Photo of Coastal Artemisia bottles of essential oil

Therapeutics of California Sagebrush: A Medicinal California Native Plant Profile

Artemisia californica

California Sagebrush

(Old Man’s sagebrush, Cowboy Cologne, Coast Sage)

Sunflower Family (Asteraceae)


Pharmaceutical name: Herba Artemisiae Californicae.

Characteristics: Plant: Very bitter, pungent, slightly sweet, aromatic, cool. Essential oil fragrance: Top and middle note, sweet, woody, pungent, camphoraceous, cool (See Appendix A). Hydrosol: Same as the oil except also slightly musty and bitter.

Channel Tropism: Stomach, Lungs, Liver, and Uterus.

Western Actions: Antifungal, antimicrobial, antioxidant, anthelmintic, aperitive, stomachic, cholagogue, antispasmodic, antirheumatic, diaphoretic, vermifuge and emmenogogue.


Traditional Chinese Medicine: Actions and Indications:

1. Invigorates the Blood and Regulates the Menses: For menstrual disorders caused by Blood Stagnation including dysmenorrhea, menstrual cramps and/or amenorrhea (especially resulting from trauma or illness).

2. Kills Parasites: For pinworms and roundworms.

3. Clears External Wind-Heat and Shao Yang stage Heat: For Heat patterns with fever (without sweat), nausea, loss of appetite and bitter taste in the mouth.

4. Diffuses the Lung Qi: For cough and wheezing (tuberculosis, bronchial disorders and asthma). Topical poultice used on the back and chest for asthma.

5. Cools the Stomach and Disperses Liver Qi: For cases of the Liver overacting on the Stomach causing Stomach Heat with patterns of nausea, loss of appetite, indigestion, stomach acidity and bitter taste in the mouth.

6. Heals Wounds and Regenerates Tissue: Topical for wounds and sores.

7. Reduces Blood Stagnation and Alleviates Pain: Topical poultice for toothache, bruises, aches and swelling.


CAUTIONS & CONTRAINDICATIONS: Contraindicated during pregnancy. Internal use is cautioned, Artemisia ssp contain a ketone, thujone, which is neurotoxic at high doses.




Patients reported their spirits were lifted with inhalation of the oil, abdominal pain alleviated by drinking the hydrosol, and body pain greatly relieved with topical application of the oil. Children drinking the diluted hydrosol (1/4 tsp in 1/4 cup water) for malaise report feeling “warm” and “happy”. The effects of drinking the hydrosol seem similar to peppermint tea. There is a marked cooling sensation in the esophagus and anesthetic effect for gastric pain. The oil and hydrosol have been useful for patients with indigestion, heartburn, irritable bowel syndrome and poor appetite.

*Note: While determining this oil’s taste/scent description I had a mild case of the twentyfour hour flu with marked stomach pain. I tasted a few drops of this oil in order to determine its taste and, amazingly, the nausea and abdominal pain I’d been experiencing was immediately resolved.



Topical treatment: To use neat (direct application without dilution) on the skin place a small drop on the arm first to test for allergy. If there is a reaction of burning, redness, or rash add 15 drops of essential oil to 1 oz of vegetable oil (such as apricot kernel, grapeseed, or hazelnut oil) and retest with the diluted essential oil. If there is another allergic reaction discontinue topical use.

1. Internal: For stomachache, fever, menstrual disorders, parasites and for lung conditions drink 2 tablespoons of hydrosol in a liter of water throughout the day.

2. Inhalation: Diffuse the essential oil through an atomizer into the patient’s room continuously for acute or chronic asthma, bronchial conditions and colds and fever.

3. Topical: (Skin test before using) For stomachache add one drop of essential oil or hydrosol to the following acupuncture points- Ren 12, St 25 and St 36. Alternatively add fifteen drops of essential oil to two tablespoons of talcum powder or vegetable oil and rub on the abdomen in clockwise direction. For fever and lung conditions apply essential oil or hydrosol to LI 4, Ren 22, Lu 5 and Lu1. For a high fever add the essential oil to warm water and sponge the patient to bring the fever down. Soreness, swellings, or menstrual cramps: Add 5 drops of essential oil or 1 oz of hydrosol to the bathwater or a poultice and soak for 20 minutes. Apply essential oil/hydrosol to Ren 3, Ren 4 and Sp 6. Chronic asthma and bronchial conditions: Apply a poultice to the back or chest by wringing out a cloth that has soaked in hot water (to which has been added fifteen drops of essential oil. Alternatively, make a decoction of the aerial parts of California sagebrush wrapped in muslin or cheesecloth and apply this leaf poultice to the back or chest.




This feathery soft silver leaved sagebrush of the Sunflower family is known for its clean refreshing scent. It is a powerful remedy for colds, parasites, roundworms, pinworms, menstrual disorders and stomachache. It is used as a bitter tonic and as a vermifuge for fleas and insects (especially useful for pets). Artemisia is used as a flower essence to cleanse and purify oneself & to release dysfunctional aspects. The essential oil aroma is very refreshing, crisp, sweet, cedar and sage-like with a camphor hint which opens the lungs and nasal passages, cleanses and cools the body’s meridians, caresses the body’s pains, and gently sweeps away the mind’s accumulated dust.




Native Americans used Artemisia californica for menstrual cramps, colds, coughs, asthma, tuberculosis, joint and muscle pain, worms and wounds. California sagebrush is considered a menstrual stimulant and was used by the Costanoan Native Americans as an herbal decoction to start a woman’s menarche, to ease childbirth, and for recovery after labor (Bean 42}. The Cahuilla Native American women used a decoction of hulvel (Artemisia californica) leaves to prepare for their very first menses and before each subsequent menses to regulate their flow throughout their menstruating years being especially useful for relieving menstrual cramps and dysmenorrhea (Bean 42). They used the tea to purify, cleanse and strengthen their bodies and to ease menopause (Bean 42). One of the most fascinating uses was to administer a decoction of Artemisia californica to newborn babies to purify and flush their systems (Bean 42). In sweathouses this herb was diffused for spiritual cleansing as well as for rheumatic pain (Bean 42). The leaves were used also as a cold remedy (Bean 42). The Costanoan Native Americans made a poultice of leaves for toothache and wounds (Bocek 25). A decoction was used as a bath for colds, coughs and rheumatism (Bocek 25). Costanoans also placed a poultice on the back and drank a decoction of California sagebrush for asthma (Bocek 25). According to Margaret Lane, the Native Americans used sagebrush for worms. The Mahuna Native Americans took an infusion of the leaves for vaginal problems (Romero 14). Early Spanish settlers used Artemisia californica as an herbal panacea for many ailments. They drank tea made from the shrub to treat bronchial conditions and used it externally as a wash for wounds and swellings. The Spanish settlers used sagebrush tea for bronchial problems and as a wash for wounds, sores, swellings, sore muscles, rheumatism, or bruises. Early miners put California sagebrush sprigs in their beds to repel fleas. A related European species of wormwood, Artemisia absinthium, is used for intestinal parasites, poor digestion, liver and gall bladder disorders and as an emmenagogue. According to R. F. Weis, the American spp of Artemisia, including Sagebrush and Mugwort, have similar properties (79). For References cited here check my Blog entitled "References".




1,8 - Cineole (24%), Artemisia Ketone (18.05%), Camphor (8.71%), Piperitone (7.60%), ⍺-thujone (4.80%), ⍺-pinene (2.56%), 

Camphor, alpha-thujone, phellandren-related substances, artemisin, santonin, lactone glycosides, monoterpene cineole. 

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