Artemisia absinthium ~ la fée verte” (the green fairy)

There is so much to learn when it comes to the use of flowers and plants throughout history.  Not only the language and symbolism of plants and flowers, but also the medicinal and culinary uses of virtually every plant you can think of.  Artemisia absinthium is one of those notorious plants that have been associated with everything from witchcraft to divine healing and everything between.  In the language of flowers, Artemisia absinthium, also known as Wormwood or Absinthe, have several meanings;

absence, not to be discouraged, affection, bitterness, comfort, protection for travelers

Now, let’s break down these meanings –I love doing this, it’s amusing!

absence; yes, after consuming ‘the green fairy’ drink of Absinthe, you will become absent (from your mind?) and/or according to La Fontaine (the French poet and man of letters), absinthe is the worst of all evils. Therefore, artemisia was chosen to be an emblem of absence.

not to be discouraged; I’m not sure about this one, but perhaps eludes to the fact you’re super happy when you’re sipping absinthe

affection; you could become very affectionate toward others, again, after it’s consumption

bitterness; it’s a very bitter drink, as no sugar is added, which makes it not a liqueur, but a spirit.  Wormwood is the bitterest herb known and it’s symbolic association is with ~bitterness of spirit

comfort; it’s a body-warmer.  The alcohol content in Absinthe is 45-74% (!!)

protection for travelers; wormwood has long been considered protection from disease for travelers.  A recent article from World Health Organization recommends artemisia in low-doses as protection from malaria.  Artemisia is now cultivated in east Africa as a low cost and effective alternate to other costly pharmaceuticals for prevention of malaria

An 18th century French physician living in Switzerland created the plant-based all-purpose remedy. But absinthe as a casual drink soon caught on with distilleries in Switzerland and France. The three ingredients in absinthe are wormwood, licorice-flavored green anise and sweet fennel. Wormwood has a compound in it called thujone, which in high quantities can make one convulse and have a heart attack, but there’s only small trace amounts of it in absinthe, therefore it’s considered relatively safe. But, this is the reason absinthe, at one point, was banned all over Europe and U.S. Still today, absinthe is still a drink that strikes fear into the heart of many a spirit lover. During the days of La Belle Epoque, absinthe acquired a reputation as the mind altering choice of drink for Van Gogh, Zola, Rimbaud, Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec and a host of other bohemian artists and writers in Paris.

The ‘Lady Wings Absinthe Set, available from

Absinthe isn’t for the faint of heart, but in moderation it can be enjoyed just like any other spirit. Traditionally, it’s served à la Parisienne — an elaborate ritual centered around an absinthe fountain, which is an ornate jar with spigots, resting on stand.  From this, ice-cold water is dripped through a sugar lump perched on a slotted spoon lying on the rim of a glass of absinthe. The moment the water is added the spirit turns cloudy.

Absinthe is enjoying a renaissance with many small, family-run distilleries blending their botanicals in the traditional absinthe heartlands of Switzerland and France.


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