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Palinotaxonomic studies have proved to be valuable both in the systematic subdivision at the species level and in the phylogenetic evaluation of the genus Artemisia (Solomon 1983). From a morphological point of view, a palinological comparison has made it possible to differentiate Artemisia campestris ssp. campestris and A. campestris ssp. borealis, two very similar varieties from Piedmont, north-west Italy (Caramiello et al., 1987; 1990; Caramiello and Fossa 1993-1994).

From the point of view of sex determination and expression, the most heterogeneity among the genera can be found in Cotula and Artemisia, which, except for gynodioecious forms (in which individual plants have either female or hermaphrodite flowers), have representatives in all the sex classes, including monoclinous (hermaphrodite), gynomonoecious (plants have both female and hermaphrodite flowers), monoecious (plants have both male and female flowers) and diclinous dioeceous (plants have male or female flowers) species.

Karyology

The most common base chromosome number of the Anthemideae is n = 9, but n = 8, 10, 13 and 17 also occur. Few cases of dysploidy have been observed (Mitsuoka and Ehrendorfer 1972). The best known examples of descending dysploidy are those found in the annual species of the Pentzia globifera group with n = 8, 6 and in Artemisia with n = 9, 8. Polyploidy occurs quite widely in the tribe and is especially marked in Leucanthemum, in Cotula (in the section Leptinella) and in Artemisia, where polyploidy is regarded as one of the main evolutionary mechanisms (Oliva and Vallès 1993). In Artemisia genus the diploid chromosome number goes from 14 to 110 (Heywood and Humphries 1977).

Division into Subtribes

Traditionally, the Anthemideae have been divided into two subtribes, the Anthemidineae Dumort. and the Chrysanthemineae Less. (Lessing, 1832), on the basis of the presence or absence of receptacular scales. For many genera this subtribal division is quite workable, but on the other hand the artificiality of the scale character has been demonstrated for many other groups and genera of the tribe. In her survey of the Asteraceae, Poljakov (1967) recognized six subtribes in the Anthemideae, based principally upon the informal groups of Bentham - the Anthemidineae, the Anthanasineae, the Chrysanthemineae, the Artemisineae, the Seriphidineae and the Oligosporineae. A relatively more recent analysis and grouping of the whole tribe is that of Reitbrecht (1974). On the basis of anatomical studies of the cypsela (the dry, single seeded fruit), Reitbrecht suggests that the generic assemblages of the Anthemideae can be arranged into seven provisional groups, among which the "Artemisia gruppe" includes Artemisia, Crossostephium and their allies.

The subdivision into subtribes however is unsatisfactory and has varied, as shown above, from a traditional two-subtribe split based on "artificial" characters to the informal recognition of five, six, or more generic assemblages.

So far the combined data from cypsela studies, phytochemical investigations, embryological analyses and cytological studies and breeding systems together with gross morphological studies have provided useful insights into the relationships of some of the principal genera, particularly the northern hemisphere Anthemis and Chrysanthemum complexes and parts of other genera such as Achillea, Artemisia, Dendranthema and Cotula (Heywood and Humphries 1977). Other revisions of the tribe arrangement have followed or are still in the course of definition; relevant references have been reported in following paragraphs.

Molecular Systematics of the Tribe

The Anthemideae Cass, is the seventh largest tribe in the Asteraceae, it is mono-phyletic and composed of 109 genera and 1740 species (Bremer and Humpries 1993). L.E. Watson, (1996) has undertaken a study of the restriction site of the chloroplast genome (cpDNA phylogeny) to evaluate phylogenetic relationships among the tribe. Watson's results support the monophylogeny of the subtribes, with a strong concordance between the molecular and morphological phylogenies. Dendranthema (DC.) Des Moulins, Artemisia L. and Seriphidium (Besser) Poljakov, form a monophyletic clade (branch), corresponding to the subtribe Artemisineae of Bremer and Humphries (1993).

