By Janelle Eklund
Foraging for wormwood can be a challenge at times. There is plenty of it around but it can be hard finding a good patch away from roads, not on someone's property, or in a hard to get to place. Looking on the brighter side it gives you the chance to get out and enjoy the weather and the scenery. Another alternative is to ask permission if you see a good patch on private property. And offer to give them some of whatever you are brewing up with it. Who knows, maybe you will make a new friend on top of it. When foraging look for it in disturbed areas. As I mentioned in the first article it likes to grow on those steep bluff slopes of rivers. You may get lucky and find one of those that has some close to the bottom where it's easy to reach.
This herb is very safe when used externally. Its pleasant aromatic scent is great for a sauna switch, absorbing it into the blood stream. Not only does it smell good, it is healing for aches and pains.
In Janice Schofield's book she notes that a surgeon's wife was scheduled for a skin cancer operation. A native friend had told her to apply the herb on the cancerous area for fifteen minutes each day and kept reminding her to do this. After a week the symptoms disappeared and the doctor cancelled the operation.
The leaves, when used as a poultice, can help toothaches, earaches, sore eyes and snow blindness, mosquito repellent, arthritis (as mentioned before), swollen over-worked hands, etc. To make a poultice chew the leaves and then put it on the affected area. If chewing it grosses you out bruise the fresh leaves by crushing them with your hands, wetting them with their own juice. Then place in layers and do this repeatedly to be effective.
You can also take your decoction or diluted tincture, soak in a clean flannel cloth from an old sheet, and put on sprains and bruises.
Wormwood is great in the garden. You can transplant it by digging up the roots in the spring or fall, or plant from the seed. It's nice to have your own stash for all the wonderful uses described here. And an added bonus - it can repel pests in the garden. Chop up leaves and put around plants that might get an infestation, like cabbage.
If you are like me and don't like using chemical repellents try making your own repellent or rub the wormwood leaves over your body to ward them off. To make your own repellent make an oil as described in the first article using a variety of plants of your choice such as wormwood leaves/flowers, soapberry (the berries), elder leaves, chives, pineapple weed (chamomile), and plantain. Also, add garlic. Cover the jar with a cotton cloth or paper towel and secure with a ring or rubber band to let any moisture escape. After you have strained the oil add a few drops of essential oil of your choice such as citronella, pennyroyal, or rosemary. You can use as an oil or add the beeswax to make a salve. Store in an amber colored bottle in a cool dark place.
The sage scent of wormwood makes it a natural deodorizer. I never was one to use chemical laced deodorants and this is a great alternative. Deodorize the air with its soothing leaves hung in a closet or room of your choice.
Enjoy Artemisia’s aroma, its medicine, and its stately body.
From my light to yours-
Information for this article was gleaned from Janice Schofield's book, Discovering Wild Plants and Rosemary Gladstar's book, Family Herbal. I highly recommend these books. They are wonderful references.
Who We Are
WISEfriends are several writers connected with Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment, a nonprofit organization located in Alaska's Copper River Valley. Most of these articles originally appeared in our local newspaper, the Copper River Record.