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Tenerife island herbs: Incienso the Canary Wormwood

Updated on June 22, 2013

Aptly named as Incienso

Canary Wormwood (Artemesia canariensis) is an aromatic herb found on Tenerife and the other Canary Islands that is very aptly named "Incienso" in Spanish. This moniker fits the plant well because its bruised foliage gives off a strong smell that reminds one of incense.

Canary Wormwood grows on waste ground and abandoned farmland and often covers large areas of ground. It grows as a small shrub up to im in height and covered in downy greyish feathered leaves.

Canary Wormwood photo

Artemesia canariensis Photo by Steve Andrews
Artemesia canariensis Photo by Steve Andrews

Canary Wormwood described

Canary Wormwood bears clusters of very small yellowish button-shaped flowers. The plant is a member of the Compositae or Asteraceae as they are also known, the large group that contains well known plants such as the Dandelion.

It is closely related to other species of Wormwood and also to the Tarragon (A. dracunculus) and Mugwort (A. vulgaris) herbs. Tarragon is a culinary herb often used traditionally to make Tarragon vinegar, whilst Mugwort can be used to make a herbal tea that is a favourite for followers of the Macrobiotics diet and way of living because it is regarded as very Yang herb.

The more commonly known Wormwood (A. absinthium) is the herb that gives its name to that most potent alcoholic drink known as Absinthe. It is surprising that some enterprising farmer or businessman hasn't started making use of the Canary Islands variety of the plant for use in brewing and distilling Absinthe made on the islands. There would be a ready market for it seeing as the drink has been made readily available again under brand names.

Canary Wormwood has many health-giving properties though because it is good for the digestion and an appetite stimulant. It is antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and has also been used as an insecticide. It has been used in the form of dried leaves and flowers, to stuff herbal pillows to treat insomnia and, at the same time, as a deterrent for insect pests such as fleas, mosquitoes and flies.

All of the artemesias have herbal properties and the Canary Wormwood has been much used in Canary Island folk medicine. It has been used as a herbal tea to treat depression and as a relaxant. This is mainly due to the terpenoid substance it contains which is known as thujone. It is thujone that is thought to give an intoxicating "kick" to Absinthe too.

The leaves of Canary Wormwood can be made into a poultice for treating swelling, bruises and sprains. Canary Wormwood ashes mixed in with olive oil are said to be a good tonic for treating baldness and stimulating new hair growth.

Like its English name suggests Canary Wormwood can be used as a vermifuge that if taken internally will expel parasitic worms.

The Canary Wormwood may not look very interesting with its greyish leaves and small flowers but it is certainly a very useful herb.

Copyright © 2012 Steve Andrews. All Rights Reserved.

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    • Tenerife Islander profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      7 years ago from Tenerife

      Thanks for your feedback, Denise and Teresa!

    • teresa8go profile image

      teresa8go 

      7 years ago from Michigan, USA

      "The Canary Wormwood may not look very interesting with its greyish leaves and small flowers but it is certainly a very useful herb."

      Plants are so much like people and are often perfect examples of the old adage "Don't judge a book by it's cover."

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      7 years ago from North Carolina

      Interesting information. Thanks for sharing.

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