Growing heirloom plants
Resources for gardeners
Wormwood. Many thanks to the
British Library for providing this image
Egerton 747 f.6, c.1300 CE.
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
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
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
man absinthium 7 oțrum naman wermod nemneț; wermod; absinthius ƀ is wermod
absinthi frutices locus
Herbarum matrem simulantes
In foliis color est alius, ramisque
Puberius, longeque saporis amarior
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.
Late wermode lye and
soke in wyn wel and wiȚ Țat wyn tempre Țin enke [ink] and Țere shal
neiȚer mows ne ratte gnawe Țe booke Țat is ywrete wiȚ Țis enke.
...Ho-so wole stampe wermode wiȚ vinegre and oyunt him Țer-wiȚ, him
dare nat drede gnattes ne flen
Ley wermode in Țy cheste and
Țer shall no motȚ come Țer-in.
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
Lay wormwood in your chests, and
no moth shall come therein.
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
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.
wasting disease" was probably tuberculosis, though it could be any
chronic disease that made a person waste away.
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
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.