Medical Herbs Catalogue



Botanical Name: Artemisia abrotanum (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Compositae

Synonyms: Old Man. Lad's Love. Boy's Love. Appleringie.
(French) Garde Robe.
Part Used: Herb.

The Southernwood is the southern Wormwood, i.e. the foreign, as distinguished from the native plant, being a native of the South of Europe, found indigenous in Spain and Italy. It is a familiar and favourite plant in our gardens, although it rarely if ever flowers in this country. It has finely-divided, greyish-green leaves. It was introduced into this country in 1548. An ointment made with its ashes is used by country lads to promote the growth of a beard. St. Francis de Sales says: 'To love in the midst of sweets, little children could do that, but to love in the bitterness of Wormwood is a sure sign of our affectionate fidelity.' This refers to the habit of including a spray of the plant in country bouquets presented by lovers to their lasses.

The volatile essential oil contained in the plant consists chiefly of Absinthol and is common in other Wormwoods. The scent is said to be disagreeable to bees and other insects, for which reason the French call the plant Garderobe, as moths will not attack clothes among which it is laid.

It used to be the custom for women to carry to church large bunches of this plant and Balm, that the keen, aromatic scent might prevent all feeling of drowsiness. Southernwood in common with Wormwood was thought to ward off infection. Even in the early part of last century, a bunch of Southernwood and Rue was placed at the side of the prisoner in the dock as a preventive from the contagion of jail fever.

In Italy, Southernwood, like Mugwort, is employed as a culinary herb.

Part Used: The whole herb, collected in August and dried in the same manner as Wormwood.

Medicinal Action and Uses: Tonic, emmenagogue, anthelmintic, antiseptic and deobstruent.

The chief use of Southernwood is as an emmenagogue. It is a good stimulant tonic and possesses some nervine principle. It is given in infusion of 1 OZ. of the herb to 1 pint of boiling water, prepared in a covered vessel, the escape of steam impairing its value. This infusion or tea is agreeable, but a decoction is distasteful, having lost much of the aroma.

Fluid extract, 1/2 to 1 drachm.

Considerable success has also attended its use as an anthelmintic, being chiefly used against the worms of children, teaspoonful doses of the powdered herb being given in treacle morning and evening.

The branches are said to dye wool a deep yellow. Culpepper says: 'Dioscorides saith that the seed bruised, heated in warm water and drunk helpeth those that are troubled in the cramps or convulsions of the sinews or the sciatica. The same taken in wine is an antidote and driveth away serpents and other venomous creatures, as also the smell of the herb being burnt doth the same. The oil thereof annointed on the backbone before the fits of agues come, preventeth them: it taketh away inflammation of the eyes, if it be put with some part of a wasted quince or boiled in a few crumbs of bread, and applied. Boiled in barley meal it taketh away pimples . . . that rise in the face or other parts of the body. The seed as well as the dried herb is often given to kill worms in children. The herb bruised helpeth to draw forth splinters and thorns out of the flesh. The ashes thereof dry up and heal old ulcers that are without inflammation, although by the sharpness thereof, it makes them smart. The ashes mingled with old salad oil helps those that have their hair fallen and are bald, causing the hair to grow again, either on the head or beard. A strong decoction of the leaves is a good worm medicine, but is disagreeable and nauseous. The leaves are a good ingredient in fomentation for easing pain, dispersing swellings or stopping the progress of gangrenes. The distilled water of the herb is said to helpe. . . diseases of the spleen. The Germans commend it for a singular wound herb. . . . Wormwood has thrown it into disrepute.'