Known also as major Absinthe or green ginger, absinthe belongs to the Asteraceae family; its origins are from Asia and Europe but exported in the USA, it has naturalized in different areas. It grows on uncultivated and rocky soils, from coastline to mountain areas. According to a legend, absinthe first appeared on the tracks left by the snake's tail when it crawled outside the Eden. Other myths count that the first name was Parthenis absinthium but that Artemis, goddess of chastity, had enjoyed so much its beneficial effects that she desired the plant to recall her name, thus it became Artemisia absinthium. The Latin term absinthium comes from a Greek word meaning “to resist, to abstain” which is very evocative.
Being one of the most well-known bitter plants, for centuries absinthe has been used as the main ingredient for aperitifs and aromatic digestive wines. Both the absinthe liqueur and the vermouth take their names form this plant, given that the second is a 18th century French variation from the German word “wermut”, coming from the English term “wormwood”, the common name of the plant. Absinthe was hung outside the doors to keep away malign spirits and to dissuade bad elves from visiting the house at night. Absinthe was introduced as a component of ink also to prevent rats from eating old paper documents; its essence was spread on the floor to avoid fleas and it was believed that absinthe was the plant to which Shakespeare referred to when his Oberon wanted to squeeze on Titania's eyes the juice of the “plant which girls call love flower” (“the juice of Dian's bud”: Artemis was, in fact, the goddess Diana for Romans).
PLANT - Major absinthe (scientific name Artemisia absinthium L., 1753) is a small herbaceous plant belonging to the Asteraceae family. It is a medicinal plant, especially known for the preparation of absinthe distillate, aromatic and very bitter which is drunk watered down or with sugar. It is the main aromatic base in vermouth preparation. Absinthe is a perennial plant with fibrous roots and upright stems; it has a green-silver colour and its stems, which show evident channels, can be also 1 m tall. The big leaves are deeply carved and have a grey-greenish colour on the upper side and white on the underside. Small yellow flowers are gathered in heads. Blossoming is from July to September and its fruit is an achene.
PROPERTIES – Absinthe contains essential oil, absintina, resins, tannin, nitrate acids. It has tonic, stimulating, vermifugal, anthelmintic, antipyretic, emmenagogue properties. Absinthe infusion is used to stimulate appetite, help digestion and in case of fever. Absinthe is also a good remedy against painful menstruations. Absinthe and garlic poultices or enemas can treat intestinal worms while, for external use, compresses are good for injuries.
CULINARY USE – As an aromatic herb it is used to spice different dishes and to aromatize liqueurs with its characteristic bitter taste. Absinthe is also used for antiseptic vinegar production and as a natural product, together with lavender and dried mint, against cloth moths.