Garden View: Louisiana wormwood, or Estafiate, has antiparasitic and anti-inflammatory properties

Artemisia ludoviciana is known as Louisiana wormwood or Louisiana sagewort, and to Spanish speakers, it is known as Estafiate. This common herb is actually found in all of North America, Mexico and parts of Central America.

In the nursery industry, it is used as a perennial plant valued for its silver grey-green foliage that contrasts with darker green foliage in the garden. Several cultivars with varying leaf shapes are sold and it is adaptable to a wide range of soils ranging from acid to alkaline. It requires sunshine and well drained soils and is drought tolerant, once established. Flowers may be greenish white to yellow and butterflies are attracted to Artemisia ludoviciana. Sounds good so far?

The nursery use does not begin, however, to tell the story of this ancient herb, used by native people throughout its growing range. The name “wormwood” does offer a hint. This Artemisia has been used for centuries to fight off the effects of food poisoning and parasites. It has antimicrobial properties, as well as antiparasitic and antiinflammatory properties.

The tips of young stems are cut and the leaves and stems are dried. Once dried, Wormwood can be added to a salve and applied to wounds, insect bites or joints as a topical treatment. A cold tea-like infusion may also be applied to bites and joints to relieve pain.

Most often, an infusion is made to drink, as a bitter tea, to calm stomach issues. In Mexico, Artemisia has also been used to control blood sugar and, preliminary research has confirmed this use as beneficial, but more research is needed.

Artemisia ludoviciana can become invasive, especially under moist growing conditions. For this reason, it is best not to over water this plant and be sure that it has ample drainage.

Like many bitter herbs, this plant contains a chemical, thujone, that can be toxic in large doses, so caution should be used when utilizing wormwood.

Artemisia ludoviciana is an ancient herb that can be useful as a medicinal herb or in our landscapes.

It is an underutilized plant in our landscapes and one that may offer practical medicinal properties.

Dried Wormwood, or Estafiate, is on sale today at the Growing Growers Farmers Market, along with a full array of locally grown winter vegetables, herbs and fruits, grassfed beef and Gulf caught shrimp. This market is located in Firemen’s Park, at the corner of First Street and Business 83, in McAllen. For information on the market, contact (956) 330-6410.

Barbara Storz is a local horticulturist. She can be reached by email at bar barastorz@hotmail.com.