What is Wormseed?

Sonal Panse

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.

Drinking wormseed tea may help relieve menstrual cramps.
Drinking wormseed tea may help relieve menstrual cramps.

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.

Wormseed can be processed into a white crystalline powder.
Wormseed can be processed into a white crystalline powder.

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.

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