Silver Sagebrush: Is It Safe to Use in Food?
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Rob Abbott
Posted on: October 15, 2004

I planted some of your ‘Silver Sagebrush’ (Artemisia cana) in my garden. The plant identifier talks about its medicinal uses. Can you tell me if it is safe to use as a culinary herb?

We have no information on the safety of silver sagebrush in food. In fact, our research did not reveal any history of use in food.

Many members of the botanical genus Artemisia are culinary herbs. Tarragon is the most important, but others include A. vulgaris (mugwort), A. absinthium (wormwood), A. arborescens (tree wormwood) and A. princeps (yomogi). Apart from tarragon, most Artemisias are bitter-tasting, and to the extent that bitter herbs are used with foods such as rich meats, poultry and fish, and in absinthe, vermouth, and alcoholic stomach bitters, they have a limited, but long history of culinary use.

A persistent "issue" with ingesting Artemisias is the presence of compounds such as thujone. In large doses thujone is harmful. Habitual or excessive intake is said to cause vertigo, insomnia, nightmares, nausea, etc. But the long history of use of Artemisias suggests that there is a safe level at which they can be consumed.

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