Characteristics of Sweet Wormwood Plant (Artemisia annua) in the Wild

Artemisia annua
Sweet Wormwood or Sweet Annie is a species of short-lived perennial, native to temperate Asia. But this plant is also naturalized in many countries including North America.

In the last 20 years, researchers have focused on artemisinin activity against malaria. Therefore, less research has been done on the relationship between flavonoids and cancer. Nonetheless, recent research has shown that the flavonoids present in Sweet Wormwood leaves are linked to the suppression of the CYP450 enzyme which is responsible for altering the absorption and metabolism of artemisinin in the body. Further research is needed on the synergistic effects of artemisinin and flavonoids and their biological interactions between malaria and cancer.

In April 2020, President Andry Rajoelina of Madagascar, spoke at the launch of a herbal drink made from a variety of herbs although most of it from Sweet Wormwood (Artemisia annua), recommended the product as a treatment for COVID-19 patients. However, despite anecdotal reports of the use of the Sweet Wormwood plant against COVID-19 in China, there is no clear evidence on the effectiveness of this herbal drink against infection, and no clinical studies have been conducted.

NOTE: WHO warns that the drink’s efficacy of Sweet Wormwood plant extract as a treatment for COVID-19 is not proven, while the African Union is looking for technical data from Madagascar and has confirmed that there will be a scientific review based on “global technical and ethical norms”.

Although it is not proven to be able to treat the corona virus, Sweet Wormwood plant extract has been used for a long time as a medicine to treat malaria.

In traditional Chinese medicine, this plant is called Qinghao (青蒿) and was historically used to treat fevers.


Characteristics of Sweet Wormwood Leaf

Artemisia annua Leaf
Source : Ziarnek, Kenraiz

The leaves are 3-5 cm long and divided into two or three small leaflets. The aroma of the leaves is aromatic which is its hallmark. The artemisinin content in dried leaves ranges from 0% to 1.5%. Meanwhile, the new hybrid Artemisia annua developed in Switzerland can reach up to 2% leaf artemisinin content.


Characteristics of Sweet Wormwood Flower

Artemisia annua Flower
Source : Ziarnek, Kenraiz

The flowers are small, yellowish green, 2-2.5 mm in diameter, and are arranged in loose panicles.

The seeds are brown with a diameter of only 0.6-0.8 mm.


Characteristics of Sweet Wormwood Plants

Artemisia annua Plant
Source :

This plant is hairless like most other lower plants, and in the wild it can grow up to 60-90 cm tall, although in cultivation it can be as high as 200 cm.

Sweet Wormwood prefers sunny, warm conditions with optimal growing temperatures located at 20 to 25 °C.

The growing period for Sweet Wormwood plants from nursery to harvest is 190-240 days, depending on the climate and altitude of the area. Plants must be harvested at the beginning of flowering, because at that time the artemisinin content is highest.


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