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Wild Wormwood


Botanical name: Artemisia afra

Common names: Wild Wormwood, African wormwood (Eng.); wilde-als (Afr.); umhlonyane (isiXhosa); mhlonyane (isiZulu); lengana (Tswana); zengana (Southern Sotho.)

Family: Asteraceae

Artemisia afra is a soft feathery greenish-grey plant this is fast and easy to grow in sun and shade and can be drought resistant. Every person can have this plant in their garden for home-use. The upper surface of the leaves is dark green whereas the undersides and the stems are covered with small white hairs, which give the shrub the characteristic overall grey colour. Artemisia afra is fragrant and bitter.


Historical and modern recorded medicinal uses are for colds and flues, raspatory ailments, as an appetite booster and to reduce blood sugar in diabetes treatment, parasites, de-worming, The Afrikaans name of this plant Wilde Als (Wild Everything) refering to the varied uses of this plant which spans, like the use of Artemisia’s world-wide, from physical to spiritual. In South Africa the cultural and spiritual uses of wormwood is to imbue courage (The Xhosa name umhlonyane means courage.) The ability of certain people to absorb and concentrate Iron removing it from the mouth and eyes and other bodily opening surfaces seem to have played a major role in survival during the black plague.


Take it as a tea once or twice a day or more often in acute situations. Wilde Als is also used in brandy as a house-hold remedy. Externally it can be used as an eye wash and as a body wash.


Not for use in pregnancy or lactation due to the presence of thujone. Thujone isomers are reported to be abortifacient and emmenagogic and the use of this herb during pregnancy is not recommended.

The effects of excessive or prolonged ingestion include restlessness, vomiting, vertigo, tremor, convulsions and fatty degeneration of the liver, a syndrome formerly known as “absinthism” because of its prevalence in Paris café society absinthe drinkers of the late 19th century. The production of absinthe containing thujone was banned in France in 1915 and current agricultural research is aimed at selection of low-thujone races of Artemisia for oil production. The solubility of thujone in water is however extremely low and it is doubtful if sufficient quantities of either isomer would be present in an aqueous extract, as used in traditional practice in South Africa, to cause concern. Nevertheless, it would be prudent to limit the use of this herb to short courses (no more than two weeks).

View SANBI medicinal monograph

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