Spanish-English Medicinal Plant Names for Southwest United States and Mexico
(Emphasis on Plants of New Mexico, U.S.A. & Morelos, Mexico)
with some revisions as 12/12/2007 by Paul McKee

If it is known that the ancestors of widely separated peoples found currently in independent regions of the world once lived together in the remote past, the chances of finding shared medicinal knowledge potentially retained from the remote past among these peoples is greatly increased by limiting use commonalities to only those involving plants in the lineages that are common to all the separate geographical regions. In this way, all these plant lineages can be distinguished from the rest of the plant resources. By the rule of thumb, the more closely related these plants are to each other within a given lineage, the higher the percentage of use commonalities expected. Therefore, if one of these lineages is picked that includes a group of very closely related plants, the chances of finding a high percentage of use commonalities with at least some potentially representing shared knowledge retained from the remote past can be significantly increased. For a tentative example, an amazing number of re-occuring themes in traditional knowledge are found in separate regions of the world that are associated with the medicinal uses of species of the large genus Artemisia (including Big Sagebrush, Mugwort, Wormwood, and many other species). This genus is especially diverse in mountains, steppe regions, and semideserts of Central Asia. Although less diverse in Europe and North America, both these regions have approximately the same number of species in the genus (each with ~50). Included among the frequently re-occurring uses of species of the genus for protection from almost any form of evil is the use of Artemisia in both Eurasia and North America as the protector of women in childbirth and the new born baby.

It is possible that some of the oldest uses of Artemisia for women in childbirth may have been associated with the sweat lodge or steam bath, a practice that is considered by the cultures of Europe, Central Asia, and North America to have originated from the remote past and possibly as far back in time as the Ice Age. It can at least be said that species of Artemisia grow more or less uninterrupted from Central Asia to the Eurasian subarctic and arctic. The first Anatomically Modern Humans (AMHs) to migrate from Central Asia into Western Europe during the late Upper Paleolithic (between 45,000 and 12,000 years ago) would have incountered abundant shrub associations of Artemisia, chenopods, and Ephedra in the colder steppe tundra, warmer open taiga, cooler conifer steppe, and warmer Mediterranean woodland. In North America, species of Artemisia (with fossil pollen traced to the Ice Age) can today be found in Mexico, the West, Southwest and Great Basin of the United States to the Subarctic and Arctic. Various literature sources make it appear that evidence of sweat lodge practices can be found over much of the geographical range of Artemisia in the Northern Hemisphere. These sources often make the claim that archaeological evidence indicates that prehistoric cultures all over the arctic and subarctic regions of Eurasia used the sweat bath. It is proposed that this may be the result of a somewhat uniform circumpolar culture, also extending into the North American Arctic. In Northern Europe, the oldest known sweathouses may have been like the still standing, small domed (beehive-shaped) corbelled stone buildings with or without a smoke hole on the top. Some of these sweathouses have a corbel roofing style that is similar to the Neolithic tombs found all over Europe. Rocks for the roof were layed in an ever narrowing spiral until the last single rock was placed in the center and at the top. With the entrance and smoke hole covered to keep in the heat, the inside of the old European (e.g., Irish) sweathouse could be considered as dark as a tomb or possibly a womb. Nevertheless, these sweathouses that have extremely small "creep" entrances and soot remaining on some of the ceilings can be distinguished from similar structures with various purposes found throughout Europe. Probably older still were underground sweat houses (sometimes only cave-like pits dug in a slope or built into banks). A pit could also be simply dug in the ground; and an outside fire could be used to heat rocks, which could subseqently be placed in the center of the pit enclosed with a tarp. However, the even less preserved temporary or more portable sweat lodges (possibly constructed of wood and animal skins) of prehistoric nomatic tribes of Central Asia were likely much older and may have been similar to the oldest types used in both Europe and North America.

Actually, however, there is no conclusive evidence that the sweat bath even existed in prehistoric Eurasia. Although the small domed (beehive-shaped) corbelled stone buildings with or without a smoke hole in the top may have existed as far back as the Neolithic, the fragile structures still standing today in Europe cannot be expected to be older than the 19th century. There is some evidence that more temporary or portable types may have existed in Europe in the Early Bronze Age. However, this evidence is still not totally convincing that the few wood framed structures found assocated with fire-cracked or burnt rock mounds were indeed sweat lodges or saunas. From a historical perspective the sweat bath may be tracable in Europe to the 1st century BC. The Ancient Greek historian Herodotus (~500 B.C.) wrote about the Scythian people of the Black Sea region that placed red-hot stones inside a felt (woolen cloth) covered hut and threw water onto the hot stones to generate a vapor hotter than any Grecian bath. Herodotus indicated that this steam bath practice was used for ritual cleansing and rites of passage before marriage and after burying the dead. Sweat bath customs can be found today in Central Asia, Scandinavia, Russia, and North America. Although strong evidence is difficult to find, the more recent mixed parallels in the association of Artemisia with the sweat bath and childbirth in Northern Europe, Russia, and North America may point to shared knowledge that has been retained here and there by currently widely separated, migrated peoples with a common Central Asian origin in the remote past. The ancestral Central Asian homeland of these widely separated peoples is a region that today as in the Ice Age comprises bountiful grassy steppes more rich in shrubby or woody Artemisia (sagebrush) species than the Southwest and Great Basin of the United States. Although it would seem that much could be learned from observation of the use of the portable sweat lodges by presently isolated Central Asian nomatic tribes, there are problems when attempting to trace these practices to the remote past. Therefore, in the Northern Hemisphere, it is only from the Scandinavian sauna, Russia bania or banya, and comparable native North American practices (where the sweatlodge reaches its maximum development) that much of the more reliable information can be found.

According to traditional Russian folk belief, babies were born in the sweat bath (bania or banya) because birthing women and newborns were terribly vulnerable to evil forces, and the guardian spirit of the bania was so strong that it kept away all evil spirits. This guardian function would have been increased by the widespread use of Artemisia in midwifery, because plants in this genus were also commonly believed to protect against almost any form of evil. For example, in widespread summer solstice celebrations thoughout Europe, including those of Russia and Scandinavia, wreathes and garlands or belts of Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) were worn while dancing around the fire. The herb was later thrown into the fire to ensure continued protection throughout the coming year. Hanging the dried Mugwort over a door or on a window sill was believed to keep unwelcome energies from passing through. It is possible that the widespread folk belief that Artemisia is a protector of women in childbirth and the baby has some of its earliest roots in the protective association of these plants with birthing in the sweat bath.
The midwife (povitukha) prayed in the Russian bathhouse (bania or banya) before she brought in the pregnant woman; and it was there that the midwife assisted a woman during or after childbirth. A Russian woman after childbirth often spent several days (or, in some local traditions, even weeks) at the bathhouse together with her baby (Vadeysha, 2005). This was believed to be the place where a newborn baby’s future fate could be determined. The connection between the sweat bath and childbirth likely became generalized and symbolic of spiritual rebirth and transformation. It was where rites of passage took place from birth and marrage to death. It was a custom to think of the bania as the second mother of everyone; in this connection, there can be a symbolic death and rebirth in a new state; and after a steam bath, one can feel born again. The second mother (vtoroi mat), as the sweat bath, was once associated with Mokosh, also referred to as Mother Russia or the Earth Mother. This Russian symbolism is not unlike the Native American (e.g., Lakota) concept of entering the sweatlodge to face death and become reborn. Could this also be consided the function of the old European (e.g., Irish) beehive-like sweathouse, which had a structure similar to a dark tomb (or possibly a womb) with a "creep" entrance and spiral corbel roof (like the tombs of Neolithic Europe)? The Aztecs, Zapotec, Mixtec, Mayans and other indigenous groups of Mexico also associate the temazcal with the womb and childbirth.

