Artemisia annua L., a species of the Asteraceae (or Compositae) family, is an annual mugwort that can reach more than 2 m in height in culture. Its natural distribution extends to all warm temperate zones. The plant is also present in some countries of the intertropical regions, especially Vietnam, but it grows very well in Europe.
The Chinese have known the virtues of Artemisia for more than 2000 years and use this febrifuge plant effectively against malaria and cancer. Around 1990, Chinese scientists sought collaboration with European pharmaceutical industries.
From that moment on, modern science began to take an interest in the striking effectiveness of this plant.
Artemisia Annua contains a sesquiterpene lactone, artemisinin, effective against several strains of parasite responsible for malaria, cancer and viruses. A genetic improvement program initiated eight years ago has made it possible to develop a variety that is particularly rich in artemisinin (its dried leaves and stems may contain more than 1.3%). This variety has been the subject of an application for protection from the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV), under the name Artemis.
The control of the culture of this species is currently the subject of extensive agronomic experiments, but a certain number of technical indications can already be proposed.
Sow in shelves, under light shelter. Do not cover seeds that germinate in the light. Keep the seedling moist with a spray bottle. When possible, transplant the plants in individual pots and then in the ground, when they have 5 to 6 leaves. The distance between plants is 60 cm to 1 m. Seed germination can take a few days to several weeks.
Sowing period (under cover): January, February, March, April, October, November, December
Frost resistance: Very good
No pests or significant pathogens have so far been observed on this crop, no need for chemical treatment.
Maintenance and watering.
The plant has a remarkable development, so the crop quickly covers the ground. However, 1 or 2 weedings may be necessary in the first few weeks.
The herbicides that can be used on this species are not yet known, so mechanical weeding is currently recommended: tiller (tiller or tractor) between the rows and weeder on the row.
Regarding watering, the plant tolerates a relative drought, even if it reacts well to water supply. It is especially when planting that a water intake can be imposed.
The annual mugwort does not require special care. Prune the plant after flowering to prevent it from invading the entire garden. Try to contain it in a limited space, by cutting with a spade the rhizomes which tend to want to gain ground. It can be seen in certain areas, invasive, not only by its seeds but also by its rhizomes.
Harvesting, leaf stripping and drying.
Harvesting takes place about 3 months after planting, but at the latest when the buds form.
The foliage is picked from spring until the beginning of flowering. For cooking only the leaves are harvested, for medicinal use the flowering stems are also taken.
Mugwort intended for infusions dries in the shade and warm (an attic is fine). When the leaves are completely dry, store them in a tightly closed container.
Soil preparation and fertilization
This mugwort is very easy to grow. Soils rich in nitrogen, are well suited to mugwort, it will thrive in drained soils, in full sun. This plant is very resistant to drought and cold. It does not require the addition of organic matter or fertilizer.
The recommended planting density is 60 cm x 60 cm.
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