ARTEMISIA - THE GENUS Morphological and Taxonomic Aspects

As reported by Tutin and Persson (1976) the 400 species of Artemisia share the following common morphological characters:

Herbs or small shrubs, frequently aromatic. Leaves alternate. Capitula small, usually pendent, racemose, paniculate or capitate inflorescences, rarely solitary. Involucral bracts in few rows. Receptacle flat to hemispherical, without scales, sometimes hirsute. Florets all tubular. Achenes obvoid, subterete or compressed, smooth, finely striate or 2-ribbed; pappus absent or sometimes a small scarious ring.

They are mostly perennial herbs and shrubs dominating the vast steppe communities of Asia, the New World and South Africa. Artemisia is a highly evolved genus with a wide range of life forms, from tall shrubs to dwarf herbaceous alpine plants, occurring in a variety of habitats between Arctic alpine or montane environments to the dry deserts. Many species are not always well known and a world revision of the genus, from a systematic point of view is needed, starting from the big available bulk of regional, sectional and species group accounts (Heywood et ah, 1977 and refs. cited therein).

Asia seems to show the greatest concentration of species with 150 accessions for China (Hu 1965), 174 in the ex U.S.S.R. (Poljakov 1961a) and about 50 reported to occur in Japan (Kitamura 1939, 1940). Tutin and Persson (1976) recognize 57 species for the European region and 30 or so New World species are reasonably well documented (Clements and Hall 1923; Ward 1953; Beetle 1959, 1960).

The first rational and natural arrangement of the genus was given by Besser (1829), and a major part of his work was included in the text of De Candolle (1837) and Hooker (1840). Besser divided the genus into four sections based on fundamental differences in the floral structure (Table 2).

Phylogenetically, Abrotanum and Absinthium represent the more primitive sections, while Dracunculus and Seriphidium are the most advanced (Clements and Hall 1923).

Some taxonomists have elevated Besser's sections to the subgenus level (Kelsey and Shafizadeh 1979; Poljakov 1961b) and reduced the number of subgenera to three, by combining Abrotanum with Absinthium to form the subgenus Artemisia, which was further divided into three sections: Artemisia, Abrotanum and Absinthium (Poljakov 1961b).

The shrubby members of the subgenus Seriphidium endemic to North America have been recognized as being closely related, distinct from the Old World Seriphidium and grouped together in the section Tridentatae of the subgenus Seriphidium (Kelsey and Shafizadeh 1979). Many authors have not accepted this assignment and McArthur and Plummer (1978) have argued that the New World Tridentatae and the rest of the New World Seriphidium species should be considered as separate taxonomic entities. A similar more or less close relationship among different species of the section Abrotanum, was recognized by Kelsey and Shafizadeh (1979), who grouped them in the subsection Vulgares.

Table 2 Besser's division of Artemisia (extracted from Kelsey and Shafizadeh 1979).

Morphological characters

Section

1. Heads heterogamous, the marginal flowers pistillate

2. Central flowers fertile, with normally developed achenes

3. Receptacle not hairy 3. Receptacle long hairy

2. Central flowers sterile, their achenes aborted

1. Heads homogamous, marginal flowers absent

1. Abrotanum

2. Absinthium

3. Dracunculus

4. Seriphidium

Kelsey and Shafizadeh (1979) have given a detailed chemotaxonomic review of the sesquiterpene lactones isolated from species of the genus Artemisia. They tried to solve or at least to provide answers to the systematic problem of the species grouped by Keck in the subsection Vulgares to understand whether they are a distinct group in the subgenus Abrotanum, while considering also the problem of the origin and relationship of the subgenus Seriphidium of the section Tridentatae.

According to Kelsey and Shafizadeh (1979), there are no chemical characteristics supporting the subdivision of Artemisia species into the two subgenera Abrotanum and Absinthium, since both produce eudesmanolides and guaianolides, that are identical from a qualitative point of view and are biosynthetically related. Such a statement should confirm the demonstration that the presence of hairs on the floral receptacle is an artificial character at the genus level as well as at the subtribe level and suggests that the two subgenera could be combined into one (Artemisia) as formerly proposed by Poljakov (1961b).

The species belonging to the subsection Vulgares arose as a phylogenetically closely related group, having a chemotaxonomic profile similar to but not entirely distinct from other New World Abrotanum species.

