OE wyrtig, adj: Garden-like, full of plants;
On anum wyrtige hamme, Homl. Skt. ii. 30:312



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Wormwood. Many thanks to the British Library for providing this image from MS Egerton 747 f.6, c.1300 CE.


In Early Sources...


Artemesia absinthum

Growing wormwood in your garden


Legend says that wormwood is bitter because it grew on the path taken by the "great worm" or serpent in Eden; the name is equally likely to have been applied because wormwood is a vermifuge or worming agent. It was popular in early times as a strewing herb because it repelled flies and moths. It was also used to make ink.


All parts of this plant are toxic due to the presence of thujone, which can cause brain and liver damage. As a medicinal, wormwood can act powerfully and dangerously upon the central nervous system, causing delirium, hallucinations, or more serious effects. For this reason, it was used only by experienced healers.

Medieval Names

The Old English name wormwood may refer to this plant's use as a vermifuge; or it may  be derived from wer, man, and mod, courage or spirit, for it has been long used as a tonic and stimulant.


Absinthium wearmod, absincio vel weremot, absintium wermod, absinthium wermot

Herbarium Apuleii

Wermod, węrmod;  že man absinthium 7 ožrum naman wermod nemnež; wermod; absinthius ƀ is wermod


Wermod, wermodes, wyrmod


Wermode, wermodes

Walafrid Strabo



Proximus absinthi frutices locus   
   erigit acris
Herbarum matrem simulantes
   vimine lento
In foliis color est alius, ramisque
   odor alter
Puberius, longeque saporis amarior

Walafrid Strabo, Hortulus

Next are bushes of bitter wormwood,
similar to mugwort but with soft stems,
and different colored leaves, and its twigs smell different, far more bitter when inhaled.

Walafrid Strabo, Hortulus

Late wermode lye and soke in wyn wel and wiŽ Žat wyn tempre Žin enke [ink] and Žere shal neiŽer mows ne ratte gnawe Že booke Žat is ywrete wiŽ Žis enke.

...Ho-so wole stampe wermode wiŽ vinegre and oyunt him Žer-wiŽ, him dare nat drede gnattes ne flen

Ley wermode in Žy cheste and Žer shall no motŽ come Žer-in.

Macer, Wermode

Let wormwood lie and soak well in wine, and with that wine temper your ink, and neither mouse nor rat shall gnaw the book that is written with this ink.


Whoever will pound wormwood with vinegar and anoint himself therewith, he does not dread gnats or flies.

Lay wormwood in your chests, and no moth shall come therein.

Macer, Wormwood

For anxiety, get feverfew, wormwood, and the inner bark of the ash; boil well in the water of a perennial spring, strain, and drink, fasting, for three mornings. With this you will recover, and will never be thus afflicted again..

Myddvai, 312


This one shall do for the one who cannot sleep * take wormwood * and rub it into wine or warm water * and drink and that one will soon be better.

Peri-Didaxeon 27


"Dry wasting disease" was probably tuberculosis, though it could be any chronic disease that made a person waste away.

Herbs were often mixed into vinegar, ale, or wine, any of which were likely to be safer to drink than water.

To work a good drink against the dry wasting disease take wormwood & rosemary   agrimony  pennyroyal   the small ranunculus  celandine  dandelion   spikenard   two pieces of green hellebore   three pieces of elecampane  *IIII* of cammock    a good deal of genista * & centaury * scrape the herbs into good clear ale or good foreign ale & let them stand *III* nights wrapped up   drink a cup full an hour before other food.

Lacnunga, 40

Please note: Many plants have been used in past and present times for medicinal purposes, and as one of the focuses of Wyrtig is the history of gardening, these uses are discussed here. However, common sense requires that you consult your family physician or other health care provider before using any plant materials for medicinal purposes. The old saying that "A doctor who treats him- (or her-) self has a fool for a patient" is no less true in herbal medicine than in any other branch of the healing sciences. Herbal remedies should not be used by the uninformed; medical advice should be sought before using any herbal remedy.


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