Artemisia afra

 

Artemisia afra

Synonyms

No documentation

Vernacular Name

Wild wormwood, African wormwood, common wormwood.

Description

There are hundreds of species of Artemisia. Artemisia afra is a species that is very similar to the species known as European Wormwood. This herb has an ancient history of use and has been used to treat epidemic influenza.

This perennial herb rarely exceeds a height of 2m, and is often found growing in rather disorganized clumps. A. afra has a ribbed, woody stem which becomes thinner near the top of the plant. From the main stem grow numerous thinner stems from which the deep green leaves are borne. The soft, green leaves resemble fern leaves, and when bruised or broken release an odor characteristic of the Artemisia genus. The leaves can grow to 6cm in length, glabrous above and covered in soft white hairs on the underside. Between the months of March and July, Artemisia afra produces pale-yellow tubular florets, ranging from 3- 5mm in diameter. Seeds are produces later in the year, typically from August to November.

Origin / Habitat

A. afra is a small shrub native to the grasslands of Africa, ranging from South Africa to Ethiopia.  Commonly growing in grasslands and open woodlands on the African continent, the shrub ranges in elevation from roughly 1450-2500m.

Chemical Constituents

Alpha-thujone, Beta-thujone, cineole, camphor, germacrene, cadinene, alpha-terpineol, camphene, pinene, myrcene. [2]

Plant Part Used

Leaves, stems, roots, essential oils. [1]

Medicinal Uses

General

Cough and coughs with fever

Headaches

Fever

Malaria

Colic

Parasiticide

 

Most Frequently Reported Uses

Cough and coughs with fever

Headaches

Fever

Dosage

Dosage Range 

1-3g dried herb daily in divided doses.

The dosage of A. afra should not exceed 3g of dry herb daily.[2] A laboratory study found that the dry leaves contain more of the potentially toxic neurotoxic alpha-thujone compound, so if an infusion is used internally, it is best to used dried A. afra.[3]

 

Most Common Dosage

There is no common dosage that is generally used due to the variation of clinical applications and preparations used.

 

Standardization Dosage 

There is no standardization for A. afra.

Pharmacology

Pre-clinical

The laboratory studies have found constituents in A. afra to have antispasmodic activity, supporting its traditional use in stomach or intestinal cramping.[4] Laboratory studies also support the traditional uses of A. afra as an antibacterial and antifungal agent.[5],[6] The essential oils found in A. afra have been reported to have antioxidant activity in laboratory studies.[7],[8] One study did find the essential oil of A. afra was ineffective as an insect deterrent (mosquitoes).[9]

A. afra (dried arial parts) was found to have weak antimalarial activity against Plasmodium falciparum of petrol ether and dichloromethane extracts but no activity of methanolic extracts (hypoxanthine uptake assay).[10] A laboratory study found no antitumour activity of fresh leaf extracts (50% ethanol) against Leuk-L-1210 and Sarcoma-WM256 (IM) lines.[11]

Toxicological studies have found that A. afra is safe in recommended dosages, and in higher dosages may actually have a hepatoprotectant effect.[12]

Clinical

There are no clinical studies reporting efficacy of A. afra in treatment of any condition.

Interaction and Depletions

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation

Interaction with Drugs

While there are no specific study reports of interactions with prescription or over-the-counter drugs, based on pharmacology and chemical constituents, A. afra should not be used in combination with any medications.

Precautions and Contraindications

Side effects

Thujone toxicity is well studied. The effects of excessive or prolonged ingestion include restlessness, vomiting, vertigo, tremor, convulsions and fatty degeneration of the liver. Collectively, these symptoms were formerly known as “absinthism” and were prevalent in the Paris café society absinthe drinkers of the late 19th century.

Limit use to 7-14 days.

Pregnancy

Do not use A. afra in pregnancy and lactation. Thujone compounds are reported to be abortifacient and emmenagogic.

Age limitation

Not to be used by children.

Adverse reaction

No documentation

Read More

  1) South African Herbs

References

  1. Iwu, Maurice. Handbook of African Medicinal Plants. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 1993.
  2. Van Wyk BE, Wink M. Medicinal Plants of the World. Portland, OR: Timber Press; 2004.
  3. Oyedeji AO, Afolayan AJ, Hutchings A.  Compositional variation of the essential oils of Artemisia afra Jacq. from three provinces in South Africa--a case study of its safety. Nat Prod Commun. Jun 2009;4(6):849-852.
  4. Mulatu A, Mekonnen Y. Spasmolytic effects of artemisia afra and artemisia rehan in tissue preparations. Ethiop Med J. Oct 2007;45(4):371-376.
  5. Rabe T, van Staden J. Antibacterial activity of South African plants used for medicinal purposes.J Ethnopharmacol. Mar 1997;56(1):81-87.
  6. Gundidza M. Antifungal activity of essential oil from Artemisia afra Jacq. Cent Afr J Med. Jul 1993;39(7):140-142.
  7. Burits M, Asres K, Bucar F. The antioxidant activity of the essential oils of Artemisia afra, Artemisia abyssinica and Juniperus procera. Phytother Res. Mar 2001;15(2):103-108.
  8. Graven E. et a. Antimicrobial and antioxidative properties of the volatile (essential) oil of Artemisia afra Jacq.. Flavour and Fragrance Journal. 1992;7: 121-123.
  9. Lukwa N, Molgaard P, Furu P, Bogh C, Gundidza M.  Ineffectiveness of essential oils from Artemisia afra (Asteraceae), Lantana angiolensis (Verbenaceae) and Syzygium hiullense (Myrtaceae) in inhibiting mosquito biting. Cent Afr J Med. Aug 2000;46(8):232-233.
  10. Weenen, H, et al. Anti-malarial activity of Tanzanian medicinal plants. Planta Medica. 1990; 56(4): 368-370.
  11. Charlson A.J Antoneoplastic constituents of some Southern African plants. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 1980; 2(4): 323-335.
  12. Mukinda JT, Syce JA. Acute and chronic toxicity of the aqueous extract of Artemisia afra in rodents. J Ethnopharmacol. 30 May;112(1):138-144.