Scientific Name: Artemisia Afra
African Wormwood has a long traditional use and is one of the most widely used herbal remedies in South Africa. It is a highly aromatic, warming, cleansing, disinfecting and intensely bitter shrub. African wormwood is used for a great number of ailments and is best known and used still today for its treatment in chest conditions.
I’ve done some research on this remarkable plant, looking at the ethnobotany uses as well as scientific studies on it. I find it incredible that the scientific findings on the plant support the old traditional and historical uses. I would love to share my findings with you.
Here is what African Wormwood can help you with:
A Respiratory Restorer
African Wormwood is well known for and is primarily used in common colds, coughs, sore throats, influenza, asthma, whooping cough and croup as it is said to clear the respiratory and bronchial passage. The vapour from an infusion is inhaled to alleviate symptoms of colds and flu. One of the most common practices is to insert fresh leaves into the nostril to clear a blocked nasal passage, another is to use a hot infusion as a gargle to relieve a sore throat. Some tribes smoke the leaves to help release phlegm and to ease and soothe a sore throat as well as nighttime coughing. Fresh leaves are also placed in a flannel bag and hung around a baby’s neck for cold and chest problems in infants.
African wormwood is used to improve lung health and support lung function. “Medicinal plants such as Artemisia annua are being considered as possible treatments for COVID-19 and should be tested for efficacy and adverse side effects,” reads the World Health Organisation Africa (WHO) website. This can be due to the plant’s antimicrobial activity which includes antiviral and antibacterial properties.
A Digestive Supporter
African Wormwood is a warming and bitter herb. Bitter botanicals have been used for hundreds of years, often in the support of natural digestive processes. Your body contains tons of receptors for bitter compounds, not only in your mouth and tongue but also in your stomach, gut, liver and pancreas as well as other parts in your body. The stimulation of these bitter receptors promotes healthy digestion by increasing digestive secretions.
African Wormwood is used in the treatment of many digestive complaints including indigestion, colic, constipation, flatulence (gas), gastritis, heartburn, stomach pains, intestinal cramps and to get rid of intestinal worms. It is consumed to overcome general debility and as an appetizer.
The anti-spasmodic effects of African Wormwood were tested in a study. They concluded that African Wormwood reduced spasms, justifying the traditional use of the plant in stomach pains and intestinal cramps.
A Pain Reliever
This powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and narcotic analgesic plant is used to treat pain and various inflammatory diseases such as rheumatism, gout, bladder and kidney ailments, pain, fever and diabetes, as well as stress-related and neurological conditions.
A Peacefulness Creator
African wormwood has been proven to have sedative and CNS-acting activities which include anti-convulsive and GABA-receptor-binding activity. Transmitters such as serotonin, noradrenaline, dopamine, GABA and L-glutamate are related to depression. African Wormwood has shown potential to treat depression as it influences the mentioned transmitters, especially GABA and serotonin.
A Protector from Malaria
African Wormwood has been traditionally used to treat malaria in the southern parts of Africa, possibly due to anti-plasmodial activity. There are few scientific publications available to support this, however, the exact cause for its effectiveness is not known.
A Women’s Supporter
African wormwood is used for dysmenorrhea, amenorrhea and menstrual cramps. The leaves can be used in yoni steaming for menstrual chills and also after childbirth. Internally, decoctions of the leaves have also been administered for extended labour.
An Immune Modulator
Positive results suggest that African Wormwood exhibits immune-boosting properties. This could also be accredited to its antimicrobial activity which includes antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal actions. Interestingly enough, the University of Zululand started to combine African Wormwood with standard forms of treatment for HIV positive patients due to these findings.
Also, just so that you know, I make and sell an African Wormwood Tincture. If you would like to try it?
A Skin Supporter
Studies have shown African Wormwood to work wonders for skin conditions. An extract of the plant can be applied to ease the pain and hasten the bursting of boils, abscesses and large acne pimples. An African Wormwood bath is used to bring out the rash in measles, mumps and chickenpox as well as relieve haemorrhoids, herpes and venereal sores. A poultice or infusion of the leaf can be used to wash wounds. Salves made from African wormwood can also be used to relieve pain and assist with healing sores, rashes, bites and stings. It is also used to rejuvenate the skin.