  • Masha Vadeysha (2005) The Russian Bathhouse: The Old Russian Pert’ and the Christian Bania in Traditional Culture, Folklorica, Journal of the Slavic and East European Folklore Association Volume X, Number 2, pg. 26-43.

    Some written records indicate that in Europe, Central Asia, and the Americas, species in the genus Artemisia were not only sometimes associated with steam bath or sweat lodge treatments during childbirth, but they were also used widely (like among Slavic and Baltic peoples) as a general woman's medicine [e.g., for delayed, absent, or irregular mensus; insufficient or heavy flow; menstrual pain or other unspecified menstrual problems; leucorrhea (white discharge), vaginitis, pruritis (itching); or other unspecified female problems]. In Druidic and Anglo-Saxon times, the dark green stemmed, reddish-yellow flowered Artemisia vulgaris was often referred to as Mother of Herbs. This title was commonly applied to this species (also called Mugwort) throughout Europe during the Middle Ages. Species of Artemisia are counterindicated for anyone who has pelvic inflammatory issues, because they cause uterine contractions; and they are not used during lactation, because their highly bitter constituents can be passed through the mother's milk. In Wales, Mugwort was tied to the left thigh of a woman having a difficult labor, but it was immediately removed after the birth, for if it was not removed, the belief was that she might hemorrhage. Although members of the genus can potentially cause miscarriage if used early on during pregnancy, Mugwort is one of the most ancient of the childbirth herbs, widely used in Asia, often as a steam bath over which a woman squats while in labor.

    In locating the often hard to find parallels in the use of Artemisia by widely separated migrated peoples in association with the sweat bath and childbirth, a broad perspective needs to be adopted, merging steam bath and sweat lodge practices with those incorporating Artemisia, for example, into the hot medicated baths of the classical bathhouse, Grecian vapor-bath, Roman balneae or thermae, Turkish hammam, Finnish sauna, and Russian bania or banya (Old Russian pert’, Latvian pertis, Lithuanian pirtis). Among Slav and Baltic peoples (Latvians, Lithuanians and North Russians), the steam bathhouse still plays an important role. Artemisia used in hot baths is known from Slavic, East European, and Middle Eastern cultures; and somewhat similar practices are recorded among the Ancient Greeks and Romans. However, Greek and Roman hot baths often did not use steam. Aromatic herbal baths employing Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) were common in the Near East of the Middle Ages; and the Ancient Greek or Roman and later Arabic bathing customs likely also influenced medical practices in Western Europe. In the Slavic Poltava province, problems with the womb are cured by bathing in Mugwort, which generally plays an important role in midwifery and gynecology. The use of Artemisia specifically in childbirth should also be viewed as part of its use as a more general medicine for women. According to V. B. Kolosova, practically all over the Slav territory native species of Artemisia were used very widely in the female sphere to treat a difficult birth, weak contractions, uterine and menstrual disorders, painful periods, induced miscarriage, barrenness or hemorrhage. Although detailed and specific evidence is not always easy to find, it should not be surprising that the use of Artemisia in midwifery in the steam bath during childbirth was once a common practice among the ancestral Slavic and Baltic peoples. Because plants in this genus were so commonly used in the midwifery by these people, some of these plants were likely also employed whenever birthing took place in the sweatbath.

    It is possible (though never yet supported by archaeological evidence) that people living permanently away from trees and caves and out on the Eurasian steppes (open grasslands) of the late Upper Paleolithic could have evidently used the sweat lodge and fire heated rocks as a protective means of thermal regulation during childbirth and post-natal care. If so, these would be people (like the Gravettians of the grasslands of Eastern Europe at the earliest) that eventually learned to live out in the open spaces and could construct dwellings or lodges. Although no archaeological evidence is yet available, a sweat lodge providing protective thermal regulation during childbirth and post-natal care could certainly have been a critical adaption to the colder conditions of the last glaciation. Sweat bath practices in Europe have been historically documented from the 1st century BC. In Northwestern Europe they are linked to childbirth and the care of the baby and can still be found in the colder regions, such as Russia and Scandinavian.

    In warmer parts of the world, the protective properties of heat and steam can also be related to hygien, sanitation, and other factors contributing to childbirth, post-natal recovery of the mother, and care of the baby. The Aztecs, Zapotec, Mixtec, Mayans and other indigenous groups of Mexico have used the temazcal (a small domed adobe steam bathhouse) as an ideal medium for birthing babies; the warmth within is said to be not so drastically different from that of the womb (the uterine environment prior to delivery). Similar practices and beliefs can be found here and there throughout warmer parts of the world. In Thailand, new mothers spend at least a month after childbirth in a herbal steam bath tent with their babies close beside them.

    Although evidence is very limited, it has been suggested by some authors (e.g., Mikkel Aaland & Bill Scherer) that Europeans, Russians, Nortic peoples, and even Native Americans, most all with shared genetic roots from Central Asia, could have had in common the portable sweat lodge similar to present day nomadic peoples of the Eurasian steppes (grasslands). The bountiful sagebrush (Artemisia) grass steppes of Central Asia could have been where the ancestors of Europeans, Russians, and Nortic peoples once shared many ideas with the ancestors of Native Americans before they migrated to Siberia and crossed the Bering Strait. This could be called the prehistoric central Asian hypothesis for the origin of the sweat bath in the Northern Hemisphere. Since sagebrush was so common in these steppes, is it possible that these proposed sweat lodge practices could have been associated with the use of species of Artemisia or other herbs in childbirth? Mikkel Aaland points out that the Finns go back thousands of years to Central Asia when nomadic tribes began their migration westward and northward, to populate Southwestern Russia, Slovakia, Hungary, Lithuania, Estonia, and finally Suomi (Finland). When the Finns were nomadic, they could have used a portable sweat lodge similar to those carried by the Native Americans and still sometimes seen among nomadic tribes in Central Asia and Siberia (e.g., portable "sweat-yurt" or "steam-yurt," a smaller tent, also called the yaranga, dikutia, or ger, made of animal skins or felt with a wooden frame and quickly assembled temporarily to serve as a steam bath). Once the Finns settled, they may have erected underground sweat houses, forerunners of the savusauna. The old Finnish sauna also was where children were born; old timers boast of being born in the sauna; and women (as in the Russian bathhouse) went through a purification ritual before marriage in the sauna. It would be interesting to see whether any traces of an association of Nortic species of Artemisia with the sauna and even childbirth are still to be found in Scandinavia. Finnish species of Artemisia (commonly called Marunat) are certainly considered medicinal plants, including Artemisia vulgaris (commonly called Grĺbo, Maruna, Meripujo, Pujo, Rikkapujo, Yleinen maruna) and Artemisia absinthium (commonly called Mali, Malört, Koiruoho). There is one claim that Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) is applied pior to entering the Finnish sauna. Due to the strong association of Artemisia with midwifery or gynecology among certain Native American tribes and Russians (including Baltic and Slavic peoples), the link between species of this genus, the sweat bath, and childbirth is much more evident. However, further evidence of this link may yet be found in Scandinavia and possibly even present day indigenous Central Asia. This would be especially significant for indigenous peoples of Central Asia or Siberia that have been isolated from more recent Russian influence.

