Absinthe: medicinal properties, method of use and benefits

Absinthe: medicinal properties, method of use and benefits


Artemisia absinthium





Absinthe, scientific name Artemisia absinthium L. belongs to the family of Asteraceae (former Compositae) and is a plant known since ancient times for its therapeutic properties.

It is a perennial herbaceous plant with taproot and erect stem, silver-green in color with evident grooves and up to one meter high. The leaves are large, deeply incised and greenish-gray on the upper side and white on the lower side. The flowers are small, yellow gathered in flower heads. It blooms from July to September. The fruit is an achene.


Absinthe contains essential oil, absintin, resins, tannins, acids, nitrates.

Its properties are: tonic, stimulating, vermifuge, antihelminthic, antipyretic, emmenagogue.


Absinthe uses the flower tops and the leaves dried in a shady and ventilated place.


Absinthe is used as a decoction and an infusion to stimulate appetite, aid in digestion and in case of fever. It is also very effective in the case of painful menstruation.

Wormwood and garlic poultices or enemas are great for fighting intestinal worms.

For external use the compresses are great for wounds.

In the kitchen it is used to flavor various dishes and as a flavoring for liqueurs. It has a very bitter taste.


It is also known as wormwood or wormwood

The painting by Edgar Degas is very famous, The Absinthe that is "absinthe" (1876) kept in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris. Absinthe-based liqueur highlighting their faces stunned by its consumption.


In the use of absinthe, great caution must be exercised as an abuse causes serious poisoning, so much so that absinthe liqueur is prohibited in many European countries.

In lactating women it makes the milk bitter.


You see: Absinthe - The language of flowers and plants.

L'absinthe greater (Artemisia absinthium) it's a officinal plant, belonging to the Asteraceae family (Composite).

The medicinal properties absinthe have been known and used since ancient times: it seems that the plant is mentioned in an Egyptian papyrus of 1600 BC.

Even today, absinthe comes used in herbal medicine as a remedy:

  • eupeptic: to fight difficult digestion, loss of appetite and minor gastrointestinal disturbances
  • carminative: promotes the elimination of excess gas from the stomach and intestines.

Being one of the best known bitter herbs, L'Artemisia absinthium was one of the main ingredients of aperitifs and digestive aromatic wines. In particular, the leaves and flowers of Absinthe are best known as ingredients for the preparation of a particular liqueur, known, in fact, with the name of absinthe.

Absinthe liqueur

This green colored liqueur (also called green fairy) became hugely popular among Parisian writers and artists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and was inspirer of the way of life bohemian.

Due to the high alcohol content, the presence of α-thujone, but above all of the content of adulterants and various toxic herbs, the absinthe liqueur produced distinct psychoactive effects, sought after by the artists of the time also through very particular rituals of assumption.

Chronic use of wormwood liquor produced a syndrome called "absymptism", characterized by addiction, hyperexcitability is hallucinations.


Α-thujone (more toxic than β-thujone, also contained in the drug) has neurotoxic effects, which is why - although absinthe liqueur is legally sold and consumed in Italy - current legislation requires not to exceed a maximum concentration of this substance.

Α-thujone is a molecule practically insoluble in water, therefore it is almost absent in aqueous preparations (herbal teas and infusions), while it is very well extracted from oil and alcohol, and is present in the essential oil of absinthe.
For this reason, the Ministry of Health has included the oil ofArtemisia absinthium in the list of herbal substances and preparations not allowed in food supplements.

The EMA, assessing that daily consumption in the range of 3-7 mg of thujone does not cause particular problems for human health, has proposed a total daily dose of 6 mg of thujone as the maximum safe exposure limit.

What is that

There pilosella it's a small one perennial herbaceous plant, from the great phytotherapeutic power.

Identified by the species Pilosella officinarum (syn. Hieracium pilosella), belongs to the large family of Asteraceae, together with other plants of the European herbal tradition (daisy, dandelion, arnica, calendula, wormwood, milk thistle, artichoke, chicory).

