Artemisia herba-alba

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Artemisia herba-alba
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Asterales
Family: Asteraceae
Genus: Artemisia
Species: A. herba-alba
Binomial name
Artemisia herba-alba
  • Artemisia aethiopica L.
  • Artemisia aragonensis Lam.
  • Artemisia lippii Jan ex Besser
  • Artemisia ontina Dufour
  • Seriphidium herba-alba (Asso) Soják

Artemisia herba-alba, the white wormwood, is a perennial shrub in the genus Artemisia that grows commonly on the dry steppes of the Mediterranean regions in Northern Africa (Saharan Maghreb), Western Asia (Arabian Peninsula) and Southwestern Europe.[2] It is used as an antiseptic and antispasmodic in herbal medicine.


Its specific epithet herba-alba means "white herb" in Latin, as its stems and leaves are white and woolly.[3] Similarly, it is armoise herbe-blanche or armoise blanche in French.

In Arabic, it is shīeḥ (الشيح).[4] And it is la'anah (לענה) in Old Testament Hebrew.[5][6] " Wormwood " ( in the Bible, Rev. 8:10-11 ).

Botanical description[edit]

Artemisia herba-alba is a chamaeophyte that grows to 20–40 cm (8–16 in). Leaves are strongly aromatic and covered with fine glandular hairs that reflect sunlight giving a grayish aspect to the shrub. The leaves of sterile shoots are grey, petiolate, ovate to orbicular in outline; whereas, the leaves of flowering stems, more abundant in winter, are much smaller.

The flowering heads are sessile, oblong and tapering at base. The plant flowers from September to December.[7] The receptacle is naked with 2–5 yellowish hermaphrodite flowers per head.[8]

Artemisia herba-alba, the 'white wormwood,' in garden


Essential oil of A. herba-alba, from the Sinai Desert, contains mainly 1,8-cineole and appreciable amounts of alpha and beta-thujone as well as other oxygenated monoterpenes including terpinen-4-ol, camphor and borneol.[9] Davanone, chrysanthenone and cis-chrysanthenol have been described as major constituents in some populations of A. herba-alba from Morocco[10] and Spain.[11] Less common non-head-to-tail monoterpene alcohols have been identified in some populations from Negev desert, such as santolina alcohol and yomogi alcohol.[12]

Eudesmanolide and germacranolide sesquiterpenes have been detected in the methanol extract of aerial parts, collected in Egypt.[13]

Two bioactive flavonoids, assumed to be hispidulin and cirsiliol, were isolated by chromatography from aerial parts ethyl acetate-extract.[14]


Artemisia herba-alba is good fodder for grazing animals, mainly sheep, and in the Algerian steppes cattle.[9][15]

Herbal medicine[edit]

This species of sagebrush is widely used in herbal medicine for its antiseptic, vermifuge and antispasmodic properties.[9] Artemisia herba-alba was reported as a traditional remedy of enteritis, and various intestinal disturbances, among the Bedouins in the Negev desert.[16] In fact, essential oil showed antibacterial activity,[17] as well as, antispasmodic activity on rabbits.[9]

Artemisia herba-alba based teas were used in Iraqi folk medicine for the treatment of diabetes mellitus.[18] An aqueous extract of aerial parts of the plant has shown a hypoglycemic effect in alloxan-induced diabetic rabbits and mice.[19][20][21]


Artemisia herba-alba is thought to be the plant translated as "wormwood" in English-language versions of the Bible (apsinthos in the Greek text). Wormwood is mentioned seven times in the Jewish Bible, always with the implication of bitterness. Wormwood is mentioned once in the New Testament, as the name of a star, also with implications of bitterness.[22]


