Wormwood, as you may be aware, was originally used to flavor absinthe. Yes, it includes thujone, a chemical that, in extremely high amounts, can induce convulsions and death, but the concentration found in absinthe will not cause you to hallucinate.
Thujone is also found in some other herbs, such as chamomile and rhododendron flowers. These plants do not contain enough thujone to be toxic. Wormwood, on the other hand, can be harmful if consumed in large quantities over a long period of time.
The amount of thujone in wormwood varies depending on the species and how it is processed. The best way to avoid any risk of poisoning by thujone is not to consume any part of the plant.
If you are still unsure about whether wormwood is safe for consumption, then there is no need to worry about it. This herb has no known health hazards for humans at normal exposure levels.
Wormwood gets its name from the plant (Artemesia absinthium) and its extracts' historic usage as an intestinal anthelmintic. Wormwood was the principal component of absinthe, a mostly prohibited, deadly liquor whose prolonged intake was linked to absinthism. Absinthe is why wormwood is now used as a bittering agent in some herbal teas and medicinal plants.
Wormwood is LIKELY SAFE when consumed in the levels found in food and drinks, such as bitters and vermouth, as long as these items are thujone-free. Wormwood containing thujone is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when consumed or applied to the skin. Thujone is a toxic chemical present in some species of wormwood that are used in traditional medicine.
The German health agency says there is "some evidence" that consuming bitter herbs can lead to stomach problems but no more than other foods with similar ingredients. The agency also says that although rare, liver damage has been reported after eating certain wild plants.
Wormwood is safe when used externally in small amounts as a wash or cream for skin irritations. It may cause contact dermatitis if it gets into your eyes. Anyone with eye problems or allergies should not use external applications of this herb.
Wormwood is safe when taken by mouth in low doses over time for treating diarrhea. But larger doses may be harmful unless your doctor tells you otherwise. Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding should not take wormwood because there is only limited research on its effects with humans. Wormwood has psychoactive effects like other hallucinogens, so it could be dangerous if you have an anxiety disorder or depression.
Thujone is a chemical found in wormwood (the popular name for several artemisia plant species) and other plants that is thought to have hallucinogenic or psychotropic properties. Wormwood comes in a variety of varieties that are used to flavor absinthe, bitters, vermouths, and bitter liqueurs. The most well-known variety is probably French sweet wormwood (Artemisia absinthium), which is responsible for the anise/licorice taste of absinthe. A less common type is German bitter wormwood (Artemisia abrotanum), which is used in making quassia bitters.
Thujone can be used medically to treat colds, fever, and influenza. It also has antifungal properties that could be useful in treating fungal infections such as candidiasis.
There are many myths surrounding thujone. It is not toxic; however, large amounts of thujone may cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Too much thujone may lead to hallucinations like those seen with cannabis, but it is not physically addictive like heroin or psychologically addictive like caffeine.
There are two main types of thujone: alpha-thujone and beta-thujone. Alpha-thujone is the more active form and is only present in high concentrations in the leaves of French sweet wormwood.