Artemisia ludoviciana ssp. mexicana

A member of the Aster Family, Artemisia ludoviciana Nutt. ssp. mexicana (Willd. Ex Spreng.) D.D. Keck (known commonly as Mexican Wormwood and Western Mugwort) is found throughout the Southwestern United States in addition to both the dry and warm zones of Mexico. 

In the monumental Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and Its Applications, Christian Rätsch describes the North American prairie sagebrush Artemisia mexicana, as the “most important ritual incense of the Plains Indians,” for whom the rising fragrant smoke “links together Maká, the Mother Earth, with Wakan Tanka, the Great Spirit, who is active in all creatures.” The plant was also used for this ceremonial purpose by the Aztecs in the pre-Columbian era and is mentioned in the Florentine Codex as being associated with the Aztec goddess of salt and salt makers Uixtociuatl, whose staff in ritual dances is adorned with wormwood leaves. Participants are connected by a flower rope and wear wormwood flowers in their hair. This plant is also held sacred to Tláloc, the god of rain. 

In Pharmacotheon, Jonathan Ott summarizes research demonstrating how different species of Artemisia were used as traditional analgesics and stimulants by the Zuni, the Cheyenne and the Potowatomi. Ott also says that “the ancient Aztecs used Artemisia mexicana as an inebriant, under the name itzauhyatl” and cites sources linking this plant to the sacraments peyótl and ololiuhqui. Estafiate, the Spanish name for A. ludoviciana subsp. mexicana, is an ethnomedicine in current use by urban Mexicans as well as the Tarahumara.

For their part, the authors of Plants of the Gods document the presence of a bundle of sagebrush (Artemisia) for smudging purposes among the roadman’s essential ritual implements for conducting peyote ceremonies in the Native American Church.

Scientific studies directed by Gerardo D. Anaya-Eugenio indicate that “Artemisia ludoviciana preparations showed hypoglycemic and antihyperglycemic effects, which could explain its effectiveness for treating diabetes in contemporary Mexico.” Subsequent research led by Anaya-Eugenio with regard to this plant’s widespread use as a popular remedy in Mexico confirm that “essential oils from a wide range of Artemisia species have been largely employed for their antiinfective, analgesic, antipaludic, anticancer and anti-inflammatory alleged properties.” Based on the experiments conducted, the article concludes: “The neurogenic and peripheral antinociceptive effects of the essential oil of the plant were demonstrated; since these effects were partially blocked by naloxone, an opioid mechanism action was proposed.”


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