Wormwood’s rather uncommon name might make you wonder what this plant (also known as Artemisia absinthium L.) can offer, but research has revealed it has multiple health-boosting abilities. Wormwood oils and extracts, which are typically taken from its leaves, stems and flowers, are believed to possess neuroprotective, antifungal and antimicrobial properties.1
Wormwood tea is made from the wormwood herb, which is native to temperate regions like Europe, Scotland, North Africa and Siberia.2 Also called madderwort, absinthium, ajenjo, hierba maestro or hierba santa,3 wormwood may reach 0.5 to 1.5 meters (1 to 5 feet) tall. It’s easily recognizable by the silvery-green leaves that give off a sage-y smell and its small yellow flowers.4 Like other plants from the Artemisia genus, wormwood can be used as an ornamental.5
But aside from being an “aesthetic plant,” wormwood, especially when ingested as a tea, has been revered for its positive effects on appetite and digestion. This is mainly due to its ability to promote the production of bile and gastric juices during digestion.6
Although research regarding wormwood tea is limited, the benefits attributed to the herb offer a glimpse of the drink’s potential health benefits. Wormwood, when used alone or combined with other herbs, may help address:
- Parasitic worms7
- Liver disease8
- Brain damage10
- Crohn’s disease12,13
- Lead exposure14
- IgA nephropathy or Berger’s disease (characterized by increased amounts of IgA in the kidneys)17,18
- Type 2 diabetes (because of the plant compound thujone,19 although more research is needed to confirm this link)
Wormwood may be used to help increase appetite when consumed via an herb tonic, induce menstruation and sweating, and boost sexual drive.20 It also has antioxidant and anti-free radical abilities.21
Wormwood essential oil was found to have antimicrobial and antioxidant properties, not to mention it’s also a good insect repellent.22 Wormwood water extracts may be used to repel weevils in storehouses as a safer alternative to chemical pesticides.23
If you’re planning on making wormwood tea, you should get your supply from reputable sources to ensure you’re getting high-quality products. Once you have some of this herb on hand, you can try following the recipe:24
Wormwood Tea Recipe
- 1 to 2 teaspoons of fresh or dried wormwood leaves
- 1 cup of filtered water
- Boil the wormwood leaves in filtered water.
- Serve hot.
Note: As an alternative to dried leaves, you may use 20 to 30 drops of wormwood tincture and dilute it in hot water.
Although there’s very little information regarding wormwood tea’s side effects, oral intake of the herb may trigger these complications because of its thujone content. This plant compound has excitatory effects on the nervous system, and ingestion may lead to:25
- Muscle breakdown
- Kidney failure
- Difficulty sleeping
- Stomach cramps
- Urine retention
According to WebMD, you should stay away from wormwood if you have any of the conditions below, as it might cause adverse reactions and trigger health problems:26
- Allergies or sensitivities to plants that belong to the Asteraceae/Compositae family, such as ragweed, marigolds and chrysanthemums
- Kidney disorders
- Seizure disorders
Avoid drinking significant amounts of wormwood tea or consuming wormwood products if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.27 Wormwood is considered as an abortifacient or an emmenagogue, which means it may stimulate menstrual flow and cause miscarriages.28
Just like the raw herb, wormwood tea may offer benefits to your well-being. However, moderation is crucial, as dangerous side effects may develop from consuming too much of this beverage.
Consult with a doctor before trying any brand of wormwood tea. You want to be certain that your body can handle wormwood products without experiencing reactions. If you notice side effects during or after drinking wormwood tea, stop consumption and seek medical attention immediately.
Q: Is it safe to take wormwood tea?
A: It’s not safe to drink if you belong to the following groups:29
• Pregnant or breastfeeding women
• People with allergies to members of the ragweed or Asteraceae/Compositae family
• People with porphyria, kidney disease and seizure disorders
Q: Is wormwood tea psychoactive?
A: Wormwood contains a compound called thujone, which has an excitatory effect on the nervous system.30 It is often credited to be one of the active components of absinthe, a psychotropic drink.31 High amounts of it are found in wormwood essential oil,32 but there’s not enough research to show how much of it is found in the tea. Therefore, it’s best to consume wormwood tea moderately to prevent any psychoactive effects from occurring.
Q: Can wormwood tea get you ‘high’?
A: People who consumed high amounts of absinthe, a wormwood-rich beverage, had a higher risk for absinthism, a condition characterized by adverse effects like hallucinations, psychosis, delirium and vertigo.33 However, there are no scientific studies that point to wormwood tea having this effect on patients who consume it in moderate, recommended amounts.
Q: When should I take wormwood tea?
A: There’s little research on how often you should drink wormwood tea, but the European Medicines Agency notes that in countries like Germany, a cup of wormwood tea after meals may help ease indigestion.34
Q: Where can you buy wormwood tea?
A: Health stores and websites sell wormwood tea bags or the raw herb. To avoid buying poor-quality products, purchase items from a highly reputable seller.