Artemisia – an Intensely Bitter Herb with Fantastic Gut Health, and Anti Diabetic Properties

Artemisia activates the body’s bitter receptors and digestive reflexes promoting sustained gut health


 

Artemisia lowers blood sugar by activating the body’s own natural responses. Several studies have shown encouraging results – a significant blood glucose lowering noted 2 to 4 hours after administration of artemisia extracts. Results improved with successive doses.

Artemisia not only lowers blood sugar, but also provide long term vitality to intestines, liver and gall bladder. Improved efficiency of these organs is the best protection against diabetes and other related diseases on the long run.

10 benefits of using artemisia:

  1. Glucose lowering
  2. General nerve tonic
  3. Restorative and protective of liver functions
  4. Cholesterol lowering
  5. Weight gain control
  6. Aid digestion of fats
  7. Stimulate appetite
  8. improve nutrient absorption
  9. Lessen our craving for sweets
  10. Reduce fermentation in the intestines

Artemisia is the main species name. Here are the 6 most common used herbs: Mugworth, Wormwood, Terragon, Sweet Annie, Southernwood, and Sagebrush. Artemisia belong to a large family of more then 400 species. Even though these plants are not identical, they all share the same bitter quality.

The health advantages of bitter herb Artemisia


 

Artemisia is a bitter herb, and bitterness is what makes her so powerful. The bitter element is specially important for the treatment of diabetes because it promotes gut health. Optimum function of the digestive system is fundamental to overall health and a disease free life.

Digestion is related to glucose production, handling and distribution or energy. Digestion involves the liver, pancreas, gall bladder, and enteric system. Diseases of the digestive system are associated with diabetes progression.  When these systems malfunction, there is an open path to diabetes, liver disease, gastro esophageal reflex disease or (GERD).

Artemisia’s main beneficial properties are the activation of your bitter reflexes

Eat more bitters

In the past bitter vegetable and herbs were part of our diet. Today, foods are bio-engineered to be sweeter. Quinoa for example, is bitter in the wild but agricultural techniques produced a non bitter variety.

We are attracted to the sweet and salty taste, but getting rid of the bitter is a bit mistake. keep reading to find out why.

Bitter foods and herbs have been used for thousands of years for taste and medicinal purposes. Another bitter plant with anti diabetic properties is the bitter mellon.

Bitterness is not a medicinal property in itself but a trigger to the bitter reflex. When the bitter reflex is activated, it promotes a hormone cascade reaction preparing the gastric system to action.

The bitterness of artemisia is attributed to a family of chemicals called sesquiterpenes. Wormwood is one of the bitterest herbs known to man

The bitter reflex action

Each one of us have approximately 9000 chemo receptors on the side of our tongue. The moment a bitter taste come in contact with them, bitter reflexes are activated. Once activated, the special hormone gastrin is released to the blood stream.

Gastrin stimulate the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, stimulating the pancreas and bile production. It also improves stomach motility. As soon as you drink artemisia tea you should start feeling your guts moving!

The smooth muscles of the stomach contract, increasing the emptying rate, and the sphincter functions improves preventing stomach acid to rise; thus protecting against GERD.

Bitters in the plant kingdom act as protectors from microbes. But when ingested they prompt a reaction from our taste buds to our brain to let the digestive system switch on, signaling that food coming in – this is known as as the bitter reflex. We are hardwired for bitter taste.

You must taste the bitter taste! If you add sugar to artemisia tea or use capsules, you will not activate the bitter reflex

The increased stomach acids brake down proteins more efficiently, destroying harmful microbes enhancing the availability and absorption of minerals and calcium.

With age, we tend to lose the ability to produce enough hydrochloric acid. Most people have less digestive than is adequate.

Deficiency in hydrochloric acid contributes to poor nutrition and is associated with certain conditions such as arthritis, asthma, eczema, gall bladder disease, and psoriasis.

“Bitters reduce our taste for sweets. Modern health problems such as gas, bloating, constipation, lack of nutrient’s absorption, gastric reflux, high cholesterol and diabetes show a lack of bitter in our diet” Carmen Lynde

Fighting disease with Artemisia


 

Blood glucose

In one study, the use of 70% alcohol extract of artemisia herba-alba, was observed to lower blood sugar peaks after meals[7]. Artemisia extract can act as a alpha-amylase inhibitor. α amylase is the enzyme that convert starches and simple sugars to glucose.  By having α amylase action slowed, the use of insulin is less needed thus reducing quick glucose spike.

