One of the oldest and best known medicianl plants in Africa- Artemisia – Sanfern Downs

One of the oldest and best known medicianl plants in Africa- Artemisia afra

Artemisia afra, or commonly known as African Wormwood is an immensely powerful healing plant which has many uses.  It can be used medicinally on humans as well as on household pets. It is also used successfully as an insecticide.

Artemisia is a common species in South Africa with a wide distribution. There is a total of over 300 species of Artemisia, the majority are found in the Northern hemisphere. Artemisia afra is the only indigenous African species in this genus.

Artemisia afra is one of the oldest and best known of medicinal plants and is still widely used in South Africa today by people of all cultures. I use this plant to make my own tinctures with which I treat colds, flu and tonsillitis in the early stages of infection. I have also successfully used a strong tincture on more than one occasion to treat biliary in dogs.  

Artemisia was used by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans both medicinally and for religious rites and was thought to be a love charm centuries ago. The Indian tribes of North America prepared parts of this plant to treat sore throats and bronchitis. During the devastating 1918  Spanish Influenza epidemic, the indigenous African people used Artemisia afra as a cure.

The properties of this plant aids with cleansing and disinfecting.  It is anti viral ,antibacterial, an analgesic, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antimalarial, anti-nematodal, cardiovascular(hypotensive ie. low blood pressure), cytotoxic, narcotic, sedative and antihistamine properties. As you can see there are many uses of Artemisia afra.

You can use this essential oil as an inhalant by putting a few drops in a basin of hot water and covering your head with a towel. Good for treating coughs, colds, whooping cough, bronchitis, blocked nose, sinusitis, headaches, due to sinusitis. It also assists in relieving asthma.

Artemisia afra essential oil should only to be used externally. It can be mixed with a base oil, for example Almond or Avocado oil. Use a small drop of this blended mixture into the ear to relieve earache.  The anti-bacterial , anti-oxidant and anti-histamine properties are great to use for wounds, sores, rashes, bites and stings. Please keep in mind Artemisia afra pure essential oil, is very strong and can burn the skin if used directly and in high concentration for too long.  It can be used for pain relief of neuralgia, sprains, rheumatism and arthritis. The oil acts as a local anesthetic.  A few drops in a hot bath can help to relieve menstrual pain. Use it as a spray with ethanol to spray on sweaty feet to get rid of fungal and bacterial infections.

It is an excellent insect repellent and the oil can be added to a natural insecticidal spray to keep away moths, ants and mites.

Dried or fresh leaves can be used as a tea to internally treat chest conditions. As a tea, it is helpful  for heartburn, flatulence, gout, sore throat, indigestion and stomach cramps. A cool strong tea can be used as a mouth wash for gumboils and mouth ulcers.

All Artemisia’s are excellent anti parasitics. Use as a tincture or a strong tea to get rid of intestinal worms hence the common name for Artemisia is worm wood. Fresh sprigs can be used in chicken runs, kennels and stables on the floors as insect repellent for flies and fleas.

Some recipes

  1. Antisceptic vinegar

15 drops African Wormwood Essential oil

15 drops Rose Geranium Essential oil

15 drops  of Rosemary Essential oil

 15 drops Clove Bud Essential oil

1 Litre of vinegar

Add all the essential oils to the vinegar. Pour into a glass bottle with tight fitting non-metal lids. This makes an effective anti-viral, anti-sceptic , anti-bacterial  and anti-fungal mixture to use on surfaces.

  1. Upper respiratory steam vapour mix

10 drops African Wormwood Essential oil

5 drops Black Pepper Essential oil

5 drops Rose Geranium Essential oil

5 drops Eucalyptus Essential oil

Mix all the above essential oils into a dark glass bottle. Run a basin of hot water, drops three drops of the above mix into the water. Place a towel over your head and breathe in the vapours over the basin. Alternatively run a hot bath climb into the bath and put 5 drops of the above mix into the water and relax and breathe in the vapours to alleviate upper respiratory or chest complaints.

  1. Mosquito Repellent

5 drops African Wormwood Essential oil

5 drops lemon Grass Essential oil

5 drops Rose Geranium oil

 Mix all of the above essential oils in a dark glass bottle. Place approximately a table spoon of water into the top of an essential oil burner. Add three drops of the above blend. Light the candle and keep topping up the water and the oil blend as and when needed. This will help in keeping mosquitoes out of the room.


See the link below to buy pure Artemisia afra essential oil



Do not use this essential oil during pregnancy.

Use this essential oil for external use only.

1 comment

  • Great article. Would this help with asthma ?

    Sylvia nissen

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