  1. ^ The Plant List Artemisia herba-alba Asso
  2. ^ "Artemisia herba-alba". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 16 February 2010. 
  3. ^ Zalat, Samy; Gilbert, Francis (1999). "A Walk in Sinai" (PDF). Egyptian Journal of Natural History. Egyptian British Biological Society. 1. ISSN 1110-6867. 
  4. ^ Gallisai, F. Guiso (2002). "Artemisia herba-alba Asso". Archived from the original on 13 February 2010. Retrieved 17 February 2010. 
  5. ^ Brown; Driver; Briggs; Gesenius (1998). "Hebrew Lexicon entry for La`anah". The Old Testament Hebrew Lexicon. Lockman Foundation. Retrieved 17 February 2010. 
  6. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Plants in the Bible: Wormwood". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 
  7. ^ Feinbrun Dothan, N. (1978). "Flora Palaestina: part 3. Ericaceae to Compositae". Jerusalem, Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. 2: 351–3. 
  8. ^ Pottier-Alapetite, G. (1979). "Flore de la Tunisie: part 2. Dicotyledones, Gamopetales". Tunis, Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research (in French). 2: 1012–3. 
  9. ^ a b c d Yashphe, J.; Feuerstein, I.; Barel, S.; Segal, R. (1987). "The Antibacterial and Antispasmodic Activity of Artemisia herba alba Asso. II. Examination of Essential Oils from Various Chemotypes". Pharmaceutical Biology. 25 (2): 89–96. doi:10.3109/13880208709088133. 
  10. ^ Benjilali, B.; Sarris, J.; Richard, H. (1982). "Nouveaux chémotypes d' Artemisia herba-alba" (PDF). Sci. Aliment. (in French). 2: 515–527. 
  11. ^ Salido, S.; Valenzuela, L. R.; Altarejos, J.; et al. (2004). "Composition and infraspecific variability of Artemisia herba-alba from southern Spain". Biochemical Systematics and Ecology (in French). 32 (3): 265–77. doi:10.1016/j.bse.2003.09.002. 
  12. ^ Segal, Ruth; Breuer, Aviva; Feuerstein, Ilan (1980). "Irregular monoterpene alcohols from Artemisia herba-alba". Phytochemistry. 19 (12): 2761–2. doi:10.1016/S0031-9422(00)83962-X. 
  13. ^ Ahmed, A.A.; Abou-El-Ela, M.; Jakupovic, J.; El-Din, A.A.Seif; Sabri, N. (1990). "Irregular monoterpene alcohols from Artemisia herba-alba". Phytochemistry. 29 (11): 3661–3. doi:10.1016/0031-9422(90)85297-S. 
  14. ^ Salah, Sam Medhat; Jäger, Anna Katharina (2005). "Two flavonoids from Artemisia herba-alba Asso with in vitro GABAA-benzodiazepine receptor activity". Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 99 (1): 145–6. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2005.01.031. PMID 15848034. 
  15. ^ Houmani, Mohamed; Houmani, Zahia; Skoula, Melpomeni (2004). "Interest of Artemisia herba alba asso for the food of cattle in Algerian steppes". Acta botanica gallica. 151 (2): 165–172. ISSN 1253-8078. 
  16. ^ Friedman, J.; Yaniv, Z.; Dafni, A.; Palewitch, D. (June 1986). "A preliminary classification of the healing potential of medicinal plants, based on a rational analysis of an ethnopharmacological field survey among Bedouins in the Negev desert, Israel". Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 16 (2–3): 275–87. doi:10.1016/0378-8741(86)90094-2. PMID 3747566. 
  17. ^ Yashphe, J.; Segal, R.; Breuer, A.; Erdreich-Naftali, G. (July 1979). "Antibacterial activity of Artemisia herba-alba". Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences. 68 (7): 924–5. doi:10.1002/jps.2600680742. PMID 458619. 
  18. ^ Al-Waili, N.S. (July 1986). "Treatment of diabetes mellitus by Artemisia herba-alba extract: preliminary study". Clinical and experimental pharmacology & physiology. 13 (7): 569–574. doi:10.1111/j.1440-1681.1986.tb00940.x. PMID 3791709. 
  19. ^ Al-Khazraji, S.M.; Al-Shamaony, L.A.; Twaij, H.A.A. (November 1993). "Hypoglycaemic effect of Artemisia herba alba. I: Effect of different parts and influence of the solvent on hypoglycaemia activity". Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 40 (3): 163–166. doi:10.1016/0378-8741(93)90064-C. PMID 8145571. 
  20. ^ Al-Khazraji, S.M.; Al-Shamaony, L.A.; Twaij, H.A.A. (July 1994). "Hypoglycaemic effect of Artemisia herba alba. II: Effect of a valuable extract on some blood parameters in diabetic animals". Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 43 (3): 167–171. doi:10.1016/0378-8741(94)90038-8. PMID 7990489. 
  21. ^ M, Marrifa H I, Alib B H and Hassan K (November 1995). "Some pharmacological studies on Artemisia herba-alba (Asso.) in rabbits and mice". Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 49 (1): 51–55. doi:10.1016/0378-8741(95)01302-4. PMID 8786657. 
  22. ^ Musselman, Lytton John (12 April 2007). "Wormwood". Plant Site: Bible Plants. Old Dominion University. Retrieved 2 June 2013. 

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