The subgenus Seriphidium, which is composed of two geographical groups, one in the Old World and one in the New World (Tridentatae), seems to be polyphyletic, with a striking separation between the species belonging to the section Tridentatae of the Americas, which produce guaianolides, which appear very similar and structurally related those produced by the New World Abrotanum species but which are absent in the Old World Seriphidium species. Therefore the Tridentatae may have originated from ancestors in Abrotanum rather than from the Old World Seriphidium and should be recognized as a subgenus separated and distinct from the latter (Kelsey and Shafizadeh 1979).

An excellent study with respect to the solution of the unsatisfactory intrageneric division of the genus Artemisia, has been done by Belenovskaja (1996), in her recent work dealing with the taxonomic value of flavonoids at the subgeneric level. She has demonstrated that flavonoid data support subdivision of the genus into three subgenera: Artemisia, Dracunculus and Seriphidium. The occurrence of a large number of 6-methoxyflavonoids in Artemisia correspond well with the postulated advanced position of the entire genus in the Asteraceae (see below for further discussion).

Thereafter the distribution of different types of flavonoids reflects the best subdivision of subgenera into taxonomic groups or the so called Krascheninnikov's series (Krascheninnikov 1948, 1958). A link is suggested, through the comparative analysis of data, between the species of the section Absinthium and the Tridentata group of North American species of Seriphidium. Data confirmed the Krascheninnikov's division of the subgenus Artemisia, with its sections Artemisia, Abrotanum and Absinthium, in several taxonomic series.

The subgenus Seriphidium, subdivided in the Flora of USSR (Poljakov 1961b), into two sections, Junceum and Seriphidium, showed a flavonoid distribution which correlates well with the division of the subgenus into six sections and 16 subsections, as proposed by Filatova (1986).

All these arguments support the possibility of applying flavonoid and other chemical data to the solution of the different taxonomic problems, concerning the complex phylogenetical relationships at the intrageneric and interspecific level of the genus Artemisia.

Geological and Evolutionary History

The traditional criteria used for establishing the initial appearance of a taxon in a geologic record are 1) the identification must be certain; 2) the fossil must be contained within the rock; 3) it must be indigenous to the rock; and 4) the age of the rock must be known (Graham 1996).

The geological history of the Asteraceae is strongly linked to that of the genus Artemisia and of particular interest here is that the most convincing early fossils of the Asteraceae include Artemisia pollen of the late Oligocene of central Europe, Artemisia fruits and seeds from Poland (middle Miocene), and Artemisia pollen from eastern and western North America, of the late Miocene and late Oligocene, respectively.

If the oldest reports of Asteraceae are accepted, the family would be represented in the Eocene of central to southern South America, with the Mutisieae and the AHH complex (Astereae-Heliantheae-Helenieae et al.) as the oldest tribes, followed by the Artemisia type of the late European Oligocene (Graham 1996).

Until recently, general consensus placed the origin of the genus Artemisia in central Asia with subsequent migration to North America through the Bering Land Bridge (Clements and Hall 1923; McArthur and Plummer 1978; Stebbins 1974; McArthur 1979). However, the biological evidence points to Eurasia as the centre of origin.

Most of the species are present in the Old World compared with only about 50 in North America. The two genera Chrysanthemum and Tanacetum, the nearest and least specialised relatives of Artemisia as well as other genera in the tribe Anthemideae, grow predominantly in Eurasia and Africa (McArthur 1979). Artemisia species may have migrated from the Old World through most of the late Tertiary and periodically during the Pleistocene when the Bering Land Bridge was present (Hopkins 1967), thus providing sufficient time for the origin and dispersal of the present Tridentatae in North America. However, taking into account what is reported by Graham (1996) on the eastern and western coasts of North America, it is not possible to exclude the New World as a centre of evolution of the genus.

