Modern Uses

Wormwood is sometimes grown as an ornamental (Gabriel, 1979) and when dried, also used in flower arrangements. Culinary uses are limited because of the very bitter flavour of the plant. Tender foliage and non-woody top parts are used either fresh or dried as seasoning usually with boiled or roasted fatty meats, improving flavour as well as making them more digestible (Kybal, 1980). The essential oil extracted from wormwood has very limited uses in the field of fragrance and cosmetics (Heath, 1977) and in some external analgesics (Lawrence, 1977). Extracts are nowadays taken rarely for medicinal purposes, and then only for digestive complaints. More recently, interest has focused on potential medicinal benefits from individual and groups of compounds (Perez-Souto, 1992), rather than crude extracts from the plant (Hernandez et al., 1990). Wormwood is still used in small quantitites as a flavouring agent in alcoholic beverages (Martindale, 1978), such as absinthe, bitters, tonics, liqueurs and vermouth, the latter being a blend of wines containing traces of Artemisia absinthium and other flavours.

Absinthe is an interesting example. This liquorice-tasting liqueur was invented in Switzerland but became the French national drink in the 1890s. The essential ingredient of absinthe is wormwood, which is mixed with hyssop, fennel, anise, badiane, angelica and other herbs, producing a poisonous combination. In heavy drinkers, it induced stupor, interrupted spasmodically by epileptic fits, and often proved fatal. It was also highly addictive, eventually assuming cult status in France, where it is said to have inspired an entire culture. There is good evidence that the post-impressionist artist Vincent van Gogh was addicted to absinthe (Arnold, 1989) and there are flamelike images of thuja trees in some of his Auvers paintings. Van Gogh was also believed to have suffered intermittent porphyria through malnutrition and absinthe abuse (Bonkovsky et al., 1992). It is thought that his psychotic depressions were exacerbated by his intake of thujone and that his fits with hallucinations contributed to his suicide in 1890.

Like many "drugs", absinthe came to be viewed as a major social problem. By 1910, 20 million litres were being consumed annually, while in Switzerland, absinthe-related crime resulted in its ban in 1907. In the USA, it was banned in 1912, and was finally outlawed in France due to pressure exerted by army generals who were desperate to place blame elsewhere for their lack of success in the First World War. In addition to the problems that can be caused by alcoholic beverages containing wormwood extracts as a flavouring agent, toxic effects can also be seen if wormwood is used for certain medical purposes. If used over a long period, or in large doses, it can become habit forming (Simon et al., 1984), causing restlessness, vomiting, convulsions and even brain damage, all classic signs of narcotic poisoning.

Extracts of A. absinthium have been shown to possess a range of biological activities, including insecticidal action of an alcoholic extract against the stored crop pest Sitophilus granarius (Ignatowicz and Wesolowska, 1994) and nematocidal action against Meloidogyne incognata (Walker, 1995) and Helicotylenchus dihystera (Korayem et al., 1993). The antimalarial activity, against Plasmodium falciparum, of two diastereomeric homoditerpene peroxides from the aerial parts of A. absinthium was demonstrated (Rucker et al., 1991; 1992) while Zafar et al. (1990) screened aqueous and alcoholic extracts against a strain of Plasmodium berghei in mice, demonstrating their pronounced schizontocidal properties. Other interesting properties attributable to wormwood extracts include the hepatoprotective effects of an aqueous/methanolic preparation wherein the mode of action was suggested to involve partly the inhibition of microsomal drug metabolising serum transaminase enzymes (Gilani and Jambaz, 1995). In the field of oncology, extracts from the aerial parts of wormwood failed to show direct antitumour activities against sarcoma 180, Erlichs carcinoma, melanoma B-l6, Louis' lung carcinoma and Pliss' lymphosarcoma, but showed a definite antimetastatic effect which could be exploited as a corrective against homeostasis disturbance (Gribel and Pashinskii, 1991).

Beat The Battle With The Bottle

Beat The Battle With The Bottle

Alcoholism is something that can't be formed in easy terms. Alcoholism as a whole refers to the circumstance whereby there's an obsession in man to keep ingesting beverages with alcohol content which is injurious to health. The circumstance of alcoholism doesn't let the person addicted have any command over ingestion despite being cognizant of the damaging consequences ensuing from it.

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