The pilosella is widely diffused - also in Italy - in the mountain and foothill pastures, in the oak woods and in the undergrowth.

In folk medicine and in herbal medicine, the pilosella is known above all for its effects on the urinary tract, which make it recommended to intensify urination by favoring the resolution of accumulations of liquids, grains and minor and sporadic episodes of cystitis.


The botanical name of the pilosella (Pilosella officinarum) derived from:

  • hierax or hierakion (= sparrow hawk, hawk), due to the popular belief that the bird of prey would make its eyesight more acute by integrating this plant into its diet
  • pilosus (= hairy), referring to the rather pubescent appearance of this plant.

Properties and Effectiveness

What benefit has Artemisia annua shown during the studies?

Effectiveness of Artemisia annua essential oils

Different studies, mostly conducted in vitro, have associated the essential oil of Artemisia annua with:

  • An antimicrobial activity, effective against both gram positive and gram negative bacteria, even when responsible for particularly serious clinical pictures. This activity is mostly supported by the ketones present in this plant
  • An antioxidant activity, supported by the numerous polyphenolic compounds present, which can be classified into coumarins, flavones, flavonols and phenolic acids
  • As a consequence of the antioxidant activity, also a preventive action on atherosclerotic pathologies, which can cause cardiovascular events.
  • An antimalarial activity, expressly supported byartemisinin and its derivatives, sesquiterpenes capable of interacting with protozoal iron atoms, thus inducing an oxidative shock responsible for the death of the parasite
  • A potential antitumor activity, most likely supported by the terpene fraction of the essential oil, effective in controlling the aberrant tumor proliferative process, and assisted by various polyphenolic compounds capable of exerting a sensitive genoprotective and antioxidant action
  • Anti-asthma activity Certain experiments on animals have shown that artesunate, a synthetic derivative of artemisinin, has anti-allergic properties, as it determines the degranulation of mastic cells. This makes artesunate a potential candidate for the treatment of allergic asthma.

In the face of the numerous molecules already identified, very recent studies continue to update the list of natural elements present in this plant, phytotherapically effective and in some way associated with the surprising therapeutic activities ofArtemisia annua.

Success of Artemisia annua

In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), theArtemisia annua corresponds to the noun "qinghao”, Which according to the national pharmacopoeia corresponds to the“ dried aerial parts of the herbaceous plant A. annua ”.
Although Artemisia annua has always been used in traditional Chinese medicine for its antipyretic, carminative, but above all antibacterial properties, only in recent years this plant, in particular some of its active ingredients, have enjoyed particular success in the scientific community.
Starting from the now consolidated use of artemisin in the treatment of malaria, this compound, together with its direct derivatives, has registered an exponential increase in experimental studies on its clinical efficacy. Its application relevance was mostly related to the cytotoxic action, exerted with a high selectivity towards tumor cells. Numerous experimental studies and some clinical trials have demonstrated the oncoprotective efficacy of Artemisin and its derivatives, making them a valid ally to common chemo therapeutic practices. Everyone hopes that these works will further clarify the mechanisms of action of artemisin and thus formalize its use in oncology clinics.

Absinthe: benefits and contraindications beyond mythology

Absinthe is a plant of the family of Asteraceae, very small, which takes the scientific name of Artemisia absinthium. It is mostly used for distillation and for its medicinal properties, already known in the past. But it is also exploited by the agricultural and food industry, in particular in the production of liqueurs and vermouth, for its very bitter and aromatic base. The correct name for this commercial level plant would be that of wormwood.

In the past it was put in drops on sugar lumps to be able to taste and assimilate this distillate. The plant looks like a herbaceous from 40 to 120 centimeters high, with woody and latex-free stems. Plants have a high content of essential oils and lactones. Its medical use is indicated above all for gastric problems, but it is also considered useful for regulating menstruation and to lower fever. It was also considered a drug, and for this reason, in some countries, its use was forbidden or in any case it was intended to be administered under medical supervision.

