MAY 2011
SWEET ANNIE- Under-used plant in the Artemisia family

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I just love Sweet Annie- Artemisia annua.

Sweet Annie

It is a sweetly scented herb, as the name suggests. From the large Artemisia family, Sweet Annie is one of the few annuals in the group. Most Artemisias we're familiar with are perennials and include the common and ornamental forms of Wormwood, including, but not limited to varieties such as Powis Castle, Silver King and Silver Queen. Artemisia absinthum or the common wormwood, is the herb used to make Absinthe, a hallucinogenic alcoholic beverage popular in France among artists and others during the late 19th Century.

HOW TO GROW

Sweet Annie is very easy to grow, in fact, some might even call it invasive, and it is considered a noxious weed in some places. You can try and deadhead the blooms to keep it from reseeding, but in my experience, this is very difficult because the blooms are so numerous. I love it, though, and don't mind where it comes up on its own... but then my "garden" is anything but organized and formal!

This Artemisia will grow in sun to shade here in Texas. It will reach a height of about 4 or 5 feet in one season. It is not particular about soil type and needs very little water once it starts to gain some size. It looks good in containers, too. In fact, some people grow it in pots and shape it for a Christmas Tree.

The seeds are small, so if you purchase seed or harvest some and want to sow them yourself, just sprinkle the seed on the surface of the soil or potting medium and keep them moist. They should germinate within 2 weeks.


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CRAFT USES

Sweet Annie Herb Wreath

Sweet Annie is being used as filler in this lovely dried herb and pepper wreath.

photo courtesy of Possum Creek Herb Farm Blog, Sept. 25, 2007

Sweet Annie is used liberally in wreath making. While the stems are green and supple, a wreath base can be made from it. The stalks then dry and hold the wreath shape, retaining the sweet fragrance of the fresh herb. One advantage of working with fresh Sweet Annie is that you avoid the dust that can sometimes be a problem with the dried product. If you do have dried Sweet Annie, just mist it with water as you're working with it. That'll keep the dust down.

Additionally, some people are allergic to Sweet Annie, either showing dermatitis or nasal allergies. In that case, another of the Artemisia clan can be used for wreaths. Silver King, A. ludoviciana, has a similar growth pattern and creates nice long branches for use as a wreath base. I have heard of spraying fresh Sweet Annie with hairspray before harvesting or working with the fresh herb to prevent contact dermatitis, although I have no idea whether that really works or not.

Many crafters use Sweet Annie as fillers in wreaths, swags and dried flower arrangements. The uses are many and always create a fragrant end product.


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MEDICINAL USES

Sweet Annie has medicinal properties I didn't know about because I've never researched it before. I've always liked it simply for its sweet scent.

For more than 1,500 years, Sweet Annie tea was used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) to treat fevers, although the herb fell out of favor for a few centuries. In 1970, a TCM handbook from the 5th Century was discovered and stimulated interest in Sweet Annie. Although originally used to treat fevers, Sweet Annie was not used specifically for malaria in ancient China.

Sweet Annie is used as a cure for Malaria as well as promising treatment for Cancer. According to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, terpenoids and flavonoids derived from A. annua, have been studied as anti-cancer treatments. And, for Malaria, A. annua has been shown to be as effective as quinine in treating Malaria.

Some other medicinal uses of A. annua include taking the tincture or a tea for loss of appetite, indigestion and gastrointestinal problems. It is due to the bitter compounds in this Artemisia, absinthin and anabsinthin, that it aids appetite and digestion. Other bitter herbs for idgestive disorders include Dandelion, Chamomile, Milk Thistle, Horehound and Lettuce.

There are still other uses for Sweet Annie, inclunding its efficacy in expelling intestinal parasites, as is the case with all the varieties of Artememia.

Cautions abound regarding the medicinal use of any of the Artemisias. According to the 2011 Herbalpaedia: "Toxicity: Large amounts of wormwood can be toxic to people. The thujone it contains is addictive and can damage the central nervous system. The US FDA classifies it as dangerous. Products that are flavored with wormwood must contain thujone-free extracts. Absinthe can cause insomnia, nightmares, convulsions and vomiting. Don't use wormwood at all if pregnant."

Patients with gastrointestinal disorders or those taking antacids should not take artemisia because it increases the production of stomach acid.

Anti-seizure medications: Artemisia can induce seizures resulting in decreased efficacy of anti-seizure medications.


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IN CONCLUSION

If you would like to grow an easy, sweetly scented herb try some Sweet Annie this year. You'll be rewarded with lots of material for dried arrangements, wreaths and such. Who knows, maybe you'll try and make an aromatic Christmas Tree with it!


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Here is a map from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) showing the range of A. annua, Sweet Annie, in the United States. The plant does not show up in the native plant database, but in the database for current growth areas. According the the USDA, the plant was introduced in all the areas shaded in green.

USDA Map

References:

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
Ideal Health Services
Natural Standard
HERBALPEDIA, The Herb Growing & Marketing Network, PO Box 245, Silver Spring, PA 17575-0245; 717-393-3295; FAX: 717-393-9261; email: herbworld@aol.com URL: http://www.herbalpedia.com Editor: Maureen Rogers. Copyright 2006. All rights reserved. Material herein is derived from journals, textbooks, etc. THGMN cannot be held responsible for the validity of the information contained in any reference noted herein, for the misuse of information or any adverse effects by use of any stated material presented.

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QUOTE FOR THE MONTH

Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product. -Eleanor Roosevelt, diplomat and author (1884-1962)

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Until Next Time,
Good Growing to You,
Cindy Meredith, proprietor
The Herb Cottage
442 CR 233
Hallettsville, TX 77964
phone & fax: 979-562-2153
http://theherbcottage.com/