Notes from Herb Heaven


Wormwood originates from the Mediterranean region, although Artemisia afra (wilde als) has been widely used in South Africa for hundreds of years. This is not a herb you want to eat, but it has wonderful healing properties and has been used medicinally for many years. There are different species of artemis, including mugwort and southernwood, and all have aromatic, pungent foliage. Wilde als is a hardy and drought resistant and will grow in just about any kind of soil, whereas Mediterranean wormwood does best in climates cool to warm with dry summers and wet winters. In the subtropics and summer rainfall areas, wormwood needs well-drained, sandy soil and full sun.

Propagation is done by seed or cuttings. Root them in prepared seed trays or small pots and keep them moist until established. Transplant into larger pots and when strong and bushy, plant out in the garden a metre apart as they grow into large bushes. Wilde als needs to be watered about once or twice a week. Wormwood can be grown in a container or tub, but needs to be trimmed regularly.

Fertilise the plant with a mulch of rotted manure or compost. Take care not to place the mulch up against the trunk. Plant wilde als near cabbages to repel cabbage butterfly, and when planted near fruit trees, it will help to repel the fruit tree moth. A strong infusion of the leaves can be used as a spray in the garden. It will help to keep away caterpillars, snails, aphids and mites. Clip the plants at the end of every summer, saving the clippings for their various purposes. Tie the leaves into bundles and hang them upside down in a cool, dark, airy place to dry. The dried leaves can be kept in airtight jars.

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As its name suggests, it is used to get rid of worms but also helps to relieve pain, fevers, constipation, coughs, sore throats and flu.

Wormwood has various medicinal uses, but it is very potent and should be used under the supervision of a trained herbalist.

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