This is because many people believed, when taken in the form of distillate with sugar, to experience hallucinations and confusional states, or to experience, as in the case of the writers, creative states due to its intake. In fact, some studies have ascertained that these states of dissociation from reality were due to the association with other herbs to flavor the distillate, which once eliminated would have canceled the hallucinogenic effect. The plant grows in the European, Asian and North American mountains.

The property

credit: Seybert

Absinthe, as mentioned, is recommended for gastric disorders as it helps digestion and the secretion of bile. It is also a vermifuge but fights gastric atony, lack of appetite, amenorrhea and inflammation of the mucous membranes. It is also indicated against stress vomiting. In addition to regulating the flow of Menses, it also helps in case of absence of menstrual flow, in the pathology called amenorrhea. But its use is also exploited in the post-operative phase, when the patient suffers from loss of appetite.

In ancient times it was also used as a tonic and energy, while in agriculture it was used as a natural pesticide. In 1800, however, its use spread as a distillate, creating those problems described in the first paragraph, especially due to the addiction that the associated herbs caused in consumers. The first news of the medical properties of absinthe can be found in documents from ancient Egypt, while the Romans made extensive descriptions of it. In 1700 it was widely prescribed and used as a medicine together with anise, lemon balm and other aromatic herbs. We recommend taking in the form of infusion or decoction between 3 and 4.5 g dissolved in half a liter of water, to be divided into three daily intakes, while it is not recommended to take the liqueur for phytotherapeutic treatments due, logically, to the alcohol content that would nullify all the benefits of the plant.

The wormwood plant has numerous digestive properties. It makes it easier for bile to pass between the liver and stomach. Those with stomach acid problems can take it as a decoction or infusion for relief. Helps manage menstrual pains such as abdominal pain and nausea. Many women also use it to regularize their periods.

Some studies done on Crohn's disease, an inflammatory bowel disease, have shown that some mixtures containing absinthe improved the quality of life. Among the other benefits of the plant we find those of fighting air in the stomach, insomnia and partly anorexia, since it stimulates the appetite.

Benefits of essential oil

The essential oil of wormwood or mugwort has various benefits on the body. For one thing it is a powerful wormer. He manages to kill the intestinal worms. However it should only be used under medical supervision, do-it-yourself is never recommended. Among other things, it can also be used with the utmost caution in the case of epileptic attacks and convulsions. Useful in case of stress and insomnia.

Absinthe essential oil is used for its beneficial properties on blood circulation. It also alleviates fatigue.

The components and contraindications


Absinthe has these properties because it contains many different elements useful for the human body, the main ones being i sesquiterpene lactones, natural chemical compounds recognizable by their characteristic bitter taste which is then transmitted to the distillate and infusion. In the absinthe plant, lactones are present in the form of essential oil whose content is mainly composed of β-thujone. Another minority component of lactones present in essential oil is theα-thujone, which are considered toxic by some studies, but with extremely low levels. The chemical composition of the absinthe plant is also enriched with tannins, phenolic acids and flavonolic glycosides.

The infusion or the decoction of absinthe are not always suitable for medical purposes. In fact, it has contraindications for patients with gastric and duodenal ulcers, for pregnant and breastfeeding women. This is because, even if the toxicity of the plant is considered extremely low, it could in some cases damage the fetus and the child. If you overdo the doses, absinthe could lead to cases of diarrhea, vomiting and fatigue. But in cases of severe abuse, especially in the case of the distillate, hypotension, lowering of the pulse, shortness of breath and convulsions could also be found.

