The availability of modern medicine these days has seen many natural remedies falling by the wayside. While many natural remedies remain popular and some are experiencing a renaissance, others are far less appreciated. One plant that was widely used in the past is a little-known member of the daisy family called southernwood.
While it may not be the best known medicinal plant, it does come with several potential uses both internally and externally. If you would like to learn more about this plant and exactly how it can benefit your health, you have come to the right place.
What is Southerwood (Artemisia abrotanum)?
Artemisia abrotanum is a flowering plant which belongs to the daisy family. Also known as southernwood, southern wormwood and lad’s love, The plant is a native of Eurasia and part of Africa but can now be found growing in many other parts of the world including much of North America.
Other common names for the plant include some delightful monikers like lover’s plant, boy’s love and appleringie and some not so delightful names like oldman, wormwood and old man. It is also known as garden sagebrush, maid’s ruin, European sage, lemon plant and sitherwood. In Chinese, it is called 苦艾 – kǔ ài
and in Spanish, is known as Abrótano macho.
The plant has a strong odor similar to camphor and was used historically to freshen the air or as a strewing herb. These days, it is widely cultivated in gardens and is also used for a range of health purposes as we will soon see.
Artemisia abrotanum is a perennial shrub with dense, branching woody stems. The plant grows up to a height of around 1.2 meters and has gray to green colored leaves with quite narrow lobes. The plant also produces small, round yellow flowers comprised of tubular florets. The plant also produces a small brown nut.
The aroma of the plant is sweet, powerful and penetrating which puts you in mind of lemon.
- Southernwood contains essential oils that have powerful repellent properties. Historically,the leaves were placed in cupboards and closets to keep moths at bay.
- The branches can be used to make a yellow dye that is used on wool.
- The herb was traditionally used as an ingredient in potpourris and bouquets and often placed in the kitchen to keep flies at bay.
- The fresh leaves of the plant were also rubbed into the skin to repel mosquitoes naturally.
- Artemisia abrotanum has also been used traditionally for its medicinal benefits.
- It has been used to treat urinary disorders, cramps, coughs and menstrual pain.
- It has also been used traditionally to treat poisons including snake bites.
- According to historical evidence, southernwood was used to treat intestinal worms and the plague.
- The plant has been used to treat a wide variety of skin disorders and also to promote hair growth.
- People have traditionally placed parts of the plant inside their pillows to help remedy insomnia.
- One way in which the plant was used traditionally was to soak its leaves then combine them with rosemary, sage and nettles to prevent skin and scalp infection.
- In the past, the plant was believed to have certain magical powers and was used to ward off evil spirits.
- These days, it is still used in catholic churches as an incense.
Benefits of Artemisia abrotanum
These days, Artemisia abrotanum can still be used to help treat a wide variety of medicinal complaints. Its therapeutic benefits owe a great deal to its chemical make up.
The leaves of the plant contain 0.5% essential oils including 1.8 cineol, tannins, flavonoids, bitter substances, phenolic acids, folic acid, salicylic acid, abrotanin and coumarin.
Despite its rich history of use, southernwood has fallen out of favor as a medicinal plant with modern herbalists preferring wormwood. Wormwood which is known medicinally as Artemisia absinthium is closely related to southernwood. To find out more about the plant, click on the following link. Benefits of Wormwood.
If you are unfamiliar with southernwood and would like to find out more about the plant and what it can do for your health, please read on.
Southernwood has been used traditionally to help treat a number of female health issues related to menstruation.
Many women are all too familiar with the lousy symptoms that come along with menstruation including menstrual cramping and painful urination. According to traditional use and anecdotal evidence, southernwood can help treat menstrual, cramps and combat urinary complaints in women. The herb may also help regulate periods in women prone to irregular menstruation.
Southernwood contains natural antiseptic and antimicrobial properties that may be good for the skin’s health in general and also for treating certain common skin conditions.
The herb has been used traditionally to treat both the skin and the scalp and also to help clear up minor wounds, cuts, bites and grazes.
Because of its antibacterial and antiseptic properties, It can destroy bacteria that causes acne and can also be applied to a wound to prevent bacteria and infection from taking a hold.
Studies have also found that applying Artmesia abrotanum topically can help treat skin damaged by exposure to the sun. (1)
An Antidote for Venomous Bites
Artemisia abrotanum has a very long history of use. It has been used for hundreds, if not thousands of years to treat bites from venomous snakes and other poisonous animals. The leaves are usually ground into a paste and applied to any bite to help speed up healing.
If you are one of the many people that suffer from insomnia, you will know just how frustrating it can be. Not only is sleep hard to come by but the knock on effects can be very troubling both physically and mentally.
Poor quality or inadequate hours of sleep can leave you feeling fatigued during the daytime and unable to focus on your work or household tasks. In the long run, insomnia can increase the risk of various physical issues including heart disease and high blood pressure.