    Therefore, it has often been suggested that the sweat bath practices of Russians and Scandinavians may have originated in the remote past from Central Asia, because the ancestry of these peoples (as well as most Europeans and even Native Americans) is likely rooted in this region. However, problems in proving this scenario arise because similar practices are only recorded among the nomatic Scythians by one ancient historian during a period when already settled Scandinavians or Russians could have had the sweat bath and could have influenced later migrating peoples from Central Asia. When similar practices are found among presently living Central Asians, it is difficult to tell whether they stem from indigenous people of the remote past or have been introduced by Russians during more recent USSR occupation. Furthermore, sweat bath practices among presently isolated Central Asian or Siberian nomatic tribes are today relatively rare. It could be speculated that easy adaption by tribes of Central Asia and Siberia to Russian sweat bath practices may be an indication of prior indigenous use. The same could be said for Turkic tribes that migrated from central Siberia, eventually overthowing the Byzantine Empire and easily adopting the Byzantine and Roman steam bath, which later became the hammam or Turkish Bath. Therefore, when studying the steam bath of today in Siberia and even Alaska, it is often difficult to tell whether these practices were adopted from relatively modern Russian influence or originated from prior indigenous practice. Although paleolithic evidence is difficult to find, one possible indicator could potentially be used to trace the sweat lodge to the remote past. Even though not always conclusive proof, the accumulation of fire-cracked rock (especially burnt mounds in association with anomalous charcoal) in archaeology "digs" strongly indicate use of the sweat bath. If water is poured onto hot stones, it causes the water to evaporate into steam. The process fractures the stones into the similar pieces to those found in the burnt mounds that accumulate at Native American sweat lodge sites. This specific shatter pattern can only be made when the stones are heated to a great temperature and then cooled rapidly with water. This indicator was used to identify a Bronze Age sweat lodge in Sutton Park, Birmingham, England. This was a structure constructed as a ‘Bender’ from flexible wood. Long poles were placed in the ground in a circle about 10 feet wide. The flexible poles were then bent over and tied together to create a dome shape. Weaving wooden rods between gave the structure extra strength. When the structure was completed, a central pit was dug in which hot stones were placed. Charcoal found with the stones has been dated from 1500 to 1000 BC. Although this type of temporary or more portable sweat lodge is not always well preserved in the archaeological record, burnt mounds (fire-cracked rock), anomalous charcoal, and sometimes the presence of circular pole or post holes and central pits could be used as an indicator of prehistoric steam bath practices. Indicators of variations of this more temporary or portable type should be sought after in the Late Paleolithic or prehistoric Holocene (10,000 year old to more recent) archaeological deposits of Europe, Central Asia, Siberia, and North America. Because Artemisia is often associated with the sweat bath and even childbirth practices (at least among more current Russian, Slavic, Baltic, and Native American peoples), small localized accumulations of preserved seeds or pollen of this genus or other aromatic genera in these deposits could also provide added evidence of the potentially prevalent link between fire-cracked rock and prehistoric birthing processes, which could help close the "gap" between these practices in more recent Europe and North America and those of prehistoric Central Asia and Siberia.

    It is speculated by some authors that the Native American use of the sweat bath likely can be said to stem from a somewhat uniform circumpolar culture, which may have its roots in central Asia. Both Europeans and Native Americans at least have genetic roots in central Asia. The circumpolar culture has certain shared traits that help to distinguish it from other cultures. For example, there was almost universal domestication and use of the dog as a draft animal. Since the Northeast Asian Arctic remained ice free during the last glaciation, this area of the circumpolar region was the first to be populated approximately 20,000-15,000 year ago by late Upper Paleolithic mammoth hunters, some of which migrated to North America. Even though probably rooted in central Asia, efforts to find a common origin for a general circumpolar culture have been unsuccessful. Consequently, its relative uniformity is thought to be more or less due to convergence (independent development of similar traits), because (at least by the end of the Pleistocene 12,000 years ago and the beginning of the Holocene 10,000 BP) the Arctic with only two main food resources, sea mammals and reindeer, together with less important supplements, provided relatively few options for successful cultural adaptation. The few food resources available happened to be abundant enough to allow prehistoric people to survive under harsh and very limiting conditions and, therefore, occupy all of the Arctic. It was only because of this that there developed a somewhat uniform culture and not because of a common origin. Very little current information on the use of Artemisia in the European sweatlodge is available (with the exception of more current Russian, Baltic, and Slavic use of this genus in childbirth). As reassessment of early Northern European archeological evidence is underway to determine if some of the structures previously thought to has been granaries and storage buildings might have actually been sweat houses, the presence of anomalous charcoal, fire-cracked rock, and the remains of aromatic plants like Artemisia should be considered possible indicators of sweat bath practice. The more temporary or portable wooden framed type structures can also be associated with burnt rock mounds and charcoal. The identfication of localized remains of seeds or pollen of Artemisia in conjunction with this other information would perhaps provide additional evidence that these structures were indeed sweat lodges. Therefore, predictions from comparative ethnopharmacology may give archeologist something to look for in their "digs" in the attempt to put information together in order to understand prehistoric behavior.