These effects, according to the latest research, are due not to the toxicity of thujone, which is too modest, but to alcohol, which absinthe enthusiasts often abuse. In the past, distillation was the only method to extract the elements of a plant, and this led to a certain mythology about absinthe. Modern research on ancient bottles has established the presence of zinc and antimony chloride, due to poor hygiene and contamination of the distillate with other herbs included in the original recipes of the past, with toxic elements that man was not yet aware of. . Modern pharmacology has made it possible to purify absinthe of these harmful elements, and today its consumption, if not abused, is considered almost safe.

What are the effects?


Wrongly described as a hallucinogenic drink. Absinthe is therefore famous for its alleged property of giving hallucinations but in reality, scientific studies have never shown this aspect. There were two things that gave birth to this belief. The first was the studies of Valentin Magnan, who made various experiments on alcoholism and noticed that by administering absinthe oil, hallucinations came quickly (studies later revised and denied). Then some Bohemian artists intervened who, drinking a lot of it, went to increase his fame. In particular, it was Toulouse-Lautrec and Vincent Van Gogh who further spread this idea.

The idea of ​​its alleged psychoactive effects came to the fore when a scientific article compared absinthe with cannabis. Inside the drink was a ketone with some structural similarity to the THC in cannabis. It was hypothesized that there was a certain affinity but all this about twenty years later (in 1999) was denied.

Among the effects of absinthe on nervous tissue we find that of openness. Those who like to drink absinthe from time to time also talk about lucid intoxication. Later studies talked about the fact that the combination with other herbs, some stimulants, others sedatives, gave these side effects.

Some absinthe-based drinks can give hallucinogenic effects because they are impure and combined with substances such as impure alcohol, toxic dyes and wormwood oil.

Description of the plant

It is a woody plant at the base. The buds are between 2 and 30 centimeters from the ground. During the winter the leaves dry up and fall, only the woody part remains of the wormwood. It does not contain latex but ethereal oils.

The roots of wormwood are a rhizome, and it is from here that sterile or floriferous stems are then created. The stems range from gray to green, they are semi-woody and rigid, in the upper part it branches out, very rarely in the lower one.

The leaves at the base are petiolate and larger than the cauline ones, both with segments. The leaves are green, the presence of white hair makes them greyish. Their strong smell attracts a lot of attention but they are bitter to the taste.

The inflorescence is a leafy panicle, the flower heads are on average between 30 and 60 and in rare circumstances, they reach 90. They have a pendulous posture. The fruit, on the other hand, is an achene, slightly curved and without pappus. Pollination ofwormwood it is favored by the wind, fertilization takes place through pollination.

Its cultivation takes place practically in all parts of the world where the climate is temperate. It can therefore be born in Europe, temperate Asia, North Africa, Chile and North America. In Italy it is very easy to find, with the exception of the Po Valley and the islands.

It is easily found near the inhabited centers of mountain regions, but also in uncultivated places. It adapts to limestone and siliceous soils, the soil must have a basic pH, good nutritional values ​​and must be dry. They are located up to 1100 meters above the sea level.

Why is absinthe green?

Absinthe is naturally colored, it can go through all shades of green but also take on a yellowish tone. Absinthe as it is produced is colorless and is often sold in this way. Green absinthe is very expensive and difficult to find. On the market there is low-cost green absinthe but it is produced with artificial dyes.

Real absinthe must first be distilled, no essential oils or essences must have been added to the alcohol. The difference between these products is huge. The real absinthe must also have green anise inside, very aromatic. The alcohol content ranges from 45 to 75 degrees.

All the legends about this plant


L'absinthe it is one of the most accredited plants of legends, stories, fables, myths and fantasies. In good part, its very long history plays a particularly important role in this sense: the drink obtained from the plant was already used by the Romans, while later the French (also thanks to some artists who were particularly "promoters" of its qualities!) accredited particularly talents intoxicating, and also hallucinogenic.

And so, between myth and truth, theabsinthe he ended up having hundreds of legends about himself. We have chosen to share the best known ones with you!

Why is it called the Green Fairy?

