The herb wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) has a long history of use in Eu1 rope and China as a remedy for digestive disorders. But wormwood has been dogged by controversy. That's because it is a flavoring and color agent in absinthe, an alcoholic beverage that was banned in the US and Europe in the early 1900s because it was thought to cause hallucinations and even insanity. A component of wormwood—the chemical thujone—was believed to have these mind-altering properties. But some experts have since questioned the science behind this belief, and in the 1990s, Europe lifted the ban on the manufacture and consumption of absinthe...without any related increase in mental illness. In 2007, the US government began allowing thujone-free absinthe to be imported into the country, and herbal wormwood is widely available in health-food stores. New research shows that this controversial herb may be helpful in fighting some insidious health conditions…
Crohn's disease. A study published last year by doctors at Yale University School of Medicine found that wormwood significantly reduced symptoms of Crohn's disease, a form of inflammatory bowel disease that is difficult to treat. Forty patients were given either 750 mg of wormwood extract (brand name: SedaCrohn) or placebos twice daily for 10 weeks. After eight weeks, 13 of the 20 patients (65%) taking wormwood had almost a full remission of symptoms. As a result, they were able to reduce their use of corticosteroid drugs. For most of the patients taking placebos, symptoms worsened.
Malaria. A very close relative of wormwood called sweet wormwood (Artemisia annua) has been found beneficial in treating malaria, which is caused by a mosquito-borne parasite. Although most Americans are not likely to contract malaria, the disease is still a major problem in Africa and throughout the developing world. The World Health Organization has approved the use of wormwood-based compounds in the treatment of malaria—a sign of the herb's efficacy and safety.
Parasitic infections. Wormwood has a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine and in Western naturopathic medicine for treating a variety of parasitic infections. I have found that a wormwood tincture (10 drops three times daily) or capsule (200 milligrams) helps rid the body of parasites in the digestive tract.
Cancer. Some research suggests that extracts of wormwood might have anticancer benefits. However, the research has been limited to small-scale cell and mouse studies. Some companies are hyping wormwood as a potential cancer fighter, but at this point, I do not believe there is enough evidence to justify its use in treating cancer.
What about the risk? The amount of thujone in herbal preparations is extremely small-I have never found a problem with its use. In fact, thujone also is found in the culinary herb sage, commonly used as a rub for Thanksgiving turkeys.
Important: Work with a physician if you suspect that you have any of the conditions mentioned here, and ask about wormwood as a possible treatment. My patients have not experienced any hallucinations or other side effects as a result of the doses I prescribe.
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