Free Spellcasting Consultations: Contact Us

By Witchipedia, Herbs

Southernwood: Folklore, Healing & Magick Uses

Updated on:


Written by: Dawn Black (Witchipedia)


Reviewed by: Tina Caro

Southernwood (Artemisia abrotanum) is a highly aromatic, shrubby, perennial member of the Artemisia family.

Its odor is something like a cross between lemon and camphor and is pleasant in small doses, but can become overbearing. This very attractive plant forms a bushy shrub with long, narrow, feathery leaves or a greyish green color. It reaches about three feet in height.

Southernwood is native to Southern Europe and we find much mention of it in Spain and Italy.

Southernwood may also be known as: Lad’s Love, Boy’s Love, Old Man, Southern Wormwood, Oldman Wormwood, Lover’s Plant, Appleringie, Garderobe, Our Lord’s Wood, Maid’s Ruin, Garden Sagebrush, European Sage, Sitherwood and Lemon Plant.

It is not related to sage but more closely related to mugwort and wormwood.


Southernwood has a rich history in folklore and was believed to protect against evil spirits and bring good luck to homes.

Gardeners can benefit from Southernwood’s natural pest-repelling properties and use it to deter insects from their gardens.

Harvesting Southernwood should be done in the morning for maximum potency, and it can be preserved by drying the leaves for various uses.

Southernwood can be used around the house as a natural air freshener and insect repellent, with its aromatic leaves being placed in closets and drawers.

Southernwood in History and Folklore

Southernwood has historically been used as a strewing herb as its odor repels insects.

Southernwood and rue were worn to protect them from contagious diseases of the masses and were placed in prisons to prevent the spread of diseases there.

It was also one of many herbs that were worn by church parishioners to help keep them alert during long sermons and prayer meetings.

Young men once used southernwood to help them grow beards. Apparently the herb was burned and the ashes rubbed into the skin where beard growth was desired.

Gardening with Southernwood

Southernwood is very easy to grow in poor soil and a sunny spot, though it tolerates some shade quite well. Southernwood grows very easily by cuttings. A branch touching the ground will grow into a new plant. You can also grow it from seed, but it can take several discouraging weeks to germinate.

Southernwood’s fragrance discourages insects of all sorts, including bees, so care should be taken when deciding where to put it. It is perhaps best to put it near areas where people will spend time than to use it as a companion for other plants who may desire the attention of pollinators.

However, tall fruit trees may benefit from the presence of Southernwood, since it is short, it can discourage climbing insects but isn’t likely to interfere with flying bees. You can plant southernwood near cabbage and its relatives to ward off cabbage worm.

Southernwood is a nice, low-growing shrub that I like around paths and bordering social areas in the yard. It does not have an attractive flower but its silvery green leaves are very attractive and might make a nice addition to a moon garden. It is not bothered by many diseases and deer and rabbits tend to leave it alone.

Southernwood can get invasive. In the herb garden, it’s likely to crowd out its neighbors.

I do not recommend Southernwood as an indoor potted plant although it would probably do well because its fragrance, while pleasant enough outdoors, quickly becomes overbearing in enclosed spaces.

Harvesting and Preserving Southernwood

Southernwood is best harvested in mid to late summer

Southernwood Around the House

Use dried southernwood leaves in your closets to help protect stored clothing and linens from moths, in your cabinets to ward off ants, and around windows to head off flies.

An herbal sachet of dried Southernwood, crushed cinnamon sticks and lavender buds can be quite attractive, pleasant-smelling and very functional. You can hang these from a pretty ribbon near whatever you wish to protect from insect damage.

You can also spray the leaves in vinegar or alcohol for a few weeks or add a few drops of essential oil to vinegar and water. Or add it to an oil base to apply to the skin.

A yellow dye can be extracted from the branches of the plant; it is especially useful for dying wool.

Southernwood added to hair washing products is said to help relieve dandruff.

Healing with Southernwood

Southernwood can be used to stimulate menstruation and so should not be used by pregnant women. It is also used to expel worms.

Healing PropertyDescription
Digestive AidSouthernwood is used in herbal medicine to support healthy digestion, relieve indigestion, and ease stomach discomfort.
Respiratory SupportIt is believed to have expectorant properties and can be used to alleviate respiratory issues like coughs and congestion.
Mood BoosterThe aroma of Southernwood is thought to uplift the mood, relieve stress, and promote relaxation and mental well-being.
Table 1: Southernwood Healing Properties

Southernwood is a stimulating digestive tonic. It is said to improve the function of the liver and to improve digestion in general.

The bruised leaves can be used to draw out splinters and stingers.

Southernwood for Magick

Southernwood is traditionally used to ward against disease and to draw love. It may be employed in a ritual bath to increase a man’s attractiveness, virility, and sexual skill. It can also be placed under a mattress to up a man’s game.

Southernwood is suitable for male rites of passage particularly manhood rites.

It is said that Southernwood tossed on your fire will keep snakes away.

Magickal UseDescription
PurificationBurning Southernwood as an incense or using it in cleansing rituals is believed to purify the energy of a space or object.
Love MagickSouthernwood is associated with love and can be used in spells or charms to attract love, strengthen relationships, or enhance romance.
Psychic AbilitiesIt is believed to heighten psychic abilities and can be used in rituals or preparations to enhance intuition, divination, and psychic work.
Table 2: Southernwood Magickal Uses

Used as an incense, southernwood can help keep away trouble in general and it can be added to mixtures to drive away a streak of bad luck or to break a hex.

In the language of flowers, southernwood represents banter.

Southernwood’s Magickal Correspondences

Southernwood in the Kitchen

Southernwood is used as a culinary herb in Italy. Young shoots can be used to flavor cakes and puddings and the leaves are apparently good with fatty meats. (I have no personal experience with this, but I intend to begin experiments soon!)

Warnings and Toxicity Information for Southernwood

Southernwood should not be used by pregnant women.

Some people are allergic to Southernwood. People with hay fever may find its pollen bothersome and some experience contact dermatitis from the plant.

Learn More About Southernwood

Scott Cunningham includes Southernwood in a sachet to attract love in the book Magical Herbalism.
A Southernwood Love Spell at Llewellyn Spell A Day

Magical Herbalism: The Secret Craft of the Wise (Llewellyn's Practical Magick Series)
614 Reviews

If you click Buy on Amazon and make a purchase, we'll earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.

About Morningbird (Witchipedia's Founder)

I am a homesteading hearth witch who grew up along the shores of the Hudson River and has lived among the Great Lakes for the past 20 years. Together with my musical husband and youngest child, I steward a one-acre mini homestead with herb, vegetable and flower gardens, chickens, ducks, geese and rabbits, and areas reserved for native plants and wildlife. 

I have three children; two are grown, and I have been practicing magick alone and with family and friends for over 30 years.

What Is Missing In Your Life Today That You Deeply Desire?

Is it finding new love or making the existing one healthier than ever? Is it maybe some positivity that would make your life flourish as you've never thought it could? Or is it something unique that your life is missing?

Spellcasting is an art that must NOT be taken carelessly. If you are trying to solve a problem you're facing, you should consider hiring a professional witch that cast spells safely for everyone involved. This way, you know it's being done by someone experienced and knowledgeable, and I'm also always here to answer questions about your casting and provide follow-up at no additional charge.

I've been casting spells for more than a decade and have worked privately with clients from all over the world.

You can expect private sessions, customized spells that I'll create just for you, and free consultations before and after spell casting. You can also read hundreds of different testimonials that you can find at each spell.

Below you'll find spells you can order and what it is this month's special spell casting!