(לִעֲנָה, laannch, of uncertain etymology; Sept. πικρία,χολή, ὀδύνη, and ἀνάγκη; Vulg. amaritudo, absinthium) is, doubtless, the correct translation of the Heb. word, which occurs frequently in the Bible, and generally in a metaphorical-sense, as 2. De 29:18, where of the idolatrous Israelites it is said, "Lest there be among you a root that beareth wormwood" (see also Pr 5:4). In Jer 9:15; Jer 23:13; La 3:15,19, wormwood is symbolical of bitter calamity and sorrow. Unrighteous judges are said to "turn judgment to wormwood" (Am 5; Am 7; so in 6:12, "hemlock"). 'In like manner the name of the star, which, at the sound of the third angel's trumpet, fell upon the rivers, was called Wormwood (Α᾿ψινθος; Re 8:11). The Orientals typified sorrows, cruelties, and calamities of any kind by plants of a poisonous or bitter nature. Some other plants have been adduced, as the colocynth and the oleander, but without anything to support them; while different kinds of artemisia and of wormwood are proverbial for their bitterness and often used in a figurative sense by ancient authors.
"Parce, precor, lacerare tuum, nec amara patemis Admiscere velis, coe mnelli absinthia, verbis" (Paulin. Ep. Ad Ausonium). Celsius has, no doubt that a species of artemisia, or wormwood, is intended: "Hanc plantami amaram in Judsean et Arabia copiose nascentem, et interpretum auctoritate egregie suffultam, ipsam, esse Ebraeorumלענה, pro indubitato habemus." That species of artemisia are common in Syria and Palestine is well known, as all travelers mention their abundance in particular situations; but as many of them resemble each other very closely in properties, it is more difficult to determine what particular species is meant. It is probable, indeed, that the name is used in a generic rather than a specific sense. Artemisia is the botanical name of the genus of plants in which the different species of wormwoods are found. The plants of this genus are easily recognized by the multitude of fine divisions into which the leaves are usually separated, and the numerous clusters of small, round, drooping, greenish-yellow, or brownish flower-heads with which the branches are laden. It must be understood that our common wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) does not appear to exist in Palestine, and cannot, therefore, be that specially denoted by the scriptural term. Indeed, it is more than probable that the word is intended to apply to all the plants of this, class that grew in Palestine, rather than to any one of them in particular. The examples of this genus that have been found in that country are —
1. Artemisia Judaica, which, if a particular species be intended, is probably the absinthium of Scripture. Rauwolf found it about Bethlehem, and Shaw in Arabia and the deserts of Numidia plentifully. This plant is erect and shrubby, with a stem about eighteen inches high. Its taste is very bitter; and both the leavies and seeds are much used in Eastern medicine, and are reputed to be tonic, stomachic, and anthemintic.
2. Artemisia Romana, which was found by Hasselquist, on Mount Tabor (p. 281). This species is herbaceous, erect, with a stem one or two feet high (higher when cultivated in gardens), and nearly upright branches. The plant has a pleasantly aromatic scent, and the bitterness of its taste is so tempered by the aromatic flavor as scarcely to he disagreeable.
3. Artemisia abrotanum, found in the south of Europe, as well as in Syria and Palestine, and eastward even to China. This is a hoary plant, becoming a shrub in warm countries, and its branches bear loose particles of nodding yellow flower-heads. It is bitter and aromatic, with a very strong scent. It is not much used in medicine, but the branches are employed ill imparting a yellow dye to wool. The species most celebrated in Arabian works on materia medica is that called shih, which is conspicuous for its bitterness and for being fatal to worms; hence it has been commonly employed as an anthelmintic even to our own times. This seems to be the same species which was found by Liauwolf in Palestine, and which he says the Arabs call scheha. It is his "Absinthium santonicum, scheha Arabum, unde semen lumbricorum colligitur," the Absinthium santonicum Judaicum of Caspar Bauhin, in his Pinaz, now Artemisia Judaica, though it is probable two or three species yield the Sermoni santonicum, or wormwood of commerce, which, instead of seed, consists of the tops of the plants, and in which the peduncles, calyx flowers, and young seeds are intermixed. Artemisia maritima and Judaica are two of the plants which yield it. See Kitto, Phys. Hist. of Palest. p. 215; Celsius, Hierob. 1, 480; Rosenmüller, Bibl. Bot. p. 116; Calcott [lady], Script. Herbal, p. 542.