    In contrast to the hypothesis introduced above, the following from Kehoe (2003) is an alternative (trans- or circum-North Atlantic migration) hypothesis for the origin of the sweat bath in the Northern Hemisphere:
    One interesting custom shared by Scandinavians and American Indians is the sauna, or sweat-lodge. Both users believe its use promotes health. Sweat-baths were standard in pre-Columbian Mexico, again as means of restoring or maintaining health. The antiquity of the custom is ambiguous because small structures with a firepit in the center could have been used to smoke meat or hides. Whether Americans taught it to Norse, or Norse to Americans, cannot be determined, but its near-ubiquity in America contrasted with limited historic distribution in Eurasia (Lopatin, 1960: 988–989) suggests Americans-to-Norse.
    Actually, Lopatin (1960) suggests an origin of the sweat bath from Norse to Americans. This author distinguishes four types of baths: (1) Pool or the Plunge Bath, (2) Direct Fire Sweat Bath, (3) Water Vapor Bath, and (4) Mixed Type. He speculates that the water vapor bath originated from the direct fire sweat bath; and he merges both these types together as the sweat bath, because both have the same purpose of inducing sweating with the act of washing the body not specifically emphasized. He also speculates that the water vapor bath was invented in a northern country (not by the Suomi or Tavastlanders but by prehistoric predecessors of the Tavastlanders that lived in the territory that is now Finland). In turn, the Russians borrowed the steam bath from the Finns. It was known to the medieval Germanic peoples, but it was not likely native to the Germans and evidence indicates that this practice had come from the north. There is no mention of the old Irish or British sweat bath, but these practices could also have come from the Norse. It is emphasized that this type is common only in the countries with long cold winters, where it only much later diffused to warmer countries. It is found today in the Old World among the Great Russians, Swedes, Norwegians, people of Finland, the Esthonians and the Latvians, people of Iceland, and among certain agricultural Finns, as well as in the New World among almost all the American Indian tribes in North America and some South American tribes. This author makes a point to emphasize that (prior to Russia inflence) it has been historically absent from Central Asia, Siberia, and Eastern Asia. According to this author, the ancient Scythians of central Asia and Siberia even perhaps learned it from northwestern Europe, because there is no evidence that their close relatives (Massagetes, Sakas, Sogdians, Bactrians, Medes, and Persians) ever had it. The sweat bath of both Northwestern Europe and North America commonly includes a small room or inclosure with little or no vents, steam generated by throwing water onto fire-heated rocks (commonly remaining as mounds), flagellation (light slapping of the surface of the body) with a broom or switch, use of fragrant herbs, and often related therapeutic, ritual, and social practices. Alternative sweating and cooling, where the participant leaves the lodge and plunges into a stream, lake, pool, icy water, or rolls in snow, is a practice also found among cultures in both the Old and New World. Therefore, sweat lodges or steam houses are often built near bodies of water. The practice of building sweat baths as underground or semi-underground structures is also somewhat common to both the Old and New World. These are remarkable similarities not easily explained as parallel (independent) developments. The present remarkably similar Northwestern European and American practices are veiwed by the main alternative hypothesis as only relics from once more widespread prehistoric practices in Eurasia and the circumpolar region with remote genetic ties to central Asia. The winter houses, half underground and well-closed, and heated by numerous hot stones, steam being produced by pouring water over them, is a practice among Paleo-Siberians, Aleuts and Inuits, and even possibly the Ainu of northeastern Asia that is difficult to segregate from those of the smaller sweat lodges. It is not apparent that the mixed type bath recorded since ancient times in central Asia should be considered completely distinct from the sweat bath. Also, the smaller dwellings, such as gers or yurts of western China and Mongolia, may be heated with water on hot rocks, so it is difficult to make the claim that the indigenous sweat lodge (independent of post-contact Soviet influences) is historically or even today totally absent from central Asia and Siberia. This becomes apparent when taking into consideration the historical fact that people in both the Old and New World can sometimes live in sweat houses as more permanent dwellings, especially in the colder regions or conditions. Just because the Scythians or the Koryak and Chukchi of Siberia with a noted tendancy to acquire various kinds of skin-disease were never known to wash with water does not mean that they never used the steam treatment by pouring water on fire-heated rocks. According to Paul S. Mayerhoff in 1936-1937, the Apache (probably of near polar origin that migrated to the Southwest U.S.A.) often hardly bathed during winter. During the cold season a protective coat to provide warmth of tallow, dirt and skin secretions acted to close up all pores of the skin. However, in spring, they would often sprinkle water on hot stones to produce steam in the sweat lodge to soften, loosen and slough off the covering of filth. Although yucca root and water were used as a shampoo to finish up this process among the the Apache, the lack of washing with water during cold conditions cannot be generally considered an index of the absence of the sweat bath. Even though some of the ideas proposed by Lopatin are not without problems, the overall coverage of historic sweat bath practices is quite informative.

  • Kehoe, A.B. (2003) The Fringe of American Archaeology: Transoceanic and Transcontinental Contacts in Prehistoric America, Journal of Scientific Exploration, Vol. 17, No. 1, pp. 19–36.
  • Lopatin, I.A. (1960) Origin of the Native American Steam Bath, American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 62, No. 6., pp. 977-993.

    The earliest burnt mounds often near watercourses with no evidence of cooking or animal bones that perhaps (?) qualify as indicators of the sweatbath in Europe can only be traced to the Late Neolethic (6500 BP or 4500 BC). They are called fulachta fiadh in Ireland and consist of burnt stones, mixed with black soil and charcoal found where the water table is close to ground level, along streams, spring wells, and in small peat basins. One in Britain was dated to the Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age transition approximately 3860 BP. Such mounds in Europe extend into the Bronze and Iron Age and even into the early Medieval period. According to Neolithic to Early Bronze Age Buckinghamshire: A Resource Assessment (by Kim Biddulph), there were a number of post-holes recorded at the latest burnt mound at Little Marlow dating to the Early Bronze Age. The post-holes were thought by excavators to support an awning (covering perhaps made from animal skins) set up over the edge of the stream. The awning or tarp was weighted down with large unburnt stones, that covered the edge of a now silted up palaeochannel, into which heated flints would have been thrown to create steam for a sauna (Richmond & Rackham 1999, 10; Richmond, Rackham & Scaife 2006, 95). This is perhaps the most convencing evidence of a 'sweat-lodge'. However, these burnt mounds in general could have also been used for various different purposes, including textile processing, leather working, and brewing of alcoholic beverages. Their use for cooking is least likely, since little or no settlement debre, cereal products, or aninal bones can be found associated with them.

  • Richmond, A & Rackham, J (1999) Excavation of a Prehistoric stream-side at Little Marlow, Buckinghamshire. Unpublished document: Phoenix Consulting.
  • Richmond, A, Rackham, J & Scaife, R (2006) Excavations of a Prehistoric Stream-Side Site at Little Marlow, Buckinghamshire. Records of Buckinghamshire 46. 65-102

    A quote from Elisabeth Beausang (2000) follows:
    The association of fire-cracked mounds with birthing processes should not be excluded. ... The cleansing of the woman after birth is mostly done with either water or steam. Healing materials and balance-restorers, such as herbs and fragrant leaves, are commonly added to the bathing water or the vapour baths. The basic method for vapour baths is the transference of hot steam from heated stones by adding water and/or herbs. ... Aztec women and present-day orthodox Jewish women use steam baths after birth (Kay 1982:19). There are even examples of women giving birth in saunas (Vahros 1966). All these treatments are considered hygienic and healing as well as a means to keep evil away. ... cleansing is normally done in connection with childbirth, often using water or steam. This general behaviour calls for some kind of bathing structure. Therefore, prehistoric structures like pits with fire-cracked stones should be of interest when searching for birth-related prehistoric contexts. The cleansing and washing can be sanitary, medical, social and ritual and can most probably be seen as an integrated part of childbirth in prehistoric times.

