3.3.11 Wormwood

Wormwood #

Binomial / Botanical Name Artemisia Absinthium
Street Names Absinthe; Ambrosia
Major Active Compound Thujone
Indigenous Source Eurasia, North Africa, North America
Form Shredded Herb
RoA Oral / Smoked
Personal Rating On Shulgin Scale + / +


Wormwood is best known as the key ingredient of the alcoholic beverage, absinthe, with Erowid, for example, stating that:

Artemisia absinthium is a silvery-green perennial herb growing up to 1.5 meters tall which contains the volatile oil thujone. It is added to distilled ethanol to create absinthe. Its effects alone are not well understood

For the purposes of this book I sampled wormwood in its own right, rather than as part of a mix with another material, or distilled with alcohol. In this context, the following descriptions are fairly typical:

Wormwood is a mental stimulant. The effect of wormwood is narcotic, lightly anaesthetic, giving a peaceful and relaxing feeling” ~ azarius.net “Wormwood stimulates the brain to create a calming and relaxing effect.” ~ smokableherbs.com

Whilst the usual approach to stand-alone use is to make a tea, there are some reports of use as a smoking herb. For example, smokableherbs.com makes the following observation:

Those who want milder effects of Wormwood may smoke it instead of ingesting it. The effect is quicker but it is also shorter

I elected to test both methods, and wrote the following notes the day after the experiments:

My 50g sample of a fresh-smelling shredded brown compound arrived double sealed in two transparent bags. Having made a couple of elementary checks on the contents, I was ready to go.

I started with a few hits from a bong. Immediately there appeared to be an alleviation of anxiety, and perhaps more clarity of vision. However, this was marginal, and there was plenty of scope for a placebo influence. In this respect it should be noted that as I don’t smoke tobacco, smoking any compound tends to register to some degree, if only via oxygen deprivation.

Twenty minutes in, I could safely say that there was some effect. It was there, and by and large, it did fit the descriptions quoted above. It was extremely minor in nature.

After half an hour I took my afternoon nap. It was a reasonable sleep, albeit with a slightly odd aura about it.

On awakening I brewed a large cup of wormwood tea. I purposely didn’t make this too strong, as during the preparatory research I had encountered occasional warnings along the following lines:

Wormwood is poisonous. Long and intensive use can lead to addiction”. ~ azarius.net

The taste was bitter, but manageable.

I had set my expectations low, as most accounts suggested that this would be a mild experience. And so it was. The effects were similar to the earlier smoking experiment, perhaps hinting at those described on Erowid:

The primary reported effects of wormwood ingestion are a mild, hazy disorientation accompanied by a dreamlike or surreal feeling sometimes called “the dollhouse effect”. This refers to the appearance of things as though they are idealized copies of themselves, as if they are from a dollhouse. Other reported effects include a feeling of mental lucidity, stimulation, mild euphoria, and a sense of relaxation. Effects are frequently described as mild, and sometimes as “boring””

This was never strong, but it was evident, and it tapered off during the course of the day and evening.

Today, however, as I write these notes, I realize that I must have been under a pervasive sort of influence as my recollections of last night are a little odd and lacking.

There was also the matter of dreaming. I had previously read the following passage on the drugs-forum.com website:

Wormwood seems to induce lucid dreaming, which is being asleep, and dreaming, yet consciously aware of your dreaming, and sometimes able to control it, dreams are usually pleasant, and aside from lucid dreams, it also seems to greatly promote normal dreaming, also pleasant.” ~ Limpet Chicken

I did dream and the dreams were lucid. I woke several times. I wasn’t able to control the dreams, and they were not particularly pleasant dreams, but they were multiple, recallable, and vivid.

Regarding body load, when I woke during the night I was stiff, aching in places (particularly the lower side of the back) and my mouth was dry. I felt instinctively that this was as a result of consuming the wormwood. Perhaps it was, perhaps it wasn’t, but it was sufficient to persuade me not to repeat this exercise in a hurry.

Overall, there was a definite psychoactive edge to this, which was noticeable but not intrusive. It was a little strange and slightly anxiolytic in nature. The dreaming, however, was of another order entirely.

The Absintherie, Prague

The Absintherie, Prague