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Artemisia abrotanum (L) Southernwood


Artemisia : see A. vulgaris.

Southernwood : from old English sutherne-wudu : woody plant from the South.

PREVIOUS NAMES : A. procera (Willd). OTHER NAMES : maiden's ruin, boy's love, lad's love : from use as an aphrodisiac. Old man : from hoary leaves. Garde robe : used to keep moths away from clothes, (French). God's tree, (Russia), appleringie. Citronelle, armoise, aurone, (France). Abrotano, (Italy, Spain). Eberries, (Germany). Citroenkruid, (Dutch) . Ambra , (Danish) . Kustjarikovayapol i , (Russia)


APHOTOFLORA Picture Link to Artemisia abrotanum

TYPE : strongly aromatic shrubby plant, 1m. LEAVES : 1-3 pinnatifid leaves 6cm, uppermost simple. Filiform gland dotted segments glabrous above & >or< hairy beneath. Petioles short. FLOWERS : capitula 4x4mm, globose, in dense panicles in the axils of simple leaf like bracts, phyllaries ovate, margins scarious, florets 25-30, yellow. Fl. Summer.

HABITAT : quickly establishes on exposed sites, stabilising subsoil.

DISTRIBUTION : introduced 1548. Infrequent casual & garden escape. Naturalised E., S. & S.C. Europe. BSBI Distribution Map for to Artemisia abrotanum (UK)

CULTIVARS : 'Lambrook Silver1 'Variegata'. VARIETY : nana.


ACTIVE INGREDIENTS : leaves in lemon scented aromatic grouping.Volatile oil contains absinthol EFFECT : stimulant, detergent, antiseptic, emmenagouge. Improves digestion & liver function, encourages mestrual flow, stimulates uterus, lowers fever, relaxes spasms, destroys intestinal worms, stimulates hair growth. APPLICATION : internally for delayed or painful 1 menstruation, poor appetite & digestion, thread worms in children, hair loss. Externally for frostbite, splinters, sciatica pains, swellings.


Walafrid Strabo, monk of St. Gall, 9thC : "Cures fevers & wounds."
Turner, 1551 : "It is good for them that shake or shudder with colde, sodden in oyle & layde to upon the bodye. Some hold that layde under a mannes bolster, provoketh men to multiplyinge."
Lyte, 1578 : "Pline writeth that if it be layde under the bedde pillow or bolster it provoketh carnell copulation & resisteth all enchantments." Used for abortions, open womens vaginas.

Culpepper 17thC : "Dioscorides saith the seed bruised, heated in warm water for cramps or convulsions of sinews or sciatica. Same in wine driveth away serpents & venemous creatures. The oil annointed on the backbone prevents fits of agues. It taketh away the imflammation of the eyes. Boiled in barley meal it taketh away pimples. The seed & dried herb kill worms in children. The bruised herb help draw splinters. The ashes dry up & heal old ulcers, mingled with old salad oil helps those that are bald. A strong decoction for worms. Leaves for easing pain, dispersing swellings, crancrrene . Distilled water for diseases of the spleen. Also as a wound herb."

Used to induce sleep, dried leaves placed in muslin bags beneath the pillow or pounded with sugar into a paste 3x a day. In baths & poultices to treat skin conditions. Early last centuary a bunch of it was placed at the side of a prisoner to prevent jail fever.
1930's : whole herb, in august. Use : tonic, emmenagouge, anthelmintic, antiseptic, deobstruent. Infusion loz to pint boiling water, cover.


Used in herbal tea mixtures. Used to flavour cakes pastries & puddings in France & Italy. Added to salads. Used as a substitute for A. absinthium in Vermouth & liquers. Tolerates close grazing of sheep & deer in winter Rodents eat bark in winter.


In great demand in 18thC. Abercrombie, 1778 : "Sold readily in Covent Garden or Newgate markets the inhabitants buying them to place in their courtyards, balconies & windows." Used in pot pourris & nosegays. Placed among clothes to keep away moths. Rubbed in skin to deter flies. Branches dye wool a deep yellow. Used as ointment made with ashes used by country lads to grow their beards.


Spray of the plant presented by lovers. Women used to carry large bunches of it to church, often to make them stay awake, Thomas Hyll, 1568 : "No adder will come to gardens in which Wormwood, Mugwort & Southerwood grow."

INFO LINKS FOR Artemisia abrotanum

Wikipedia (UK)
Plants For a Future (UK)
Rowan Remedies (UK)
Gernot Katzer's Spice Pages (AUS)
Global Info Hub for Int. Medicine (MAL)
Int. Jour. of Pharmacog. & Phytochem. Research (AU)
Forestry Service (USA)

'Artemisia, Wild in the British Isles', Compiled by James M. Burton 2004

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