Pharmaceutical and Economic Uses

The biological and therapeutic applications of the plants of the Asteraceae are the result of popular tradition and of systematically conducted chemical and pharmacological research. In addition to drugs known since antiquity, from plants such as Chamomilla, Cynara and Sylibum, there are many other species in the family which have found therapeutic applications due to their antihepatotoxic, choleretic, spasmolytic, anthelmintic, antiphlogistic, antibiotic or antimicrobial activity. Wagner (1977) in his detailed review on the pharmaceutical properties of Asteraceae, has also pointed out the eminent role played in this regard by the genus Artemisia.

Antibiotic, fungistatic and insecticidal agents

In Wagner's work Artemisia capillus is referred to as a valuable source together with Carlina acaulis, of polyacetylenes as well as of capillin, which possesses significant antibiotic action against dermal mycoses (Shulte et al., 1967).

The presence of santonin, a sesquiterpene lactone with antihelmintic activity, has been reported in Artemisia cina (Wagner 1977) and in Artemisia coerulescens L. ssp. cretacea. Water soluble extracts from A. cina possess a strong larvicidal activity against Culex pipiens L., an arbovirus human disease carrying mosquito (Aly and Badran 1995).

Tests on the antifeedant and insecticidal properties of Artemisia absinthium extracts, have been run in the field for the biological control of some important crop pests, e.g. against Crocidolomia binotalis, the cabbage webworm (Facknath and Kawol 1993). The volatile constituents of the green parts of Artemisia princeps var. orientalis have both phytotoxic and antimicrobial activity and also inhibit radicle elongation of receptor plants and markedly inhibit the growth of Bacillus subtilis, Aspergillus nidulans, Fusarium solani and Pleurotus ostreatus (Yun et al., 1993).

The essential oils of several Artemisia species have been found to exert other biological activities (Janssen et al., 1987). For example, studies undertaken at the Scottish Agricultural Center at Auchincruive focusing on the antimicrobial nature of volatile oils revealed that the oil of A. afra (also known as African wormwood), which contains a mixture of monoterpenes, is active against bacteria such as Acinetobacter calcoaceticus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Brevibacterium linens, Yersinia enterocolitica, and many others including Escherichia coli (Deans and Svoboda 1990). The essential oil of A. herba-alba inhibited the asexual reproduction of Aspergillus niger, Penicillium italicum and Zygorrhynchus sp. (Tantaoui-Elaraki et al., 1993). In some cases a direct relationship has been found between the presence of an oil constituent and its biological activity, as in the case of eugenol, cis-ocimene and a-phellandrene from the oil of A. dracunculus, which significantly inhibited the growth of most of the microrganisms mentioned above, including Staphylococcus aureus and Proteus vulgaris (Deans and Svoboda 1988).

Pharmacological properties and clinical experimentation

Scoparone (6,7-dimethoxycoumarin), a coumarin isolated from the well known hypolipidaemic Chinese herb, Artemisia scoparia, shown to possess vasodilator and antiproliferative activities, with free radical scavenging effects in vitro, has been tested in vivo using hyperlipidaemic diabetic rabbits and shown to have an antiatherogenic action, consisting of a reduction of plaque formation and of the plasma cholesterol level (Chen et al., 1994). Extracts from the same species were shown to contain Ca2+ channel blocker-like constituents, capable of in vivo hypotensive and bradycardiac effects, confirming the spasmolytic properties ascribed to A. scoparia in Chinese folk medicine (Gilani et al., 1994). Other spasmolytic effects, consisting of a strong smooth muscle relaxing activity have been ascribed to four flavonols isolated from Artemisia abrotanum L. (Bergendorff and Sterner 1995). Hypoglycaemic effects, similar to those of A. scoparia, with consistent reduction in blood glucose level and with minimal adverse side-effects, have been demonstrated for Artemisia herba-alba aqueous extracts, after oral administration (Alkhazraji et al., 1993).

A sulphated polysaccharide purified from the crude fraction of the leaves of Artemisia princeps Pamp. was shown to be effective in the acceleration (6000 fold), of the formation of thrombin-HC II complex in human plasma, thus representing a novel pharmacological molecule, with a mode of action quite distinct from that of heparin (Hayakawa et al., 1995).

Cytoprotective agents, such as dehydroleucodine of Artemisia douglasiana, have been found to prevent the formation of gastric lesions (Guardia et al., 1994).

