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This tall annual herb is famous for two quite distinct attributes. It is regarded as the most promising new medicine for malaria in over 300 years. It is also a favourite of craftspeople because of its sweet, spicy lingering fragrance and its versatility in flower arrangements.
Sweet Annie is a bushy plant that is native to southeastern Europe and northern Africa. It grows 3 to 9 feet tall and has tiny greenish yellow flowers in loose panicles that develop along the branches in late summer. Although living for only a single growing season, it usually acts like a perennial because it self-sows so readily.
Known in China as qing-hao, it has been used in treating malaria and fever since the seventh century. In the 1970s, a Chinese woman scientist, Professor Youyou Tu, who was researching anti-malarial medicines extracted a compound from Artemesia annua called artemisinum, which later earned her a Nobel Prize in medicine. Many African countries utilize the herb in its natural form for its anti-malarial properties and it is also catching on as a possible preventative for Covid viruses. Herbalists value it as well for its effectiveness against diarrhea, indigestion and certain bacterial diseases.
Sweet Annie leaves can be brewed to make a pungent but pleasant medicinal tea.
Artemesia annua is a sun lover that is adaptable to many soil types. Seeds can be started in warm flats two months before last frost by barely pressing them into the potting mix or they can be sown directly in the ground in May. It can take 3-4 weeks for the feathery-leaved seedlings to appear. The plants should eventually be spaced 2-3 feet apart so they can grow to be full and well branched.
Sweet Annie’s most common home use is in crafts. It foliage makes an excellent base filler in wreaths and an admirable component of bouquets and arrangements. Its appealing, intoxicating scent is more pronounced during humid weather and it is often hung in bathrooms where the damp air will release its fragrance.