  • Barfield, L.H. (1991) Hot stones: hot food or hot baths? Burnt mounds and hot stone technology, Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council.
  • Barfield, L H & Hodder, M A (1987) Burnt mounds as saunas, and the prehistory of bathing 61, 370 - 379.
  • Beausang, E. (2000) Childbirth in prehistory: an introduction. European Journal of Archaeology 3: 69.
  • Beausang, E. (2003) Childbirth and Mothering in Archaeology, PhD Thesis at the Dept of Archaeology, University of Gutenburg, Gutenburg.
  • Beausang, E. (2005) Childbirth and Mothering in Archaeology, Dept of Archaeology, University of Gutenburg.
  • Kay, M.A. (1982) Anthropology of Human Birth. Philadelphia, PA: Pergamon Press.
  • Vahros, I. (1966) Zur Geschichte und Folklore der Grossrussischen Sauna. Academia Scientiarium Fennica Communicationes 197. Helsinki: FF.

    The widespread traces of the sweat bath presently throughout the world may also be an index that it is one of the most ancient practices. Heat, steam and herbs have long been associated in Thailand with childbirth as well as with health and a general sense of well-being. Bakera, a herbal steam bath made primarily with pawpaw leaves is used for postnatal care in Minahasa, Indonesia. The Hindu Ayurveda, written in Sanskrit in 568 BC, considered sweating so important to health that it prescribed the sweat bath and thirteen other methods of inducing sweat. Germans of the 12th century incorporared tansy and feverfew (relatives of Artemisia) together with mullein in vapor baths to treat pain from obstructed menses. Evidence of the sweat bath or comparable practices are found all over the world (e.g., the sweatlodge of America; the temescal or temescalli of Mexico and Central America; the steambath of tribes of Guiana, the Botocudo, Puri of Brazil, and a tribe of Argentina, South America; the sauna or savusauna of Finland; the saun of Estonia; the badstuga of Sweden; the badstue of Norway; the banya of Russian, Baltic and Slavic regions; the sweat-yurt or steam-yurt of the ancient Scythians of Central Asia and Siberia; the diukia of the Tungus (Orochen Evenki) of Siberia; the yaranga of the Chukchi of Siberia; the allus bothan of Ireland; the hammam of Islamic countries; shvitz of the Hebews; the laconicum, thermae, balneae, or caldarium of ancient Rome; the zheng qi zao or han zao of China; the mushi-buro, o-furo, sentoo, or sento of Japan; the fire lodge of Hindu India; the sifutu or dungai fu of Africa; the hot hut of indigenous Hawaii). Claims of origin of these practices are almost as many as there are tribal cultures (often seen by indigenous people of Mexico and elsewhere, including Russians, as a womb, that gives birth and life and often provides important teachings to the people). The associated medicinal plants with the sweat bath in Northern Eurasia and the Native Americas even as far south as the Monte Verde Indians of the South American late Upper Paleolithic and today's Mapuche in Chile appear to distinctively include some of the medicinal genera common in the circumpolar area of the Northern Hemisphere that can be considered the late Upper Paleolithic core of Native American herbal medicine (likely including among others, species of the genus Artemisia). This is the core of medicinal genera that may stem from the somewhat uniform circumpolar culture. According to Tkach, et al. (2007), phytogeographic studies (involving the present geographic distribution of plants) have reported a total of 33 Artemisia species in both the Eurasian and North American Arctic. Therefore, the species diversity of Artemisia in the circumpolar region is exceeded only by a few other genera.

  • Tkach, Natalia V., et al. (2007) Parallel Evolutionary Patterns in Multiple Lineages of Arctic Artemisia L. (Asteraceae), Evolution 62-1: 184–198.
  • Rossen,J., and T.D. Dillehay (1997) Modeling Ancient Plant Procurement and Use at Monte Verde. In: T.D. Dillehay (Ed.): Monte Verde. A late Pleistocene Settlement in Chile. Vol.II: The Archaeological Context and Interpretation. Smithsonian Inst. Press, Washington and London, pp. 331 - 350.

    Late-Pleistocene species of Artemisia may likely have been among the core medicinal plants of Native Americans that once migrated from Arctic Siberia to Alaska. Although archaeological evidence is not yet available, human use of this genus could potentially be traced back to about 20,000 years ago in Northeastern Siberia and 500,000 square miles of ice-free, tundra and steppe (grasslands) of Late Pleistocene Beringia (the Beringian Ice Age refuge now mostly submerged beneath the Bering Strait). Macrofossils of Artemisia frigida (prairie sage), bunch-grasses, and forbs (herbaceous plants other than grasses and grass-like plants) have been found to be representative of ice-age steppe vegetation associated with Pleistocene mammals (e.g., woolly mammoth, horses, bison, and others) in eastern Beringia (present day Yukon Territory, Canada). From fossil pollen (microfossil) studies, there was a high proportion of various species of Artemisia (sage) and grasses of the family Poaceae sufficient to support large game mammals all year round. The plant macrofossils uncovered indicate that eastern Beringia was dominated by sage, bunch-grasses, grass-like plants (sedges and rushes), and forbs, such as Chenopodium (goosefoot), Potentilla (cinquefoil), Ranunculus (buttercup), Draba (mustard), Papaver (poppy), Androsace septentrionalis (airy-candelabra), Cerastium (chickweed), and Silene (campion). This assemblage of plants (with sedges and peat moss from deposits that were formed in low-lying wet areas) indicates that eastern Beringia during this period had a much more moderate climate than would be expected for Arctic Tundra, supporting what has been referred to as a "mammoth-steppe." Full-glacial climatic aridity (glacial dry conditions) of eastern Beringia that provided deep active layers of soil with high net insolation favored conditions like those found today in arid, south-facing slopes with well drained soils of Alaska and the Yukon, where sage and bunch-grass steppe can still be found. However, there is an absence of the combination of sage and bunch-grass macrofossils from central Beringia. This suggests that the steppe composition of plant species did not cover all of Beringia. Nevertheless, today the species Artemisia frigida itself extends into the Arctic and further south into Mexico and the Eastern European steppe, making it probably the most widely distributed species of its genus. Therefore, this species, as well as possibly others of the genus, were likely found here and there throughout Beringia. Among other rare plants of Chukotka (the Chukote Coastal Tundra) of Northeastern Siberia is found today the endemic species Artemisia senjavinensis (an arctic species of the genus not found anywhere else in the world). All this suggests that species of the genus as today extended into the Arctic of Northeastern Siberia and Beringia during the Late Pleistocene when humans occupied these areas about 20,000 years ago; and the higher abundance of big game animals would have provided much incentive to migrate into eastern Berangia with sage (Artemisia) and bunch-grass steppe and a more moderate dry climate.

