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Absinthium (Artemisia absinthium).

Botanical name:

The flowering tops and leaves of Artemisia Absinthium, Linné (Nat. Ord. Compositae); Europe, Siberia, Barbary, Newfoundland, and the United States; naturalized in New England; cultivated. Dose, 10 to 20 grains.
Common Name: Wormwood.

Principal Constituents.—A volatile oil (Oleum Absinthii), containing principally absinthol (C10H16O) and a crystalline bitter absinthin (C15H20O4).
Preparations.—1. Infusum Absinthii, Infusion of Absinthium (1 drachm to 1 pint). Dose, 1 to 2 fluidrachms.
2. Oleum Absinthii, Oil of Wormwood. Dose, 1 to 5 drops.

Action.—Both oil of wormwood and extract of absinth act as nerve depressants upon man. Small doses at first stimulate, larger ones produce headache, and still larger doses induce cerebral disturbances and clonic hysteroidal convulsions. Victims of absinthism, a vicious form of drunkenness, are subject to disturbed rest, with disagreeable dreams, and morning sickness and vomiting. A chronic intoxication ensues that is more fearful in its effects than that resulting from the abuse of alcoholics. Epileptoid attacks are common, physical and mental force is seriously impaired, and virile power is lost in the male, while a premature menopause is a common result in the female. It is also said to produce a peculiar hyperesthesia, most marked in the integument of the hypogastrium. The French liquer Absinthe, which is a viscous alcoholic cordial, and Wermuth, a German beer, both depend upon wormwood for their activity.

Therapy.—External. Absinthium, steeped in vinegar and water, makes an admirable hot fomentation for sprains, bruises and local inflammations. It should not be applied to abraded surfaces.

Internal. Small doses of absinthium stimulate the appetite and give tone to the gastric membranes, thus favoring digestion. For this purpose it is sometimes useful in atonic dyspepsia; especially in that form due to alcoholic excesses. Large doses irritate the stomach and give rise to increased action of the heart. Though less agreeable than santonin, it may also be used for the expulsion of the intestinal parasites—Ascaris vermicularis and Ascaris lumbricoides. The oil may be given in doses of 1 to 5 drops.


The Eclectic Materia Medica, Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 1922, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D.



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