The euphoric cannabis alternative
Mexican Wormwood is an aromatic plant sacred to the Aztec goddess of salt—Uixtociuatl. Traditionally, it was used in rituals and as a medicinal plant, and continues to hold an important place in Mexican folk medicine. The smoke arising from the burned incense was known to relieve headaches and smoking the dried herb creates a gentle stimulating effect followed by pleasant euphoria. Today, the attractive dusty grey-green shrub can be found in North American backyard gardens and beyond.
The sacred sidekick of Mexican Prickly Poppy (chicallotl) is itztauhyatl or Mexican Wormwood (Artemisia mexicana)—a relative of European Wormwood (Artemisia absinthe) used in the making of the exotic European liquor Absinthe. It is a subspecies of Mugwort and is classified in the Aster family. Mexican Wormwood is also known as “St. John’s herb” having many psychoactive and medicinal qualities. Like the Prickly Poppy it can be easily cultivated, obtaining a height of about a meter, and looks very similar to the European Wormwood. It prefers well-drained slightly dry soils and tolerates rocky ground.
As noted in the Renaissance Florentine Codex, the Aztecs used the plant as ritual incense associated with the rain god Tlaloc. Today the plant is still sacred to the indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica, most notably the Tarahumara Indians, who apparently also utilize it for its psychoactive nature. Mexican Wormwood gained favour among young urban Mexicans who smoke it as a cannabis substitute. Dosage is said to be similar to the Prickly Poppy. Most medicinal use of the plant involves oral extracts taken as antispasmodic medication, etc.
The plant contains a number of interesting essential oils and at least one as yet unidentified alkaloid, believed to be partly responsible for its psychoactive effect. In addition it contains a small amount of thujone, the primary active ingredient of Absinthe liquor. Thujone is chemically similar to THC in molecular symmetry.
While once only found in Mexico, it has been propagated and transported abroad and is now found throughout the world, appreciated primarily for its beauty or medicinal quality. Today it is easily found growing wild throughout the South West regions of the United States although it can be easily grown as a garden or patio plant just about anywhere in North America. Interestingly, another relative of this plant is the North American prairie sagebrush (Artemisia ludoviciana), a plant considered so sacred to the Plains Indians that it is used for smudging in every single one of their rituals. Occasionally people report a certain level of euphoria by inhaling vapours from this plant, too.
Although, the herbaceous perennial is perfectly legal for your landscaping designs, Mexican Woodworm may contain small quantities of thujone, which is not legal for consumption in the United States. For this reason, it’s best to enjoy this Mexican beauty in the safety of your private residence.
For additional entheogen resources: www.iceers.org
Muraco Kyashna-tochá is a cultural anthropologist with over 50 years of experience exploring the nether regions of her mind with entheogens. She is an award-winning educator and a recognized medical cannabis advocate with extensive experience working on medical cannabis legislation in Washington State.
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