    No use of Artemisia in the native South American sweatlodge has yet been found (at least by this author), probably because the genus is a much rarer group of plants in South America with only a few indigenous species found in very few regions. Nevertheless, the overall use of this genus by natives of Bolivia, Chile and Argentina is similar to that of people in the circumpolar region and even Northern Europe. This may be significant, especially because (although rare in South America) the genus Artemisia is likely a member of the Upper Paleolithic core of Native American herbal medicine that can be potentially traced back to the Late Pleistocene about 20,000 years ago in ice-free Northeastern Siberia, including the grassy tundra and steppe of Beringia. When some Europeans very recently migrated to South America, they began using the indigenous Artemisia copa Philippi of Chile and Argentina in a way similar to their introduced European relative Artemisia absinthium L. This is another example of the general rule that settlers tend to use native plants with characteristics (morphology, taste, aroma, etc.) similar to plants of their original homeland, thereby enriching or sometimes reinforcing native traditional use. The native plant use was also enriched by the introduction of many non-native European traditional medicines to South America. However, the native use of endemic Artemisia copa (not found anywhere else in the world) is arguably a carry-over from the use of other species of the genus as people in the remote past migrated from the polar region of North America to South America. This is, of course, a debatable issue, where similarities between the use of this native South American Artemisia and species of the genus in the circumpolar region could just as well have been due to independent discoveries (convergences). It is also of interest to note that the use of Artemisia copa by European immigrants is generally not that different from the original use of this species by native people; and the native people have adopted the introduced Artemisia absinthium from the Europeans with similar use to their indigenous species.

    The most common type of broom, switch, or whisk (Finnish vihta or vasta, Russian vennik or venik), used in the sweat bath for mild flagellation, is traditionally made from firm, pliable, leafy and fragrant bundles of birch branches. However, some are made by tying birch and cedar (juniper) or Artemisia branches together. These whisks are employed in slapping the surface of the body (referred to in Finnish as vihtoa) to stimulate blood circulation and cleanse the skin. In the Russian custom, magic powers were ascribed to the whisk or broom with which a new-born baby was given his/her first steam bath; it was later used in charms to cure childhood illnesses. Old Bohemian bathhouse keepers employed "scrubbers," which seem to have been made of green branches tied to a stick in a bundle.

    In the Americas, caribou leaves (Artemisia tilesii Ledeb.) are "commonly used by Athabascans & Northwest Inuit in steam baths [http://www.alaskaherbtea.com/Foraging/caribou_leaves.htm]: bundles of plants are gathered & lashed together at the stalks, then used to gently flagellate swollen or arthritic joints, sprained or sore limbs, or any part of the body to enjoy the stinging sensation." The indigenous Aleut/Unangax people of the Aleutian, Pribilof, and Commander Islands of Alaska use Artemisia vulgaris var. kamtschatica Bess. (= Artemisia unalaskensis Rydb.) in steam baths, slapping it gently against the skin. This species is also used for aches and pains by placing hot, steamed leaves on sore areas. Although "switches" could be made from materials other than bundled plants, flagellation appears to have been a common practice among a wide variety of North American Indian tribes (buffalo tails and eagle wings often used in sweat lodge for whipping the body, much like the Finnish vihta (vasta) or the Russian vennik). Archaeology "digs" at Afognak Island, dating finds that go back to 7000 years ago, have located fire-cracked rock that strongly indicates the indigenous (precontact) use of the sweat bath. Rock is heated by the historic Koniag people in a hearth in the central room of their house and then carried to a steam bath chamber, indicating a distinct difference in the native bath from the Russian bania or banya in which rock is heated and steamed in place. The combination of historical and archaeological evidence provide more clues that the steam bath is native and not just adopted from Russian influence. Sweat bath practices with heated rock also appear to have once been common to Inuit of Polar Siberia and North America (as well as the Koryak or Chukchi of Siberia). This is also true for the Aleut and Athabascan of Alaska. The Athabascan tribe called the Tanainas of Alaska still use Artemisia tilesii in the steam bath, although the stronger aroma of Artemisia alaskana is often prefered. "The Tanainas soak Artemisia tilesii leaves in water and rub them on the bodies of pregnant women or put them on the stomach as a poultice. They also make medicine switches to help arthritis and other aches" (Viereck, 1987, 1995). Further south, according to the History of Mexico (1817, pgs. 248-250), "He then throws water on hot stones from which immediately arises a thick steam to the top of the Temazcalli. While the sick person lies upon a mat, the domestic drives the vapor downwards, and gently beats the sick person, particularly on the ailing part, with a bunch of herbs." The Mayans and others of Mesoamerica are also reported to have used the sweat bath and Artemisia during or after childbirth. Artemisia douglasiana Bess. was utilized by the Native Americans of Mendocino county to promote circulation after labor. Bundles of the plant were tied around the mother. On the other hand, the Yuki of California used the 'sweat bath' method associated with Artemisia to help overcome difficulties attending childbirth. Among certain Native American tribes (as in the Old World), species of Artemisia were also considered a protector of women in childbirth. It is interesting to note that species of Artemisia are used by some Native Americans not only for women in childbirth but also as a protector of the mother, father and the newly born infant. For example, an infusion of Artemisia douglasiana Bess. is used by Kawaiisu as a bath for the baby, as well as for both the mother and father, after childbirth. Infusion of plants of Artemisia tridentata are reported to have been taken by Navajo women as an aid for deliverance. Decoction of leaves are reported to have been taken by Ramah Navajo for postpartum pain.

  • History of Mexico (1817) Vol. 2, translated from the original Italian by Charles Cullen, Philadelphia, Thomas Dobson.
  • Viereck, Eleanor G. (1987, 1995) Alaska's Wilderness Medicines, Alaska Northwest Books™, Anchorage, Seattle, Portland.

    The oldest written records of the use of medicinal plants in the genus Artemisia come from the Old World Mesopotamians and Ancient Egyptians. Species in this group are also referred to in the Hebrew Bible, and they have been recorded as much used in Ancient Persian, Hindu, Greek, and Roman medicine (as well as that of the Ancient Chinese). To this day, various species of the genus are highly regarded as medicinal plants among both Europeans and Native Americans. Historically, the likely prehistoric association of Artemisia as protector of women in childbirth and the baby can be potentially traced to the mother goddess Isis of Ancient Egypt. The Ancient Greeks and Romans also associated Artemisia with the childbirth goddess Artemis or Diana. According to some authorities, Artemis or Diana was actually a Greek and later Roman version of one of the many gizes of the mother goddess Isis of Ancient Egypt. Among the Ancient Greeks, it was from Artemis, the protector of women in childbirth and especially the baby, that the genus Artemisia gets its name. From what has been discussed above, it would not be surprising that the Egyptian and classical association of Artemisia as protector in childbirth could have developed as a relatively recent but ancient historic retention of cultural knowlege from the remote (prehistoric) past. This could arguably be said to be supported by the association of Artemisia as protective plants for women in childbirth and the baby among ancient Europeans and present day Native Americans. This association is even linked to the potentially archaic sweatbath practices among Russian, Baltic and Slavic peoples, as well as certain tribes of Native Americans far removed from recent Russian influence.