α amylase inhibitors are important for diabetics who are trying to keep blood sugar from rising after meals. Insulin use will actually spike α amylase level in the blood after being injected. All injected insulin does is to convert excess blood sugar to fat – thus making diabetes worse with time.

Artemisia tea can be so effective, you might have to reduce your medications or risk having low blood sugar. For non diabetics it can regulate energy levels throughout the day.

Artemisia can help with diet changes as bitters reduce our craving for sweets. High consumption of sugars and refined foods is one of the biggest challenges facing diabetics trying to change their diets.

GERD

It is common assumption, gastro esophageal reflex disease (GERD) is cause by excessive stomach acids. Is kind of intuitive to think that way because stomach acid leaks to the esophageal area causing all sorts of problems. But the opposite is true. Lack of stomach acid causes the overpopulation of bacteria in the stomach. This in turn causes the esophageal sphincter to malfunction due to inflammation. Artemisia can restore the necessary amounts of stomach juices normalizing digestive and stomach functions thus preventing GERD.

Fats and digestion

Artemisia can improve fat digestion. Many conditions today such as gas, bloating and constipation, gastric reflex, elevated cholesterol and diabetes are related to a incomplete or inefficient digestion. A poor digestion is also responsible for poor nutrient’s absorption.

Effective digestion of fats is an important health marker. We are taught that is better to avoid fats in our diet. Fats have been stripped from most of our diet, and substituted for sugar. We are starting to see changes in this area.

We now know that eating more fats can be healthy. When we avoid fats we create a lazy gall bladder. Bile gets stored in the gall bladder until fats are available to be digested. If fats are not consumed, bile doesn’t flow to the intestines and pools in the gall bladder becoming more concentrated. This can lead to the formation of gall stones.

Fats are also a great source of nutrients and energy. Most problems with eating fat can be avoided if you are able to digest them properly.

Bitter stimulates the flow of digestive juices from the mouth, stomach, pancreas and liver. Aiding a efficient breakdown of food and digestion.

Anxiety

Anxiety, depression and fear can slow digestion affecting the nerves of the digestive system. In turn when digestion functions are restored it creates a mirror effect improving mood stabilization, and a general sense of well being.

High levels of stress and adrenaline production weakens the adrenal glands which in turn weaken the immune system.

Bitters support the nervous system aiding the treatment of depression and anxiety.  Bitter herbs have a cooling effect to the gut. After using it you experience a remarkable sense of well being that lasts throughout the day.

Body weight

Body weight gain was noted to decrease after 2 months of artemisia alcohol extract consumption in the study group; compared to control group. Rats that were treated with the alcohol extract in a dose of 1g/kg had the biggest results [8].

Constipation

Bitters herbs can be gentle laxatives but are effective in regulating the intestines and relieving constipation problems. Bitters can reduce fermentation in the intestines and improve motility and reduce fowl smelling stool. Artemisia is one of the best herbal intestinal regulators. If you want regular and effective bowel movements try drinking wormwood tea before every meal. Your intestines will thank you.

Appetite stimulant

Bitters stimulate the appetite by stimulating stomach acid production to sufficient levels for a good digestion. A lot of people eat well but don’t necessarily feel well after they do. This may be due to lack of nutrient absorption – bitters can change that. An increase in appetite can be very beneficial for the convalescent and people with conditions such as anorexia nervosa.

Artemisia effect to organs and systems


 

The enteric system

This system consist of 100 million neurons and nerve cells servicing the entire length of our digestive tract from our esophagus to our anus. The enteric system is basically the brain of our guts. 

The enteric nerve cells controls peristalsis, the contraction of the digestive system which moves foods through the intestinal tract. It also controls the secretions of the digestive organs such as stomach acids and the digestive hormones from endocrine cells.

The autonomic system consist of cells that convey information to cells located in the digestive organs to our brain.

The bitter reflex acts as a regulator of the enteric system. It stimulates and works as a tonic. The well functioning of the enteric system have a calming and relaxing effect to the overall nervous system.

The gallbladder

There is an epidemic of gall bladder removal in modern medicine. Approximately 750,000 Americans have their gall bladder removed each year. A gallbladder is removed due to pain, inflammation and stone formation.

This condition is caused by an inefficient liver that cannot produce quality bile. Too much alcohol and junk food can cause the liver to become sick. Doctors will quickly make a decision to remove your gallbladder.

However, even after removing the gallbladder, some people can still feel pain and that in some cases can be even worse. Without a gall bladder, you could be more prone to digestive issues and liver problems. Stones can still form within the ducts of the liver. By having the gall bladder removed, doesn’t necessarily solve the problem and the stones and sludge may form within the liver, compromising liver functions even further.

