Artemisia afra Jacq. ex Willd.

Last updated: 6 February 2017

Scientific Name

Artemisia afra Jacq. ex Willd.


Absinthium ponticum (L.) Garsault, Absinthium tenuifolium Gaterau, Artemisia altaica Desf., Artemisia balsamita Willd., Artemisia grandiflora Fisch. ex Herder, Artemisia pallida Salisb., Artemisia pontica Burm.f.     , Artemisia pseudopontica Schur, Artemisia tenuifolia Moench [1]

Vernacular Name

English Als, wild Als, wild wormwood, african wormwood [2]
Africa Kisambaa: five; Kinyakyusa: lusanje; Kisafwa: luyanga; Tsawana: lengana, iliongana; Xhosa, Zulu, Swatu: umhlonyane [2]

Geographical Distributions

Artemisia afra is a clump-forming perennial herb of the highland areas of eastern and southern Africa at an altitude between 1500 and 2500 (3000) m. The plant grows in the southern and eastern regions of the continent. It has been located in Ethiopia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Angola and the Republic of South Africa. [2]

Botanical Description

A. afra belongs to the Compositae family. A. afra is a medium sized perennial herb, rarely exceeding 2m high. It has a ribbed stem, and the aerial parts have the strong characteristic odor of wormwood; it is much branched and woody shortly rhizomatous. The leaves are 6cm long, gray-green, alternately arranged, and oval in shape. The flower is pale yellow tubular, with few outer female and inner bisexual inflorescence occurring in an elongated racemose panicle. The capitula is small, the receptacle is flat and naked (achenes cylindrical, pappus absent). [2]


No documentation

Chemical Constituent

A. afra has been reported to containα-thujone, β-thujone, cineole, camphor, germacrene, cadinene, α-terpineol, camphene, pinene, myrcene [3]

Plant Part Used

Leaves, stem, root, essential oil [2]

Traditional Use

A. afra has been used both individually and as an ingredient in compounds. Individually, decoctions of the leaves have been used to treat bronchial maladies as well as promote general respiratory health [4]. Compound decoctions of the whole plant have been used to treat coughs, colds and fever [5]. In cases of headache, the leaves of A. afra have been either dried or powdered and then smoked or snuffed, respectively [5].

A. afra also has an established role in African traditional medicines promoting gastrointestinal health, and relieving certain maladies associated with the gastrointestinal tract. The leaves, stem and root have all been used in cases of constipation, diarrhea and dysentery [6]. A. afra has also been used to treat dyspepsia, and stomach ache [2] while promoting a healthy appetite and healthy digestion [6]. In some cases, A. afra has also been used as an anti-parasitic [3]. Other common applications of A. afra include use as an enema, poultice, body wash, or as an ingredient in lotions and teas [5].

Preclinical Data


Antispasmodic activity

Laboratory studies have found constituents in A. afra to have antispasmodic activity, supporting its traditional use in stomach or intestinal cramping [7].

Antimicrobial activity

Laboratory studies also support the traditional uses of A. afra as an antibacterial and antifungal agent [8][9].

Antioxidant activity

Essential oils found in A. afra have been reported to have antioxidant activity in laboratory studies [10][11].

Antimalarial activity

A. afra (dried arial parts,) was found to have weak antimalarial activity against Plasmodium falciparum of petrol ether and dichloromethane extracts but no activity of methanolic extracts (hypoxanthine uptake assay). [12]

Despite previous claims, one study did find the essential oil of A. afra was ineffective as an insect deterrent (mosquitos) [13], and had no evidence of antitumor activity. [14]


Toxicological studies have found that A. afra is safe in recommended dosages, and in higher dosages may actually have a hepatoprotectant effect [15].

Clinical Data

No documentation

Interaction & Depletion

No documentation


Dosage Range

1-3g dried herb daily in divided doses. The dosage of A. afra should not exceed 3g of dry herb daily. [3] 

A laboratory study found that the dry leaves contain more of the potentially toxic neurotoxic alpha-thujone compound, so if an infusion is used internally, it is best to used dried A. afra. [16]

Most Common Dosage

No documentation


No documentation

Poisonous Management

No documentation

Line drawing


Figure 1: The line drawing of Artemisia afra [17]


  1. The Plant List. Ver1.1. Artemisia afra Jacq. ex Willd. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013 [updated 2012 Feb 11; cited 2016 June 8]. Available from:
  2. Iwu MM. Handbook of African medicinal plants. Second edition. USA, Florida: CRC Press, 2014; p.145-146.
  3. Van Wyk BE, Wink M. Medicinal plants of the world. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press; 2004.
  4. Thring TS, Weitz FM. Medicinal plant use in the Bredasdorp/Elim region of the Southern Overberg in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. J Ethnopharmacol. 2006;103(2):261-275.
  5. Njoh AJ. Tradition, culture and development in Africa: Historical lessons for modern development planning. Burlington, Vermont: Ashgate Publishing; 2006.
  6. Roberts M. Margaret Roberts' A-Z of herbs. Cape Town, South Africa: Struik Publishers; 2003.
  7. Mulatu A, Mekonnen Y. Spasmolytic effects of Artemisia afra and Artemisia rehan in tissue preparations. Ethiop Med J. 2007;45(4):371-376.
  8. Rabe T, van Staden J. Antibacterial activity of South African plants used for medicinal purposes. J Ethnopharmacol. 1997;56(1):81-87.
  9. Gundidza M. Antifungal activity of essential oil from Artemisia afra Jacq. Cent Afr J Med. 1993;39(7):140-142.
  10. Burits M, Asres K, Bucar F. The antioxidant activity of the essential oils of Artemisia afraArtemisia abyssinica and Juniperus procera. Phytother Res. 2001;15(2):103-108.
  11. Graven E, et al. Antimicrobial and antioxidative properties of the volatile (essential) oil of Artemisia afra Jacq. J Flavour and Fragrance. 1992;7:121-123.
  12. Weenen H, Nkunya MH, Bray DH, Mwasumbi LB, Kinabo LS, Kilimali VA. Antimalarial activity of Tanzanian medicinal plants. Planta Med. 1990;56(4):368-370.
  13. Lukwa N, Molgaard P, Furu P, et al. Ineffectiveness of essential oils from Artemisia afra (Asteraceae), Lantana angiolensis (Verbenaceae) and Syzygium hiullense (Myrtaceae) in inhibiting mosquito biting.Cent Afr J Med. 2000;46(8):232-233.
  14. Charlson AJ. Antineoplastic constituents of some Southern African plants. J Ethnopharmacol. 1980;2(4):323-335.
  15. Mukinda JT, Syce JA. Acute and chronic toxicity of the aqueous extract of Artemisia afra in rodents.J Ethnopharmacol. 2007;112(1):138-144.
  16. Oyedeji AO, Afolayan AJ. Compositional variation of the essential oils of Artemisia afra Jacq. from three provinces in South Africa--a case study of its safety. Nat Prod Commun. 2009;4(6):849-852.
  17. Beentje H, Adamson J, Bhanderi D. Kenya trees, shrubs and lianas. Nairobi, Kenya: National Museums of Kenya, 1994;p. 553.