In the early 1800s, absinthe was awarded the common name of Green fairy. Finding out why is quite simple: in those years a legend spread according to which this drink had managed to inspire the genius of some well-known artists. The magical power is fairy of absinthe on then combined with the adjective "green" for its traditional emerald color, which makes the substance particularly recognizable.

Speaking of artists, among its major users it seems there was Oscar Wilde, who not by chance came to dedicate one of his writings to absinthe, in which the effects of taking this drink were described, and an invitation to persevere in his consumption to get to "see the things you want, strange things, wonderful things".

The Lanfray massacre


A much more dramatic story linked to absinthe is then that of Jean Lanfray, a young Swiss farmer who was guilty of a brutal murder of his wife and children one night in 1905. The press of the time attributed what happened to the alterations Lanfray suffered due to the recent consumption of absinthe.

In fact, despite the absinthe was placed at the center of the controversy for some time, the plant and the drink did not get any particular prejudices. Also because it is well known that it is impossible to get intoxicated with absinthe, considering that in drinks the limit of the active ingredient that could cause delusions and visions is quite low.

Degas's painting

Either way, the bad name for absinthe (or, better, its mythicization, with the pros and cons) was well known from more remote times. Among the symbols of criticism related to the use of absinthe there is also the beautiful work of art by Edgar Degas, currently on display at the Orsay Museum in Paris, entitled (of course!) Absinthe.

Dating back to 1876, the painting shows a scene set at the Café de la Nouvelle Athenes in Place Pigalle, and represents some well-known personalities of the time, intent on drinking absinthe with an attitude that should demonstrate the first stupor linked to the use of the drink. The work was therefore interpreted as one denunciation of the scourge of substance abuse.


At this point, it may be helpful to try to understand why absinthe was banned for so long. We have in fact understood that many of the alleged characteristics related to absinthe are actually gods myths not proven, and therefore often the specificities of absinthe have been "mediatically" inflated. Yet, for a long time, absinthe was banned. Why?

Probably, a mix of determinants played a particularly unfavorable role for absinthe. In the first place, he was a heavily drunk alcoholic and, therefore, probably also able to play the scapegoat function better than others to hit the operators. It is also possible that the presence of poor quality products and harmful to health, actually labeled with the name of absinthe but only remotely attributable to the plant, acted as a negative element.


Absinthe has digestive, bitter-tonic and cholagogue properties (that is, it is able to facilitate and increase the excretion of bile from the gallbladder). For these reasons, absinthe is part of the composition of many bitters and digestives.
Absinthe is used against digestive disorders and is also used as a remedy to increase appetite.
Furthermore, recent studies conducted on animals have highlighted the potential anti-parasitic properties of absinthe. In particular, wormwood appears to be effective against worm infestations.
Despite the positive results obtained that propose absinthe as a possible future alternative to the classic anthelmintic therapy, further studies and confirmations are needed before this application can be approved.

Folk medicine

In folk medicine, wormwood preparations are used internally for the treatment of various types of gastric and hepatic disorders and as a remedy for irregularities in the menstrual cycle, against anemia, against intermittent fever and against worm infestations. Externally, however, absinthe is used to facilitate the healing of wounds and ulcers and as a remedy against insect bites and skin spots.
NB: the applications of absinthe in folk medicine have not been confirmed by experimental tests, conducted with a scientific method, or have not passed them. They could, therefore, be ineffective or even harmful.


When should Absinthe or its derivatives NOT be used?

Absinthe and its preparations should not be used in all of the following cases:

  • Known allergy to the plant and to any of its components
  • Individuals with disorders and diseases such as gastritis, peptic ulcer ed epilepsy
  • In pregnancy (due to the potential abortive activity of the plant)
  • During the'breastfeeding.

For any doubts, if you suffer from particular diseases (even if not listed in the above list) and / or if you are following pharmacological therapies, we once again reiterate the importance of contacting your doctor before taking absinthe or its preparations. / derivatives.

Video: Wormwood and green tea herbal infusion. Artemisia absinthium