Artemisia can restore liver function and avoid gallbladder inflammation and stone formation. Please don’t remove your gallbladder before giving artemisia a try. Your gallbladder is very important. Without the gallbladder you can’t digest fats appropriately. By not digesting fats you also can’t digest fatty acids including omega 3 and omega 6 as well as fat soluble vitamins A,D, E,K witch are vital for health. Bitters help by stimulating a larger production of quality bile.

Parasympathetic Nervous system

This is the system responsible for our fight or flight responses. Bitters before bed stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system witch is our rest and digest system. If you have a large fatty meal, drink bitter artemisia tea right before your go to bed for a deep sleep.

Heart

Bitters can indirectly improve circulation by improving digestion and taking the pressure of the heart.

Liver

The liver is a extremely important organ and responsible for over 500 functions. One of these functions is to produce bile. Bile break down fats and lubricate the intestines making easy to pass stools. Once the bile is produced is stored in the gall bladder (up and behind the liver). When you eat fats, the gall bladder secretes the bile into the duodenum or the small intestines and the fats are broken down to be utilized by the body.

The effects of 2 months administrations of artemisia oral extracts were observed and documented. The results showed a significant increase in activity of transaminases and ALP. Liver transaminases (AST or SGOT and ALT or SGPT) are useful biomarkers of liver injury.  A decrease in activity in these markers show a possible liver disease in process.

Inflammation and oxidative stress is one of the main causes of liver disease onset. Stopping or delaying these insults to the liver is a promising form of treatment and prevention of liver injury.

One study strongly indicate the protective effect of aqueous extract of Artemisia absinthium (AEAA) against acute liver injury. This action may be attributed to its antioxidative and/or immunomodulatory activity. [13]

Intestines & immune system

When digestion is improved so is the immune system. We can’t ignore the lymphatic activity in the gut. The guts are lined up with lymph nodes and lymph vessels. Bitters help to repair the lining of you gut. If the lining is damaged or inflamed, it can lead to leaky gut syndrome. this is when food and toxins leak back into the bloodstream causing an immune response. Artemisia’a bitter quality encourages our natural repair mechanisms to maintain a healthy intestinal lining.

Warning and toxicity


 

Some artemisias are high in thujone and can cause harm if not used properly. Artemisias are not to be used in pregnancy as they stimulate the uterus to contract. But that makes them useful in amenorrhea. They should not be taken longer that 4 – 5 weeks. They are generally best taken in small doses. Use wormwood for lesser amount of time. Mugworth can be used for longer periods of time due to being milder.

The toxicity in artemisia is due to a chemical called thujone. It is considered toxic and hallucinogenic in high doses. Some consider this to be a problem only in high doses and when consumed in the beverage absinthe. The whole plant of wormwood taken in tincture form or a light infusion contains relatively little thujone. These properties also tend to deteriorate when heated as in tea infusions.

The herbs and how to use them


 

Wormwood

Latin name is artemisia absinthium the later name meaning: without sweetness. Wormwood  is one of bitterest herbs known to man. It belongs to the daisy family, common to Europe and Asia and and also common in North America. Wormwood is found in deserted areas, flourishes around old walls, broken foundations and unused pastures. It is used to clear bad breath. Excellent remedy to spell parasitic worms (hence the name). Wormwood is the strongest of the artemisias and should be used carefully. Wormwood also is famous for its contribution for the production of liquors. Wormwood add the bitter taste to vermouth, absinthe, chartreuse. The top leaves are vermifuge, (anti intestinal parasites) and anti malarial. The bottom leaves are diaphoretic increasing sweating and urination.

Wormwood can also be use externally. Wormwood is a cousin of arnica and may be use on bruises, sprains, painful joints, rheumatism, broken bones, bursitis and skin rashes. For external use make a strong decoction and apply to the affected area.

Mugworth

Latin name is artemisia vulgaris. Mugworth is not as bitter as its cousin wormwood. Woman uses specially for restorative and obstetric injury abuse, and miscarriage.  Mugworth has nerve healing properties. Useful in the treatment of depression, when associated with liver congestion, virus and sedentary lifestyle. It is an antioxidant and protect the liver from free radicals. Mugworth has an affinity for the uterus, stomach and nerves. It can be used to ease intense menstrual cramping, poor appetite, constipation, insomnia, depression, tension and nerve injury. Mugworth is used when the digestive system requires stimulation. Mugworth can be taken as a tea or a tincture. Unlike the other species of artemisia, mugworth can be taken over a long time. It is part of Chinese traditional medicine in moxibustion. Mugworth is to be avoided in pregnancy and lactation and in large doses.