Cytotoxic agents

Costunolides (sesquiterpene lactones) with antitumoral activity have been isolated from Artemisia balchanorum (Herout and Sorm 1959). Several terpenoids and flavonoids, isolated from Artemisia annua, showed significant cytotoxic activity when tested in vitro on several human tumour cell lines; among them artemisinin and quercetagetin proved to be responsible for the action observed on five of the tumour lines tested (Zheng 1994). Immunomodulatory activity of solvent extracts of the air-dried aerial parts of A. annua has been demonstrated, through a study of their in vitro effects on human complement and T lymphocyte proliferation (Kroes et al, 1995).

Antimalarial activity

Artemisia annua L. (annual wormwood) is a herb of Asiatic and Eastern European origin, that has also become naturalized in the United States of America and is the source of the traditional Chinese herbal medicine Qing Hao, which has been used for over 2000 years to alleviate fevers.

The species has received considerable attention because of its antimalarial properties. The plant activity has been established to be due to artemisinin (qinghaosu) a cadinane-type sesquiterpene lactone endoperoxide, present in the aerial parts (Klayman et al,

1984), whose semisynthetic derivatives, artemether, arteether and artesunate are effective against multi-drug resistant malaria caused by Plasmodium falciparum and against the life-threatening complication, cerebral malaria (White 1994).

Currently, efforts are being made to make these drugs available world-wide and in order to meet the industrial demand for it, many research programmes have started, focusing on the selection and cloning of high-artemisinin yielding chemotypes of A. annua (Ghan et al., 1995). A review of recent agricultural techniques to improve yields from cultivated plants is also available (Laughlin 1994); see also chapter 10.

At the present time, the total synthesis of artemisinin is not yet economic for large-scale production, and so alternative approaches for improving the economics of drug production are under study, through the extraction of artemisinin related sesquiterpenes from A. annua plants and their subsequent conversion into artemisinin semisynthetically (Gupta et al., 1996). Among these artemisinic acid is the most promising.

Many researchers world-wide are involved in the elucidation of the chemical pathways of the biosynthesis of artemisinin and related compounds from 14C precursors, both in vivo and in cell free systems (Sangwan et al., 1993).

Delgado (1996), analysing the bioactive constituents of some Mexican medicinal Asteraceae, hypothesized the presence of an artemisinin analogue, presumably in minor amounts, in Artemisia ludoviciana Nutt. ssp. mexicana, following the observation that extracts of this species inhibited Plasmodium berghei, thus stressing once more the importance of world biodiversity preservation.

Current research programmes for the improvement of high-producing artemisinin varieties and clones may lead to the development of successful techniques for the in vitro culture of A. annua plants.

The search for high yielding artemisinin plants led to the selection of chemotypes of A. annua showing the highest percentages of artemisinin (0.42%), when plants were twelve to thirteen weeks old (Chan et al., 1995), whereas the combined concentration of artemisinin and its intermediates artemisinic acid and artemisinin B was particularly high (1.35%) in some Indian A. annua (Gupta et al., 1996).

Bitter substances and liqueurs

Although bitter substances occur widely in the Asteraceae, only Artemisia absinthium (wormwood) and Cnicus benedictus are important in pharmacy and the food industry. The bitter taste of A. absinthium is due to the guaianolide lactones, absinthin and anabsinthin. The pharmaceutical usefulness of these bitter drugs is due primarily to their stimulation of stomach secretions, which is the result of reflex nervous activity. Furthermore, release of gastrin causes an increase in stomach acidity (Wagner 1977); the great popularity of absinthe for the preparation of aperitifs (e.g. vermouth) is largely due to the aromatic substances that it also contains. Vermouth wines are prepared predominantly from Artemisia pontica L. Since absinthe liqueurs are prepared from Oleum Absinthii, they contain considerable quantities of thujone, which in large doses is toxic, and can lead to chronic poisoning. The biological action of some Artemisia oils has been directly experienced by humans. Thujone, a typical monoterpene of some Artemisia species, causes chronic poisoning so that preparations of the liqueur absinthe from root extracts of A. absinthium are banned in several countries (Wagner 1977). In this plant the total thujone content {a- + /3-thujone derivatives) may reach concentrations up to 60% of the total oil, and for those reasons several attempts have been done to select for low thujone A. absinthium chemotypes (Lawrence 1992). The bitter substance absinthin from A. absinthium also has insecticidal and larvicidal properties (Javadi 1989).

