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Sweet Wormwood – Artemisia Annua

Considered an annual, sweet wormwood (Artemisia annua, Asteraceae), also known as sweet Annie, annual mugwort, sweet sagewort, and annual wormwood, is a large, bushy herbaceous plant that can grow from 12 to 40 inches in height.1 Native to western Asia and southeast Europe, sweet Annie can be found all over the world, with the largest habitats being western Europe and the western United States. The leaves consist of two or three leaflets which are divided by deep cuts and have quite an intense scent. The small green-yellow flowers appear in loose panicles and have no scent. Sweet Annie can be found at the edge of forests, on hillsides, and in wastelands.

As a source of artemisinin, found in the aerial portion of the plant, sweet Annie has been cultivated to treat malaria. The inflorescence can produce 10 times more artemisinin than the leaves.2 Sweet Annie has also been used to treat jaundice, tuberculosis, dysentery, wounds, hemorrhoids, and autoimmune diseases.1 Extracts of leaf, stem, and seed, as well as herbal oils, are being used in the cosmetic industry. These ingredients can be found in serums, shampoos, lotions, hand and eye creams, tonics, and masks. The products are touted as having protective and cleansing abilities, as well as moisturizing the skin and providing antioxidants. Due to its strong scent and large foliage production, dried wreaths are also popular.2 However, the plant can cause allergic reactions, such as headaches.

The essential oil derived from the leaves has been shown to have antioxidant, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. The essential oil constituents consist of 6-76% artemisia ketone, up to 44% camphor, up to 33% germacrene D, up to 16% alpha-pinene, and up to 15% alpha-guaiene. As ketones are considered a possible toxin, essential oils high in ketones are used with great care or often avoided by aromatherapists.

Lori Glenn
HerbClip™ Managing Editor



1Ekiert H, Świątkowska J, Klin P, Rzepiela A, Szopa A. Artemisia annua – Importance in traditional medicine and current state of knowledge on chemistry, biological activity, and possible applications. Planta Med. July 2021;87(8):584-599. doi: 10.1055/a-1345-9528.

2Tucker AO, DeBaggio T. The Encyclopedia of Herbs – A Comprehensive Reference to Herbs of Flavor and Fragrance. Portland, OR: Timber Press; 2009.