Artemisia afra

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African wormwood
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Asterales
Family: Asteraceae
Genus: Artemisia
Species: Artemisia afra
Binomial name
Artemisia afra
Jacq. ex Willd.

Artemisia afra is a common species of the genus Artemisia in Africa, with a wide distribution from South Africa, to areas reaching to the North and East, as far north as Ethiopia. Artemisia afra is the only indigenous species in this genus.

Artemisia afra grows in clumps, with ridged, woody stems, reaching from 0.5 meters to 2 meters in height. The leaves are dark green, of soft texture, and similar in shape to fern leaves. The undersides of the leaves are a lighter green, and are covered with white bristles. Artemisia afra blossoms in late summer, producing abundant bracts of butter-colored flowers, each approximately 3 to 5 millimeters in diameter. Artemisia afra exudes a pungent, sweet smell when any part of the plant is bruised.


Artemisia afra is a well-known medicinal plant in Africa, and is still used effectively by people of many cultures. Uses range from treating cough, fever, colic, headache, to intestinal parasites and malaria. In addition, Artemisia afra is frequently used as a moth repellent, and in organic insecticidal sprays.

The roots, stems and leaves are used as enemas, poultices, infusions, lotions, inhaled (e.g. smoked or snuffed), or as an essential oil.

Essential oil

Essential oil extracts of Artemisia afra are prepared by steam distillation using twigs and blossoms. Extracts contain the following components (via gas chromatography) which are typical of extracts of the Artemisia genus:


  • Bremness, L. The complete book of herbs, Dorling Kindersley, London, 1988.
  • Jackson, W. Origins and meanings of names of South African plant genera, Univ. Cape Town, 1990.
  • The new Royal Horticultural Society dictionary of gardening, Huxley, A., et al, eds. Macmillan Press, London, 1992.