Artemisia, Herb of the Year 2014

January 2014

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The International Herb Society choses an herb to be the Herb of the Year each year. The hope is that the chosen herb will become more well known and studied, due to its prominence. This year it’s Artemisia, a large, diverse genus of plants with between 200 to 400 known species belonging to the daisy family, Asteraceae.

Artemisia is in the daisy or Asteraceae family. It is one of over 350 species in that large family of plants. It comprises hardy herbs and shrubs known for their volatile oils. They grow in temperate climates of the Northern Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere, usually in dry or semi-dry habitats. The fern-like leaves of many species are covered with white hairs. 

Common names used for several species include mugwort, sagebrush, sagewort, and wormwood, while a few species have unique names, notably Tarragon (A. dracunculus) and Southernwood (A. abrotanum).

Occasionally some of the species are called sages, causing confusion with the Salvia sages in the family Lamiaceae. Most species have strong aromas and bitter tastes from terpenoids and sesquiterpene lactones, which exists as an adaptation to discourage herbivory. The small flowers are wind-pollinated.

The aromatic leaves of many species of Artemisia are medicinal, and some are used for flavoring. Most species have an extremely bitter taste.

Wormwood has been used medicinally as a tonic, stomachic, febrifuge and anthelmintic- to destroy parasitic worms- hence the term ‘wormwood’ One species, Artemisia annua, has been used and is still used to fight malaria. Continue reading “Artemisia, Herb of the Year 2014”