    Although Artemisia was brought into the sweatbath where babies were once born (because it was so widely used in midwifery), species of this genus were, of course, also employed in the baths for other purposes. Many parallels in the uses of Artemisia in the sweat bath outside the domain of midwifery and gynecology can also be found in Europe, Asia, and North America. Again, plants in this genus were commonly believed to protect against (or expel) almost any form of evil. Species of Artemisia worldwide are among the most commonly used protective plants (together with juniper and some others) associated with the "fear of the human dead, which, on the whole, has probably been the most powerful force behind the development of primitive religion" (George Frazer, 1922, The Golden Bough). As most species are aromatic and have fragrance, they can be considered perfumes or incenses important for smudging or fumigation and to reduce the viral or bacterial count in the air. Among the Lakota, sweetgrass is used for perfume and is burned as an incense in ceremony or ritual to induce the presence of good influences (benevolent powers), while wild sage, Artemisia ludoviciana, is burned to treat diseases by warding off demons, ghosts, and to exorcise any evil influences (malevolent powers). The dry scale leafed twigs of aromatic juniper (cedar) may be widely used for perfume and burned as an incense for both purposes. A fragrant but intoxicating incense, made from the immature leaves and inflorescence (the congested grouping of small head-like flower clusters) of Artemisia brevifolia Wall. ex DC., is inhaled by the Bhotia tribes to help endure the cold Indian Himalayan winters. Artemisia argyi, Artemisia douglasiana, Artemisia indica, and Artemisia vulgaris are known to induce lucid, conscious dreaming. However, it is often believed by several Native American tribes that species of this genus can protect one from dreaming about the dead. In European folk tradition, Mugwort was put into dream pillows to keep bad dreams away, although Artemisia verlotorum Lamotte = Artemisia dubia Pampanini (Chinese wormwood or Verlots mugwort) is the more favored aromatic herb for stuffing pillows to ensure a deep and restful sleep, because it has a stronger and more pleasant essential oil odor that lasts for many months. The intoxicating action (psychoactive effect) of various species of Artemisia may be due to the volatile, simple terpene chemicals, alpha- and beta-thujones, in the essential oil. The induction of conscious dreaming may be due to thujones possibly in combination with other chemicals.

    When used in the hot Russian steam bath, the aromatic aroma of Artemisia absinthium is claimed to act as a natural antidepressant, creating a cheerful mood. Mexicans curanderos recommend that their students or appentices hold a fresh or dried leaf of Artemisia absinthium or Artemisia ludoviciana ssp. mexicana under the tongue to enhance mental concentration and memory. Russians have reportedly used Artemisia absinthium (probably in preparations with relatively low concentrations of volatile thujone) for depression and neuroses. The Ancient Greek Hippocrates recommended this species to treat memory loss in the elderly; and this herb has been shown to have similar effects to drugs used to treat Alzheimer’s disease. Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) is native to Europe (as far north as Finland) and Siberia. Although this species and Mugwort can induce stimulating mental clarity, continued, habitual use of these plants for this purpose can (due to the volatile thujone content) cause nervous problems and convulsions. This is especially true for higher dosages or more concentrated preparations used internally. For example, the highly concentrated distilled alcoholic preparation called Absinthe, containing Artemisia absinthium or other species (with high amounts of thujone), was once found to have dangerous and addicting side effects (leading to chronic poisoning), but less concentrated ancient wines called Apsinthion, Absinthites, Abrotoninos, and Abrotonit, containing sometimes the same species, were found to be less hazardous and often considered healthful. This is also true for the more modern versions called Wermut Wein of Germany or Vermouth of Frence, now prepared predominately from the more mild Artemisia pontica L. Some forms of Genepi of the mountains of Central Europe with high alcohol content that could concentrate alpha- and beta-thujones to potentially dangerous levels are made from Artemisia umbelliformis Lam., Artemisia genipi Weber, and Artemisia petrosa (Baumg.) Jan. However, lower alcohol content Genepi can be considered much safer. The much less aromatic Artemisia glacialis L. is sometimes used, while the highly aromatic Artemisia genipi = Artemisia spicata Wulf. ex Jacq. and Artemisia mutellina Vill. = Artemisia laxa (Lam.) Fritsch are claimed to be more valued for use in liqueurs or infusions. Artemisia umbelliformis called White Genepi, sometimes Yellow Genepi, is considered one of the main symbols of the Swiss Alps, while Artemisia petrosa ssp. eriantha is commonly used for Genepi in the central Apennines, where it has become an an endangered species due to indiscriminate harvest for commercial purposes, mainly liqueur production. All the species used for Genepi are known for their digestive, eliminative, expectorant, neurotonic, sedative, and stimulating properties and are considered medicinal by mountain dwellers, which use them to stimulate the appetite and treat digestive spasms, "chills" (fever), mountain sickness, and respiratory problems.

    When the dry or water soaked Artemisia absinthium plant is placed on the hot stones, the inhaled aromatic oils or vapor are said (by Russians) to not only stimulate mental clarity but also increase sweating, help one to sweat longer, and endure hotter temperatures in the sweat bath. It may also have a similar action when incorporated into a sweat bath broom. Some Native Americans refer to brushing the body with Artemisia bundles as "putting it on," because the pleasant aromatic scent can often temporarily linger around the parts of the body where it is applied. Species of Artemisia (known to contain camphor, borneol, or related chemical compounds) can also act as a liniment, which can be enhanced by wrapping the bundles around hot rocks and applying this combination to sore or inflamed parts of the body. Enhanced liniment action may also be achieved in conjuntion with hot baths by slapping bundles gently against the skin, especially for swollen or arthritic joints and sprained or sore limbs. Many species of Artemisia with sweat inducing and pore opening action are referred to as diaphoretics or sudorifics. Teas of these species have often been drunk to induce perspiration and the opening of pores in conjuntion with hot baths, steam treatments, or sweat lodge for liver problems. Plant remedies with "warming" diaphoretic effects can often be said to act as sudorifics that affect the liver and detoxification systems due to their ability to increase perspiration, and promote toxin release through the pores of the skin. Also sudorifics are used to assist immune system and reactivity due to their ability to break a fever. The pore opening effects of sudorifics do not only assist in toxin elimination through perspiration, but also assist in entry through the pores of the medicines used in hot baths or in the medicinal steam vapors often employed in the sweat lodge. Species of Artemisia are also widely used as depuratives or eliminatives (remedies that encourage one or more of the body's eliminatory functions) for the purpose of toxin removal. Sweat induction and pore opening is often associated with peripheral vasodilation, circulatory stimulation, bronchodilation, respiratory stimulation, and "warming" expectorant action. This complex of activities is often employed in treatment of catarrh (often lung or upper respiratory congestion), fever, and hepatitis. Medicinal plants in this genus are often used to treat certain syndromes, particularly those which are sometimes referred to as 'toxic' (e.g., migraine headaches, chronic skin disease, allergies, inflammatory or other bowel disease, and, of course, constipation). These syndromes are often lumped together in the Mexican or Latin American category Bělis. Most species are aromatic, intensely bitter (a property often associated with plants used in the treatment of Bělis), and widely used internally to stimulate the appetite and treat liver and other digestive problems. In addition to the diaphoretic or sudorific and cholagogue or choleretic (bile-stimulating) activity of most of the species, chemical compounds (types of coumarins) of some of these plants that inhibit protein breakdown (highly active protease inhibitors, such as N1, N5, N10-tri-p-coumaroylspermidine from Artemisia caruifolia) have potential value in treating hepatitis caused by virus and have often been used to treat virally caused coughs, colds and influenza.