Fortunately, there are a number of natural remedies that can help you get a better night of sleep. According to traditional use, southernwood is an effective treatment for insomnia and may help you get a better night of sleep. You could try drinking a tea made from the plant or placing some of the crushed leaves inside your pillow before bed.
If you would like to find out more about natural remedies for insomnia, click on the following links. Teas for better sleep and Essential oils for insomnia.
A tea made from southernwood has traditionally been prescribed by herbalists to treat various digestive complaints including dyspepsia (indigestion) and to boost the appetite. Its ability to boost the appetite makes it a great choice for people who are struggling to eat following illness or people undergoing certain treatments.
It is believed that a tea made with the herb can help boost the production of bile and improve your ability to digest your food.
To Treat Worms and Parasites
A decoction made from the plant’s leaves has been used traditionally to treat a range of intestinal parasites including ringworm and threadworm. It should be noted that there is no scientific evidence to back up this use and if you are suffering from intestinal parasites, it is important to consult your doctor as soon as possible.
Several studies have examined the antimicrobial properties of southernwood. According to one study published in 2014, Artemisia abrotanum oil had effective antifungal activities against Candida albicans. The researchers concluded that :
“The in vitro tests revealed that the Artemisia oils are promising candidates for further research to develop novel anti-candida drugs.” (2)
Southernwood has a very powerful and penetrating odor similar to lemon and has been traditionally used to keep unwanted creepy crawlies at bay. The herb was often placed in wardrobes or cupboards to repel moths while it can also be applied to the skin to keep mosquitoes at bay. If your house is prone to ant invasions, there is anecdotal evidence that burning the herb near the home can help keep ants away.
How to use it
There is insufficient information regarding the best dosage to take for therapeutic purposes. It is important that you consult an expert herbalist before using the plant internally.
According to some literature, the usual dosage of artemisia abronatum is up to 4 grams of dried herb to be taken three times a day.
The dried leaves of the plant can be used to make a tea which you can sweeten with honey to help soothe digestion and to treat insomnia.
The leaves can also be ground down or boiled with water and applied topically to the skin to help stem bleeding and keep skin infection at bay. You can either apply the herb directly to the skin or in the form of a poultice.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Southernwood good for?
While not a popular medicinal herb these days, southernwood does have a decent range of applications. It can be used internally to boost digestive health, ease menstrual symptoms and might help combat insomnia. It can also be applied topically to deal with various skin conditions, boost the skin’s general health and can also be applied in a paste as an antidote to poisonous bites.
Is southernwood good for the skin?
Yes it is. The plant has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiseptic properties that are well suited to treating various common skin conditions including eczema, psoriasis and acne. It can help relieve redness and irritation and can also cleanse the skin and prevent bacterial infection.
Is southernwood safe to use?
Southernwood is generally considered safe for consumption for the majority of healthy adults but there is no precise dosage recommendation. It is likely unsafe for pregnant women because of its stimulating effects on the uterus while there is not enough information regarding its safety for breastfeeding mothers. People who have allergies to other members of the Artemisia family should also avoid using the plant internally or topically.
How do you make southernwood tea?
Southerwood is often drunk in the form of a tea using the dried leaf tips of the plant. Simply add a teaspoon or two of the dried leaves to a cup of boiling water then allow it to steep for ten minutes then strain. to taste. Southernwood tea has a very bitter taste and most people will need to add honey to taste.
Precautions and Potential Side Effects
Like other members of the same Artemisia family, which includes mugwort and wormwood, Artemisia abronatum could have a stimulating effect on a woman’s uterus. Consuming large doses of the plant could result in miscarriage and should be avoided completely during pregnancy.
Breastfeeding moms should also err on the side of caution and avoid using the plant internally.
Internal consumption of Artemisia abronatum is also not recommended for young children.
While the topical use of the plant is considered generally safe, some people suffer an allergic reaction to plants in the Artemisia family. The plant is a known cause of skin rashes and other allergic reaction in sensitive individuals. If you suffer any sort of reaction from using the plant topically, stop using it immediately.
Artemisia abronatum also known as southernwood is an herb with a long history of medicinal use. Although it is rarely used today, it can still confer a number of health benefits. it is used to ease indigestion and to increase the appetite. It is also used topically to help treat inflammatory skin issues and to help treat minor wounds and cuts. As well as its medicinal uses, the herb is an effective insect repellent and can be used as a natural deodorant for your home.
Like most herbal remedies, care need to be taken before using southernwood. It is likely safe for the majority of people but pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding should avoid it. It may also cause a reaction in people who are allergic to other plants in the Artemisia family. If in doubt, you should speak with your doctor before using southernwood.
Have you ever used southernwood? Please let us know what you used it for and what you thought of its effects.