Artemisia akbaitalensis O.Fedtsch.
Artemisia griffithiana Boiss.
Artemisia sieversiana pygmaea Krylov
Artemisia macrocephala is an annual plant that grows 6 - 30cm tall, exceptionally to 50cm. It produces one or more erect stems that are usually not branched, but can be branched from the base, this stem sometimes becomes more or less woody at the base[
The plant is harvested from the wild for use as a medicine. The plant is an ingredient of various traditional prescriptions in Mongolia[
The essential oil in this plant contains thujone. Thujone is a GABA receptor antagonist which allows neurons to fire more easily. In larger doses this can cause muscle spasms and convulsions, and can also be toxic to brain, kidney, and liver cells.
There has been a lot of negative press regarding thujone, particularly in the mid 19th century when thujone was reported to be more dangerous than alcohol - since shown to be exaggerated; and reports in the 1970’s that it might have a similar effect on the brain to THC (found in cannabis) – since found to be incorrect.
Thujone is probably best known for its use in the alcoholic drink ‘Absinthe’. It is also found in the essential oils of many other plants that are used in herbal medicines and foods, including Arborvitae (Thuja species), some Junipers (Juniperus species), Wormwoods (especially Artemisia absinthium) and Sage (Salvia officinalis). There are some legal restrictions in various countries on the quantity of thujone that can be added to foods and drinks and these vary between countries.
Side effects from consuming thujone can include sleeplessness and anxiety but, unless the pure essential oil is used, the quantity of thujone found in plants is well within safety levels. Pregnant women, however, may be advised to restrict their use of thujone-containing plants.
Although we have seen no specific reports for this species, many members of this genus contain potentially allergenic sesquiterpene lactones that can cause skin reactions[
Central and eastern Asia - Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, northern India, Siberia, Mongolia, northern and western China
Mostly on rocks in dry beds of large and small rivers[
]. Steppes, hills, waste areas, dry places, saline or gravelly soils; at elevations from 1,500 - 5,500 metres[
Species in this genus are generally easily grown, succeeding in a well-drained circumneutral or slightly alkaline loamy soil, preferring a sunny position[
]. They tend to be longer lived, more hardy and more aromatic when they are grown in a poor dry soil[
Established plants are drought tolerant.
Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer[
The flowering stem has a bitter, hot and coarse taste. It is used in the treatment of inflammations of the throat; lung diseases; and fever from tumors.
It is an ingredient of various traditional prescriptions in Mongolia[
The aerial part contains 0.15 - 2% essential oil - the main components are azulene, a-pinene, β-pinene, camphene, imonene, n-cymol, 1,8-cineole, camphor, borneol, hamazulene, thujone, n-cresol, sabinene, myrcene, a-terpinene, g-terpinene, isoborneol and other terpenoids[
The flowers contain 0.42 - 0.61% essential oil, of which 7.43 - 10.5% is hamazulene[
The essential oil, especially hamazulene shows anti-inflammatory and anaesthetic activities[
The plant contains 0.4 - 0.5% of essential oil consisting of around 9% alpha-pinene; 12.1% cineole; 16.3% camphors; 6.5% azulene; and 28.3%, apparently, of tertiary alcohol (possibly borneol)[
Seed - surface sow spring in a greenhouse. Do not allow the compost to dry out. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in early summer.
The seed can also be sown in situ during late spring.