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What is Wormseed?

By Sonal Panse
Updated Mar 05, 2024
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Wormseed is an annual plant that is indigenous to the Caribbean, Central America and South America; it is also cultivated in North America, China and various other parts of the world. The plant has a total growth of about three feet (0.91 m) and has a straight stem, oblong, toothed and alternately arranged leaves, spikes of small, greenish flowers, and small black fruit. It is also known by other names such as American wormseed, feather geranium, goosefoot, Jerusalem oak, Jesuit tea and stinking weed.

The stem, leaves, flowers, fruits and seeds of the wormseed herb all have medicinal properties, but the fruits and seeds are the parts that are mainly used. The seeds are crushed to obtain a white crystalline powder of the alkaloid Chenopodine; this powder does not have any taste or odor. The fruits are crushed and distilled to produce Chenopodium oil. This oil is rather volatile in nature and must be used with care; if used in excess, it can be toxic and can cause poisoning. In moderation, this plant and its extracts can be used to treat a variety of ailments.

One of the best known uses of wormseed is as a vermifuge, or medicine that can rid the body of intestinal worms. The Aztec Indians used it for this purpose, and the plant's strong ability to expel worms is actually what gave it its memorable name. It is used in medicines formulated to rid children of roundworms, tapeworms and other parasites. The vermifugal properties of this plant are also used in veterinary deworming medicines.

In addition, the plant extracts are used to make effective poultices to treat snake bites and other poisonous bites. Drinking wormseed tea can relieve menstrual cramps, bring down fevers, and soothe nervous complaints. Chenopodium oil is also used to treat nervousness, anxiety, and depression. Wormseed has been found useful in treating asthma, catarrh, rheumatism and eczema. It works against dysentery and other gastrointestinal problems. It is also used as a cardiac stimulant and to treat malaria.

While there are certainly many benefits to this medicinal plant, it is advisable to consult a health practitioner before usage. The plant extracts, as mentioned before, have a toxic nature and some people may suffer from some temporary side effects like nausea, vomiting and dizziness. If taken above the prescribed dosage, there is a strong chance that the plant extracts may affect the central nervous system. This could lead to spasms, paralysis and temporary or long-term hearing damage. Pregnant women should refrain from taking these supplements.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is wormseed and where does it come from?

Wormseed, also known as Chenopodium ambrosioides, is a herb native to Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. It has been traditionally used for its medicinal properties, particularly as an anthelmintic to expel parasitic worms. The plant thrives in tropical climates and has naturalized in many parts of the world.

How is wormseed used in traditional medicine?

In traditional medicine, wormseed has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including intestinal parasites, digestive disorders, and even as a remedy for colds and flu. Its essential oil, known as ascaridole, is considered the active ingredient responsible for its anthelmintic properties. However, due to its toxicity, it must be used with caution and under professional guidance.

Can wormseed be used in modern medicine?

While wormseed has historical use in traditional medicine, its application in modern medicine is limited due to safety concerns. Ascaridole, the active compound, is toxic and can cause serious side effects if not used correctly. Research into safer derivatives or controlled use is ongoing, but it is not widely adopted in contemporary pharmacology.

What are the potential side effects of using wormseed?

Wormseed, particularly its oil, can be highly toxic and may cause side effects such as dizziness, headaches, nausea, and in severe cases, seizures or even death. Due to its high toxicity, it is crucial to use wormseed only under expert supervision and in precise dosages. Self-medication with wormseed is strongly discouraged.

Is wormseed effective against all types of intestinal parasites?

Wormseed has been traditionally used against a range of intestinal parasites, but its effectiveness varies. It is primarily known to target roundworms and hookworms. However, its use should be substantiated by a healthcare provider, as different parasites may require specific treatments, and wormseed's toxicity makes it a less favorable option compared to safer, modern anthelmintics.

How can wormseed be safely incorporated into health practices?

Due to its potential toxicity, wormseed should only be incorporated into health practices under the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional. In some regions, it may be used in controlled, small doses, or in combination with other herbs to mitigate its side effects. Always consult a healthcare provider before using wormseed for medicinal purposes.

AllThingsNature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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