Terragon

Latin name is artemisia dracunculus. Is different from the rest of the family, it is the only artemisia that is not bitter. It sweetens the breath and stimulate the appetite. It is better known for its culinary properties rather then medicinal. Terragon has a licorice taste and is more pronounced when fresh. Terragon is a great when added to fish, makes a great vinegar and is a good addition to green tea. Terragon is native to Asia, Russia and the Himalayas. Now cultivated in gardens around the world. The aerial parts are picked in the summer

Sweet Annie

Latin name is artemisia annua   This herb is widely used in Europe but also has a long tradition of being used for fevers and malaria in China. A tincture is made to treat malaria. It interrupts the life cycle of the malaria parasite and result in a rapid clearance of the parasite from the blood. The herb is also used to treat the alternating chills and fevers in malaria. Sweet Annie can be used fresh or dried. This herb can also be used in heat stroke.

Southernwood

Latin name is artemisia abrotanum. Is a greyest green shrub with a bitter aromatic and lemony odor. Like other artemisias it’s useful in menstrual issues and to spell worms in children. It is also a digestion stimulant having nerve and relaxing properties. Externally is used to ease pain and disperse swellings. It is also great for drawing properties like drawing splinters from the skin. It can used as a insect repellent if applied on the skin. Southernwood is cultivated by the perfume industry for its aromatic qualities. It should also be avoid in pregnancy.

Sagebrush

Latin name is artemisia tridendata. It is used by native Americans to purify sacred spaces prior to rituals. It is common to find sagebrush bundled and tied to be used as incense. Sagebrush is rich in volatile oils being released into the air after being burned. These essential oils are antiseptic and anti microbial in nature. Sagebrush can also be taken internally. It is also used for preventing infection in wounds, stopping internal bleeding, and treating headaches and colds.

How to use it


 

Tea – Take wormwood or mugworth tea 20 to 30 minutes before meals. Wormwood is stronger then mugworth and has a beautiful yellow green color. So if you want to experience quick results use wormwood but be careful because it is very strong. Mugworth is milder and recommended for extended use. When using wormwood steep for only 3 minutes. Steeping for longer will create extreme bitterness and may even cause nausea and irritation

Tincture and ointments – Use tincture before meals as well, but dissolve it in a half glass of water. Tincture can also be used to apply externally to aid sprains and bruises and skin conditions. There are ready to use preparations such as Dr Christopher’s Formula Complete Tissue and Bone Ointment.

Capsules –  Capsules contain all other properties of artemisia but they will not activate the bitter reflexes.

As with any herb use, experimentation and persistance is key to results


 

Grow your own Artemisia






 

This post was based on and inspired by the lecture of herbalist Carmen Lynde. Along with the information from the video below, studies and scientific reviews were used. Please see references.

 


 

 

 

 

References

  1. Artemisia herba alba: A Popular Plant with Potiential Medicinal Properties
  2. Bitters: Time for a New Paradigm
  3. Gallstones and Low Carb
  4. Chemical Constituents and Biological Activities of Artemisia herba-alba
  5. Extensive list of artemisia genus
  6. Hypoglycemic Activity of Artemisia herba-alba (Asso.) used in Egyptian Traditional Medicine as Hypoglycemic Remedy
  7. Essential Oil Composition of Artemisia herba-alba from Southern Tunisia
  8. Effects of two Turkish medicinal plants Artemisia herba-alba and Teucrium polium on blood glucose levels and other biochemical parameters in rabbits
  9. Antidiabetic effects of Artemisia sphaerocephala Krasch. gum, a novel food additive in China, on streptozotocin-induced type 2 diabetic rats
  10. Global Prevalence of Diabetes: Estimates for the Year 2000 and Projections for 2030
  11. In vivo hepatoprotective activity of the aqueous extract of Artemisia absinthium L. against chemically and immunologically induced liver injuries in mice
  12. ISOLATION AND CHARACTERIZATION OF ALLELOPATHIC VOLATILES FROM MUGWORT (Artemisia vulgaris)

Image credit: flickr [1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [7], [8]

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Meet the Author

Marcos Taquechel

Marcos works as an RN in sub acute care and with the elderly. He believes you can heal yourself. By providing good useful information, others can use and transform their life. He keep searching for natural healing that produce results. Please leave a comment. Thank you

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