An Antidiabetic Supporter
Ethnobotany research which included general conversation and questionnaires with traditional healers and herbalists in various locations in the Eastern Cape showed that infusions of leaves and roots of African wormwood are consumed for a long period on a daily basis.
While using African Wormwood infusions for therapy against malaria, a team of African doctors noticed that several patients who simultaneously suffered from diabetes saw their clinical signs alleviated. They increased the treatment to several weeks after which patients were cured of diabetes with long-range effects.
An Anti-Cancer Supporter
Over 60% of currently used anti-cancer agents are derived in one way or another from natural sources, including plants, marine organisms and micro-organisms. African Wormwood showed moderate anti-cancer activity against leukaemia, melanoma and cancer of the lung, colon, kidney, ovary and central nervous system in a study performed on plants with anti-cancer activity.
A Tuberculosis (TB) Reliever
During a study aimed to verify the traditional phytotherapeutic usefulness of African Wormwood against TB, the authors found that bacterial replication was inhibited in bacteria related to TB. Their study clearly demonstrated that African Wormwood contains in vitro anti-mycobacterial activity as well as modulated pulmonary inflammation in early mycobacterial infection. Another study also supported the traditional use of African Wormwood in TB-related symptoms.
A strong infusion can be used as a mouth wash for gum boils and mouth ulcers and a few drops can be dropped gently in the ear to relieve earache.
African Wormwood has been reported to contain anti-histaminic and narcotic analgesic effects making it useful in the treatment of pain and allergic reactions.
An infusion of African Wormwood is drunk as a remedy for fever. It is widely used in supporting the body through the fever process, especially with diseases such as Malaria.
African Wormwood has shown powerful antioxidant activity which is responsible for free radical scavenging. Antioxidants are chemicals that help stop or limit the damage caused by free radicals (unstable atoms that can damage cells, causing illness and ageing). Your body uses antioxidants to balance free radicals which keeps them from causing damage to other cells. Antioxidants can protect and reverse some of the damage. Therefore, African Wormwood can be used to treat various inflammatory diseases such as rheumatism, fever and diabetes, as well as other stress-related conditions.
African Wormwood is also known to have good insecticidal properties and can be used as a companion plant to reduce pest pressure on crops. It is planted as a border plant surrounding other medicinal or vegetable plants and is used in formulations for animal shampoos and insect repellents.
Properties and Actions
Anodyne / Analgesics, Anthelmintics, Antibacterial, Anticatarrhal (Mucous Membranes), Antidepressant, Antidiabetic, Anti-fungal, Antihistamine, Anti-HIV, Anti-inflammatory, Antimalarial, Antimicrobial, Anti-nematodal, Antioxidant, Antipyretic (fever), Antispasmodic, Antiviral, Anxiolytic (reduce anxiety), Cardiotonic (heart health), Carminative, Cytotoxic (anti-cancerous), Emetic (promotes vomiting), Febrifuge (reduce fever), Hypotensive (lower blood pressure), Immunomodulator, Mood elevator, Nervine, Sedative
Respiratory, Digestive, Nervous, Immune, Urinary, Circulatory, Cardiovascular, Reproductive
I also use African Wormwood in my
- Roberts, M. 2017. Indigenous Healing Plants.
- Van Wyk, B. Van Oudtshoorn, B. Gericke, N. 2017. Medicinal Plants of South Africa. Page 48
- Sanbi – Artemisa Afra. – http://pza.sanbi.org/artemisia-afra (24/08/20)
- Science Direct – Artemisia afra: A potential flagship for African medicinal plants? 2008 – https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0254629908003165#bib50 (24/08/20)
- Journal of Pharmacogenomics & Pharmacoproteomics. 2011. Gayathri V. Patil1*, Sujata K. Dass2 and Ramesh Chandra. Artemisia afra and Modern Diseases.
- Yvette van Wijk’s ethnobotany research.
7. Malaria World.org – Artemisia afra alleviates and cures diabetes https://www.malariaworld.org/blog/artemisia-afra-alleviates-and-cures-diabetes