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Southernwood (Artemisia abrotanum) is a flowering plant. Found in Europe and Great Britain, the genus Artemisia was named for the Goddess Artemis. Southernwood is known by many other names including Old Man, Boy’s Love, Oldman Wormwood, Lover’s Plant, Appleringie, Garderobe, Our Lord’s Wood, Maid’s Ruin, Garden Sagebrush, European Sage, Lad’s Love, Southern Wormwood, and Lemon Plant.

The plant is a member of the genus Artemisia, along with mugwort and Wormwood (an ingredient in the popular and infamous liquor absinthe, once widely banned, but available again in Europe and as of mid-2007 in the United States as well). Southernwood has a strong camphor-like odour and was historically used as an air freshener or strewing herb.

It forms a small bushy shrub, which is widely cultivated by gardeners. The grey-green leaves are small, narrow and feathery. The small flowers are yellow. It can easily be propagated by cuttings, or by division of the roots.

Southernwood encourages menstruation (Culpeper 1653), is antiseptic and kills intestinal worms. It was used to treat liver, spleen and stomach problems. It is seldom used medicinally today, except in Germany, where poultices are placed on wounds, splinters and skin conditions and it is employed occasionally to treat frostbite. Its constituents have been shown to stimulate the gallbladder and bile, which improves digestion and liver functions. The leaves are mixed with other herbs in aromatic baths and is said to counter sleepiness. An infusion of the leaves is said to work as a natural insect repellent when applied to the skin or if used as a hair rinse is said to combat dandruff.

The Romans believed it protected men from impotence. It is also said that young men in areas like Spain and Italy rubbed fresh southernwood leaves (which were lemon-scented) on their faces to promote the growth of a beard.

In rural areas, where southernwood was known as Lad’s Love and Maid’s Ruin, the herb acquired a reputation for increasing young men’s virility. It was popularly employed in love potions and adolescent boys rubbed an ointment on their cheeks to speed up the growth of facial hair. It is associated with sexual appeal and has been used by males to increase their virility. Southernwood was put under mattresses in Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome for its aphrodisiacal properties to rouse lust in its occupants. Its common nickname, Lad’s Love, refers to the habit of including a spray of the plant in country bouquets presented by lovers to their lasses in order to seduce them.

Some images of Southernwood