Southernwood (Artemisia abrotanum)

The pungent smell of this herb is a key to its use as bitter. The tops and leaves are used by herbalists for digestive problems. Southernwood has been a garden plant since the middle ages, and women used to carry sprigs of the herb for the pungent odour, which they hoped might keep them awake during church services. Today, the Italians use it as a culinary herb. It is native to southern Europe but has been naturalized in Britain and North America. A perennial shrub with finely divided, feathery leaves, it has tiny yellowish flowers in late summer.

Its pungent aroma makes it difficult to perceive of southernwood as a culinary herb, but it has been used as such in the past. Reputed to have been used with fatty meats, the result must have been extremely bitter (no doubt the reason its use was discontinued).

Southernwood is not often used in medicine these days, but as it has some aromatic content, it is used to boost the appetite and strengthen a weak stomach. It has long been used as an anthelmintic to remove worms from children though this is not recommended as a home use.