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Synonyms: old man, lad's love, southern wormwood

botanical name: Artemisia abrotanum



It is not exactly clear where southernwood stems from. It has been used in Central Europe since the 9th century. Today is grows in the Middle East and across much of Europe and is usually cultivated in gardens. It is hardly ever grown commercially.



Southernwood is only rarely sold. The fresh sprouts are harvested twice a year, in June/July and again 2 months later. They can be harvested for one's own use from June until the beginning of autumn.


Appearance, taste, characteristics

Southernwood is a perennial subshrub that belongs to the family Compositae and is therefore related to wormwood and mugwort. The shrub grows to about 1 m, rarely up to 2 m. The blossoms are pale yellow, spherical and only 4 mm in size. Florescence takes place from July to October, but in temperate climates southernwood blooms only seldom.


The fine, feathery grey-green leaves are soft and are pilose on the underside. When the leaves are crushed they smell like lemon. The flavour is piquant, bitter-sweet, and similar to that of mugwort.



Southernwood contains up to 1.4% essential oil, which gives the herb its aroma. The chief components of the oil are, depending on the variety, cineol and/or thujone (absinthol, tanacetone). It also contains bitter substances and flavonoids.


Harmful substances

Thujone is considered to be harmful to health and has a negative effect on the nervous system in high doses. However, a small amount of southernwood can be used for seasoning without hesitation.


Quality criteria, optimal storage conditions

If it is in a plastic bag, fresh southernwood will keep for several days in the refrigerator. It can also be frozen.


To dry tips of shoots that have been picked they are hung in a dry, airy place where the herb is not exposed to any direct sunlight. The dried product should be kept in a dark place in an airtight container.


Presumed effect on health

Southernwood is said to stimulate the appetite and to aid digestion, particularly of rich meat dishes. It is used in folk medicine to alleviate menstrual cramps.


Warm southernwood tea with honey is supposed to be a home remedy to improve one's general well-being.


Form of consumption, use, processing, practical tips for preparation

It is mainly the fresh, young shoots of southernwood that are used. More rarely, the leaves are used dried and rubbed or cut.


Southernwood is used like its relative mugwort mainly to season fatty roasts and sauces, in particular meat dishes such as roast duck and goose, pork and lamb, or fish dishes such as eel soup, salmon and mackerel. It also goes well with curd cheese, salads and mayonnaise.

Southernwood is used industrially to make herbal liqueur, herb vinegar and medicines.


Seasoning tip

Due to its bitter taste, always use this herb very sparingly. It harmonizes well with lemon balm and mugwort and can be combined with lovage, hyssop and oregano for meat sauces.





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