triggered wound healing in the Achilles tendon. Researchers believe this may be due to some of the chemicals in the plant scavenging free radicals. Another study showed that A. absinthium was also effective at treating post-operative wounds in rats that were infected with Staphylococcus. Staph is the most common bacteria on human skin and is the leading cause of soft tissue and skin infections.
Some studies suggest that A. absinthium might be beneficial for heart health. Reaseach on rabbits demonstrated that wormwood extract significantly reduced the amount of cholesterol and triglycerides in blood samples. Researchers believe that this may result from actions the herb undertakes in the liver. Another study showed that in rats, A. absinthium extracts effectively treat supraventricular tachycardia, a faster-than-normal heart rate that originates in the top chambers of the heart.
Researchers have also studied wormwood as a treatment for diabetes and associated diseases. Multiple studies show many potential benefits, including protecting and improving renal function in diabetic rats, increasing insulin sensitivity, and lowering lipid levels and blood glucose levels in people with both type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol.
Studies show that multiple types of wormwood may improve pain and other symptoms of osteoarthritis. When used topically, artemisia umbelliformis or alpine wormwood is as effective as two common drugs for treating pain and inflammation from osteoarthritis. Other studies show that A. absinthium is also effective at treating pain, but more research is needed to determine dosage.
One study done in Germany shows that wormwood may be an effective treatment for Crohn's disease. Participants who received wormwood extract tolerated a tapering of their steroids, and after eight weeks, 65 percent of patients in the study group were in remission, compared to none in the placebo group. Interestingly, this study also showed that wormwood improved the quality of life and mood of people with Crohn's disease, as well, something that is not achieved with standard medications.
Studies have shown that wormwood is also a beneficial antioxidant. A. absinthium is particularly potent, and researchers believe it may effectively prevent diseases caused by oxidative stress. This variety acts not only as a free radical scavenger but also protects cells from damage. Other studies on A. abrotanum or southern wormwood demonstrate moderate antioxidant activity, though researchers are unsure of how these compounds work in the body.
Studies show the A. abrotanum type of wormwood may be an effective treatment for allergy symptoms, including nasal congestion, itchy eyes, and difficulty breathing. One study shows that using a wormwood nasal spray after symptoms start is just as effective as using an antihistamine, and the results lasted several hours.
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