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Artemisia afra


Artemisia afra


No documentation.

Vernacular Name

Als, Wild Als, Wild Wormwood, African Wormwood, Fivi, Lusanje, Luyanga, Umhlonyane, Lengana, Iliongana [1].


Artemisia afra is a perennial herb rarely exceeds a height of 2m, and is often found growing in rather disorganised 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 up to 6cm in length, glabrous above in shape and covered in soft white hairs on the underside. Between the months of March and July, A. afra produces pale-yellow tubular florets, ranging from 3mm to 5mm in diametre. Seeds are produces later in the year, typically from the month of 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 1450m to 2500m.

Chemical Constituents

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

Plant Part Used

Leaves, stem, root, essential oil [1].

Traditional Use

A. afra has been used medicinally for centuries and is one of the earliest and best known medicinal herbs used in South Africa. Along with Ruta graveolens, it remains one of the most commonly used medicinal herbs on a regional basis [3]. Ranging geographically in use from South Africa to Egypt, the uses of this herb are as varied as the people who used them [4].

A. afra has been used both individually and as an ingredient in compounds. Individually, decoctions of the leaves have been used to treat bronchial maladies as well as promote general respiratory health [1].Compound decoctions of the whole plant have been used to treat coughs, colds and fever [4]. In cases of headache, the leaves of A. afra have been either dried or powdered and then smoked or snuffed, respectively [4].

A. afra also has an established role in African traditional medicines promoting gastrointestinal health, and relieving certain maladies associated with the gastrointestinal tract. The leaves, stem and root have all been used in cases of constipation, diarrhea and dysentery [5]. A. afra has also been used to treat dyspepsia, and stomach ache [1] while promoting a healthy appetite and healthy digestion [5]. In some cases, A. afra has also been used as an anti-parasitic [2].

Other common applications of A. afra include use as an enema, poultice, body wash, or as an ingredient in lotions and teas [4].




Laboratory studies have found constituents in A. afra to have antispasmodic activity, supporting its traditional use in stomach or intestinal cramping [6].Laboratory studies also support the traditional uses of A. afra as an antibacterial and antifungal agent [7] [8].

Essential oils found in A. afra have been reported to have antioxidant activity in laboratory studies [9] [10]. One study did find the essential oil of A. afra was ineffective as an insect deterrent (mosquitos) [11].

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) [12]. A laboratory study found no antitumour activity of fresh leaf extracts (50% ethanol) against Leuk-L-1210 and Sarcoma-WM256 (IM) lines [13].

Toxicological studies have found that A. afra is safe in recommended dosages, and in higher dosages may actually have a hepatoprotectant effect [14].


No documentation.

Interaction and Depletions

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation.

Interaction with Drugs

No documentation.

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.


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.

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  1) Western Herb


  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. Thring TS, Weitz FM.Medicinal plant use in the Bredasdorp/Elim region of the Southern Overberg in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. J Ethnopharmacol. 16 Jan 2006;103(2):261-275.
  4. Njoh AJ. Tradition, Culture and Development in Africa: Historical Lessons for Modern Development Planning. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing; 2006.
  5. Roberts M. Margaret Roberts' A-Z of Herbs. Cape Town, South Africa; Struik Publishers; 2003.
  6. Mulatu A, Mekonnen Y. Spasmolytic effects of artemisia afra and artemisia rehan in tissue preparations. Ethiop Med J. Oct. 2007;45(4):371-376.
  7. Rabe T, van Staden J. Antibacterial activity of South African plants used for medicinal purposes. J Ethnopharmacol. Mar. 1997;56(1):81-87.
  8. Gundidza M. Antifungal activity of essential oil from Artemisia afra Jacq. Cent Afr J Med. Jul.  1993;39(7):140-142.
  9. 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.
  10. Graven E. et al. Antimicrobial and antioxidative properties of the volatile (essential) oil of Artemisia afra Jacq. Flavour and Fragrance Journal. 1992;7:121-123.
  11. 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.
  12. Weenen H, et al. Antimalarial activity of Tanzanian medicinal plants. Planta Medica. 1990;56(4):368-370.
  13. Charlson A.J. Antoneoplastic constituents of some Southern African plants. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 1980;2(4):323-335.
  14. Mukinda JT, Syce JA. Acute and chronic toxicity of the aqueous extract of Artemisia afra in rodents. J Ethnopharmacol. 30 May 2007;112(1):138-144.

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