Our 2023 EFN seed catalogue is now online! 100+ new varieties. Over 40 different growers and foragers from across the country. A million thanks to all who make this possible, especially our amazing seed-house crew!
Also known as "sweet annie," "qing hao," "sweet absinthe," "sweet sagewort," or "annual mugwort," sweet wormwood is a powerfully medicinal herb long utilized in traditional Chinese medicine, particularly to combat fevers. In the 1970s, Chinese scientist Tu Youyou first isolated a compound from sweet wormwood called artemisinin which showed great promise as a treatment for malaria. In 2015 she shared a Nobel Prize for Medicine based on that work, becoming the first woman from mainland China to win the prize. Her groundbreaking work with herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine was funded by the Chinese military's Project 523, an effort spurred on by Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh to bring hundreds of scientists together to figure out how to deal with malaria, which was one of the biggest threats to soldiers during the Vietnam War. Two medicines derived from artemisinin, called artemether and artesunate, remain critical weapons in doctors' arsenals against one of the world's deadliest diseases, still on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines.
But sweet wormwood isn't only useful for fighting malaria. It is still used against fevers, and also against inflammation in general. Excitingly, recent studies have found that compounds in sweet annie (and perhaps combinations of them) may be useful against various cancers, along with certain protozoal infections including leishmaniasis, Chagas’ disease, and African sleeping sickness. A 2021 study even indicated that sweet wormwood extracts can inhibit the in vitro replication of the virus that causes COVID-19. This species should be avoided during pregnancy.
Sweet wormwood, like its more famous cousin wormwood (Artemisia absinthium), is also used as a flavoring agent in various liquors.
While there is a great deal of diversity within the species — especially with respect to chemotype, or chemical profile — there hasn't been much breeding work done with it. We hope more researchers will attempt to develop new lines of sweet wormwood for particular medicinal uses.
Native to China, but now naturalized across the temperate world, sweet wormwood is easy to grow and suffers from few pests or diseases. Our seed comes from our friend Aaron Parker of Edgewood Nursery in Falmouth, Maine.