African Wormwood (Artemisia afra) is also known as wild wormwood, African wormwood (Eng.); wilde-als (Afr.); umhlonyane (isiXhosa); mhlonyane (isiZulu); lengana (Tswana); zengana (Southern Sotho)
Named after the Greek goddess Artemis, this soft aromatic shrub is one of the most popular medicinal plants in South Africa. It is a highly aromatic perennial shrub. Artemisia Afra can grow up to two metres in height and has attractive, soft and feathery leaves that are grey-green in colour and resemble fern fronds. The upper surface of the leaves is dark green whereas the undersides and the stems are covered with small white hairs, which give the shrub the characteristic overall grey colour. It grows in thick, bushy, slightly untidy clumps. The stems are thick and woody at the base, becoming thinner and softer towards the top. Many smaller side branches shoot from the main stems. Panicles of inconspicuous pale yellow, drooping flowers are borne at the ends of branches.
African Wormwood Medicinal Benefits
Artemisia afra is one of the oldest and best known medicinal plants, and is still used effectively today in South Africa by people of all cultures. The roots, stems and leaves are used in many different ways and taken as enemas, poultices, infusions, body washes, lotions, smoked, snuffed or drunk as a tea. The list of uses covers a wide range of ailments from coughs, colds, fever, loss of appetite, colic, headache, earache, intestinal worms to malaria.
Traditionally an infusion or decoction of Artemisia Afra, mixed with honey or sugar to form a syrup, is highly regarded as a treatment for colds, flu, sore throats and bronchial and respiratory conditions like pneumonia, asthma, whooping cough, croup, bronchitis and coughs. The steam from leaves boiled in water is inhaled to relieve the symptoms of these ailments, and the vapour from a hot infusion is used to steam the throat of scarlet fever patients. One of the most common practices is to insert fresh leaves into the nostrils to clear blocked nasal passages.
A. afra has a very bitter taste and is usually sweetened with sugar or honey when drunk. Wilde-als brandy is a very popular medicine still made and sold today.
How to grow African Wormwood
Wormwood is a very hardy attractive perennial that will grow almost anywhere even on poor soils often with little water. Needs full sun to partial shade and little maintenance. Seeds are very small so starting indoors is recommended. Start in good potting soil and sow seeds on the surface of the soil. Seeds need some light to germinate so either don’t cover them or give them a light dusting to help get a good soil contact. Keep moist until seedlings appear, seedlings are very small and delicate and take quite a while to grow to any size. When large enough to handle pot into individual pots and grow on until large enough to transplant to their final location. This can take several weeks as they grow very slowly to begin with . Seedlings grow fairly slowly to begin with as they establishing themselves in the first year.
Wormwood is a tough plant, it can tolerate many different climatic types and poor soil. In cooler areas it prefers full sun and in warmer areas it prefers some shade from the hot sun. African Wormwood will grow on a wide range of soil types and is often found on poor soil that is semi dry. In warmer areas it prefers a slightly richer soil and more water. In most cases, plants in shade and those that have more water tend to be less silvery and more green. Plants under more stress produce a much stronger silvery appearance. It will not grow well in moist to wet soils.
Information is for educational and informational purposes only and may not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended to replace medical advice or treatment offered by healthcare professionals.