    Although it is hard to include all the medicinal details of every plant in this large genus (each species often used to treat numerous ailments), among many other properties not listed, some narcotic, analgesic and antihistamine activity has been demonstrated in at least preliminary tests of several of the species. The volatile chemical compound (-)-3-isothujone has a pain killing effect comparable to codeine; and the species called caribou leaves [Artemisia tilesii (Artemisia tillisii)], with properties similar to codeine, is reported to have been used as a native North American analgesic. Many species of Artemisia are widely used as hemostats (to help stop bleeding). Some species of the genus have azulenes of various kinds in their essential oils. Artemisia arborescens from the Pacific Northwest U.S.A. has the highest amount of chamazulene of any essential oil known with no detectable amounts of thujone. This is a deep blue-black colored high chamazulene type of essential oil of value in treatment of pimples and inflammation of the skin. Chamazulene (1,4-dimethyl-7-ethylazulene) is a specific type of azulene used widely as an anti-inflammatory and antiallergenic agent. Important properties of Artemisia useful to cardiovascular health may include antihypertensive (blood pressure lowering), antilipidemic (fat lowering), cholesterol lowering, and blood sugar lowering activity. The coumarin chemical called scoparone, identified in Artemisia tridentata and other species of the genus, has been shown to have both antihypertensive and antilipidemic or hypolipidaemic activity. The property of bitterness (associated in Artemisia with sequiterpene lactone chemicals) may in itself be responsible for benefical sugar level modulating action. When Artemisia tridentata (big sagebrush) is taken as a mild tea regularly over sustained periods of time, the bitter action in conjunction with properties useful to cardiovascular health and proper exercize may help in keeping diabetes under control. The Chinese Artemisia scoparia and the Near Eastern, North African Artemisia herba-alba have been confirmed to have similar antidiabetic actions. Artemisia absinthium is still considered one of the most powerful herbs used for the treatment of antibiotic-resistant diseases. In the past it was widely used to expel round worms. Its use in the more dangerous alcoholic beverage Absinthe was originally employed by the French to protect soldiers in North Africa from maleria and other diseases. The herb itself has been widely considered a general remedy for fever. Pronounced antimalarial and some anticancer properties have been confirmed in certain species (e.g., sesquiterpene lactone called artemisinin or related chemical compounds produced by Eastern European, Middle Eastern, and Asian Artemisia annua). The species Artemisia annua (common names: annual wormwood; sweet Annie; in Chinese, qing hao), the Mexican and US Southwestern Artemisia ludoviciana ssp. mexicana (common name: estafiatae), and some others of the genus can be used to kill the malaria organism and human cancer cells, because these cells contains lots of iron and some of the nonvolatile sesquiterpene lactones produced by these plants selectively kill cells that have an abundance of iron in them.

    The genetic link between Native Americans and Europeans (both with ancestors from Central Asia) is probably remote enough to assume that any correlation in use of Artemisia species by these two groups can be considered as an independent development (a convergence). It is more likely that these correlations are due to the close genealogical relationship between the plants (closely related plants often so similar that they share many medicinal properties in common) and much less likely due to the preservation of the cultural heritage of a remote common human ancestor in Central Asia. Even though this might be the most likely scenario, we should not lose sight of the fact that human population geneticists now have Y chromosome evidence that around 40,000 years ago the common ancestor of both Europeans and Native Americans had descendants that resided in the bountiful sagebrush grass steppes of Central Asia for 10,000 years. After the ancestors of present-day Native Americans separated from Central Asia and moved to the Arctic Circle, they may have preserved some of the tradition of their prior homeland through the use of arctic species of Artemisia found in Siberia and Alaska. Since species of Artemisia are also found in Europe, the same process could have taken place among the migrating Central Asian ancestors of Europeans. Again, migrating human populations in new and unfamiliar territories often select plants for use that are similar and often closely related to familiar resources of their prior homeland. I have only begun to test this hypothesis by observing the selection of medicinal and food plants in the Sandia Mountains of New Mexico by migrants originally from Asia. The preliminary results appear supportive. Could this have been a way by which some of the 40,000 year old medicinal heritage of Central Asia (for the use of Artemisia) was preserved among these remotely related peoples?? The connection of Artemisia with protection in childbirth and even the sweet lodge treatments during delivery could have perhaps been shared knowledge between the ancestral Europeans and Native Americans that once lived together in Ice Age Central Asia. Other correlations in the uses of Artemisia by these now widely separated "native peoples" of Europe, Central Asia, and North America are so numerous, even including common elements of ritual and several so-called superstitions, that it is hard to see how all these correlations together could have developed independently. When such a situation exists, it becomes difficult to distinguish independent development (convergence) from shared knowledge of the remote past that could have been preserved among widely separated migrating peoples. Therefore, such a possibility of shared knowledge from the remote past is conservatively treated the same as an independent development, because any common knowledge retained for such a long period of time should be expected to have similar (if not greater) statistical significance.

    Even if the "gap" between practices in more recent Europe and North America and those of prehistoric Central Asia and Siberia could be somehow bridged by archaeological evidence for the use of Artemisia in the sweat bath during childbirth, this could never be claimed to demonstrate a common origin of these practices (any more than domestication and use of the dog as a draft animal could be used as supportive evidence of a common origin of a circumpolar culture with genetic roots in Central Asia). Nevertheless, whether the link between Artemisia, childbirth, and the sweat bath was independently invented over and over again or shared by genetically linked peoples of the remote past that are now widely separated, it may provide a window into behavior that could potentially be common to prehistoric cultures over very wide geographical regions. It could also help to isolate at least one center for the development of the sweat bath, which could have occurred in Central Asia and subsequently spread to Late Paleolithic Europe and the Americas. If this link could be traced to the late Upper Paleolithic of Cental Asia, this would very likely be an example of a extremely archaic practice that occurred in the major center for species diversity of the genus. Even if developing independently in various circumpolar regions of the Old and New World, its later diffusion to warmer areas in the Northern Hemisphere would be expected to have taken place in the remote past.

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