1893 text

Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) is celebrated for its intensely bitter, tonic, and stimulating qualities, which have caused it to be used in various medicinal preparations, and also in the making of liqueurs, as wormwood wine and creme d’absinthe.

This text comes from a footnote on a diary entry in the 1893 edition edited by Henry B. Wheatley.

22 Annotations

First Reading

James Markusen  •  Link

I have no idea what wormwood is as a beverage. Sounds like a great idea for a martini though.

george  •  Link

Wormwood was the active ingredient in absinth, until it was banned for being a serious health hazard. I've heard that it is mildly hallucinogenic. It is derived from the oil of a European plant.

Alan Bedford  •  Link

Wormwood is one of the bitterest of herbs, second only to rue. The term wormwood actually comes from the Old English wermod, meaning spirit mother, and its German equivalent wermut. Hippocrates is credited with first infusing wormwood into wine as a digestive remedy.

Although the scientific name for wormwood is Artemisia absinthium, seventeenth-century Englishmen (and women) were not drinking what we would know as absinthe. More likely they were drinking wine flavored with wormwood (think something like, but with fewer aromatics than, vermouth. Vermouth wasn

vincent  •  Link

see Food and Drink > Drink > Alcoholic drinks > Spirits for more on wormwood

vincent  •  Link

more in notes at
Places > Taverns > Hercules Pillars (Fleet St)

vincent  •  Link

More to wormwood :no:47.To cause the Liver well to digest
Take Oil of Wormwood, and so much Mastich in powder as will make it into a poultice, lay it warm to your right side.

Dale Smith  •  Link

In 1450 AD The presence of hops in beer was was implicated in rousing Jack Cade, a Kent man with the alias 'John Mortimer', to launch his ill-fated rebellion against corruption.

Traditional Ales such as Burton Ale and Wormwood Ale were still brewed without hops at the time of Henry VIII. Wormwood ale was a popular drink containing Artemisia absinthum (one of the components of the infamous Absinthe liqour of the late 19th century).

Henry VIII effectively outlawed the use of hops in brewing, in part to protect the local wormwood growing business of the landed gentry (Does Wormwoods scrubs have some historical relevance here?).

Henry's son, Edward VI, passed special legislation in 1552 to permit the use of hops again by British brewers. It is clear that a century later Wormwood ale was still freely available in London.

Pedro.  •  Link

More on Wormwood
Hops were not introduced as a bittering agent in brewing until the end of the Middle Ages. Even then other plants still often used to preserve and flavour ale, notably bog-myrtle, costmary (alecost), wormwood and ground ivy (ale-hoof).
A handsome, silver-leaved perennial of waste ground, waysides and railway embankments, especially in the Midlands (of England).
Possibly native, or an ancient medicinal introduction from southern Europe. The bitter and pungent herb was once used as a powerful worm-dispeller and deterrent. Recommended for deterring fleas (Thomas Tusser):

While wormwoode hath seede, get a bundle or twayne,
to saue against March, to make flea to refraine.
Where chamber is swept, & ye wormwoode is strowne
No flea for hise life, dare abyde to be known.

David  •  Link

For a lot more detailed information on the history and lore of absinthe, and a comprehensive and frequently updated absinthe FAQ, click here: http://www.oxygenee.com

Grahamt  •  Link

Nowadays we ask; What is wormwood? but for Culpeper -
"Common Wormwood I shall not describe, for every boy that can eat an egg knows it."

vicenzo  •  Link

"Wormwood, Artemisia Absinthium has been used for centuries as a moth repellant," as if one would waste it?

pedro  •  Link


On the 29th of July 1760, a rumour arose in London—no one could afterwards tell how—to the effect that the plague had broken out in St. Thomas's Hospital! Commerce, notoriously, has no bowels; and Adam Smith justifies it for its visceral deficiency. Next morning, the price of rue and wormwood, in Covent Garden Market, had risen forty per cent! The authorities saw the necessity of an instant contradiction to the rumour. They put an advertisement in the public journals:"...(Book of Days)

in Aqua Scripto  •  Link

Tis why White hall has a matted Gallery [used the wormwood]as noted by Pedro
"While wormwoode hath seede, get a bundle or twayne,
to saue against March, to make flea to refraine."

Paul Timbrell  •  Link

Wormwood has other names. In his poem, Old Man, Edward Thomas points out that the plant is known as Lad's Love but also Old Man, a contradiction? The poem is well worth reading.

Clare Dedlock  •  Link

Aspirin is made from wormwood.

N.B. Mandel  •  Link

I believe you are mistaken; the active ingredient in aspirin comes from the bark of willow, salix alba. From Memorial-Sloan Kettering's herb site: http://www.mskcc.org/mskcc/html/1…

Grahamt  •  Link

Aspirin is acetyl-salicylic acid. The salicylic from the root word salix = willow. Willow bark is a traditional analgesic, the active ingredient of which was synthesised and marketed by Beyer as Aspirin (a trademark.)

Pauline Benson  •  Link

from the March 16, 2006 New Yorker
"Green Gold: the new absinthe craze" by Jack Turner:
"...Artemisia absinthium is not a wood but a leafy plant with delicate yellow flowers. The name comes from its supposed vermicidal properties--a cure ("wode") for worms. John Gerard, the English herbalist, wrote in his "Herball" of 1597 that wormwodd "voideth away the wormes of the guts.""

Second Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Artemisia is a large, diverse genus of plants with between 200 and 400 species belonging to the daisy family Asteraceae. Common names for various species in the genus include mugwort, wormwood, and sagebrush. Artemisia comprises hardy herbaceous plants and shrubs, which are known for the powerful chemical constituents in their essential oils. Artemisia species grow in temperate climates of both hemispheres, usually in dry or semiarid habitats. Notable species include A. vulgaris (common mugwort), A. tridentata (big sagebrush), A. annua (sagewort), A. absinthum (wormwood), A. dracunculus (tarragon), and A. abrotanum (southernwood). The leaves of many species are covered with white hairs.

Most species have strong aromas and bitter tastes from terpenoids and sesquiterpene lactones, which exist as an adaptation to discourage herbivory. The small flowers are wind-pollinated. Artemisia species are used as food plants by the larvae of a number of Lepidoptera species.....

Sasha Clarkson  •  Link

The diary refers to "wormewood wine", in principle now more commonly known as Vermouth*, but just as Coca Cola no longer contains cocaine, Vermouth generally no longer contains wormwood!
(or, at most, very small quantities)

❝..."wormwood wine". By the mid-17th century, the drink was being consumed in England under the name "vermouth" ...❞


*as in Martini, Noilly Prat, etc

Log in to post an annotation.

If you don't have an account, then register here.


Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.