I have been brewing a wormwood (Artemesia absinthium) tincture for some weeks now and so just before the weekend, when I went to Oxfordshire to lead a total of six Wild Medicine Walks at Wilderness Festival, I strained off the mixture and bottled up the tincture.
Wormwood is a super fragrant plant and to me it is also exceptionally magical. When I first moved to Stroud in 2003 I got an allotment and planted it up with a whole bunch of seeds. Within a couple of years my husband and I realised that the wormwood we had planted was growing into a huge bush rather than a neat little clump, so one autumn while my back was turned he gave it a serious prune, right back to ground level. Alas, the silvery wormwood did not make it, or so we thought for 7 whole years. We dug out the lifeless stump and used the area for everything from garlic to French beans, then about four years ago I noticed a couple of silvery green fingers poking out of the soil – yes the wormwood had returned! I was so delighted and it has remained a protected and truly loved member of my allotment community ever since.
For the last few years I have cropped some of the leaves each summer to dry and use as a smudge (the smoke is said to enhance psychic abilities) and have also made a tincture each summer with the leaves. Personally I mainly use the tincture as “bitters” just a drop or two before every meal to stimulate my liver and bile ducts which in turn assist in the efficient digestion of food. Wormwood tincture is very strong and so no more than five drops should be consumed daily and long term use is not recommended. However in the short term it can be used to allay the nausea that comes with travel sickness and will bring quick relief to indigestion. Although I do use it regularly I often break for a few days before going back to my pre- meal routine, it is always good to alternate with different bitters, as each act in a slightly different way upon your system.
Wormwood of course was one of the original active ingredients in absinthe which in its heyday inspired numerous writers and artists with its psychedelic effects. It is no longer legal to use in the drink, no doubt because excessive use of wormwood can cause hallucinations and delusions, although I think that it was the original drinkers were so wonderfully inspired by!
One time I was lucky enough to be at Stephen Harrod Buhner’s house when he cracked open a bottle of Dale Pendell’s Absinthe homebrew! Unfortunately I did not get to meet Dale, which is a real shame as I have admired his writing for years, and if his homebrew is anything to go by he really knows his stuff 😉 Still, I had a great time and have a sneaking feeling that my old silver fingered magical friend wormwood was present in the mix…
To make wormwood tincture place fresh wormwood leaves in a clean jar and cover with vodka or brandy of a minimum 40% vol. Leave the mixture for at least two weeks, shaking every day. Then strain off the plant matter, this can be composted. Keep the liquid, label very carefully (especially bearing in mind how strong this tincture is) keep it in a dark cupboard or the fridge and it will be good to use for at least a year.
Do not exceed the recommended doses and only use for short periods of time. Avoid during pregnancy and if sensitive to the compositae family. Not for use by children.
For more recipes check out The Medicine Garden.