Another aromatized alcoholic beverage, which has a long tradition in northern Italy is "genepi", a strong flavoured liquor extracted from A. umbelliformis, A. genipi and A. petrosa and containing a- and /3-thujones as the characteristic compounds in GC profiles (Appendino et al., 1985).

Spices and flavouring agents

Apart from absinthe, only Artemisia dracunculus (tarragon) and Artemisia vulgaris (mugwort) are of economic importance, owing to their aromatic smell and taste. They are used to season salads, mayonnaise, gravies, fish dishes, pickled gherkins, and in the preparation of tarragon vinegar.

A. dracunculus L. together with A. pontica L., A. vallesiaca All. and A. mutellina Vill., in order of economic importance, are actively grown in Piedmont, a northern Italian region with a long tradition of aromatic plant cultivation. A. pontica and A. vallesiaca are exclusively grown for the dry herb production, to be employed for drinks and alcoholic beverages flavouring, while A. dracunculus is almost totally cultivated for its essential oil, in the food and perfumery industry (Chialva 1985).

Ethnobotany and Paleoethnobotany

The Asteraceae have been used for food, medicine and crafts since very ancient times, but only when sufficient skill was developed in agricultural techniques were these plants introduced into cultivation. Starting from the available archaeological evidence, consisting mainly of carbonised fruits, and less commonly waterlogged plant remains or, more rarely, of well preserved mummified specimens, it has been possible to identify different centres of diversity for cultivated Asteraceae (Nunez and De Castro 1996).

Among those concerning the genus Artemisia, we may note Artemisia capillaris Thunb. from the Chinese and Japanese centre, which has been cultivated occasionally as a medicinal plant and Artemisia dracunculus L. (tarragon) which is widely cultivated in central Asia as a condiment. The latter species consists mainly of two polyploid strains, the "Russian tarragon" a fertile decaploid and the "French tarragon", a sterile tetraploid vegetatively propagated. Hybrids between these strains have been described (Nunez and De Castro 1996).

All over the Mediterranean area shrubby Artemisia L. species have been cultivated as garden plants on account of their medicinal properties. The use of wormwood in the Roman period is well documented by Dioscorides for Pontus and Cappadocia in Turkey (Berendes 1902; Gunther 1968) and is most likely represented from Artemisia pontica L. Achenes of Artemisia species with a distinct longitudinal striation on the surface were found in samples from refuse deposits in Syria, dated back to the Bronze age. The cultivation and use by Spanish Muslims of several Artemisia (A. absinthium L., A. chamaemelifolia Vill. and A. arborescens L.) and Tanacetum L. species as insecticide and insect deterrent is well documented in the Medieval period (Nunez and De Castro 1996 and refs. cited therein).

Recipes confirming the use of A. absinthium in Italy during the Roman period, have been reported by Wittmack (1903). Mention of the latter and of other Artemisia species, and their use in Classical antiquity, can be found in Theophrastus and Hippocrates. It seems that wormwood was associated during Talmudic period with the use of gall to alleviate the sufferings of condemned and sick persons.

The cultivation and gathering of Artemisia species for medicinal and magical purposes was common among the natives of the Canary Islands, during the so called Guanche period. Achenes of Artemisia absinthium and A. abrotanum L. have been found in sites of the Medieval period as weed components of British cereal crops (Nunez and De Castro 1996 and references therein). Artemisia vulgaris L. achenes dating back to the Neolithic and Iron age are a very common finding in France.

In Germany, Albertus Magnus recorded the properties of many species of Asteraceae in his book of medicinal plants, including Artemisia absinthium, A. abrotanum and A. vulgaris (Biewer 1992), and similar data has been reported from other European territories including Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Denmark, Finland and Sweden.

Shah, (1996) describes the genus Artemisia as one of the largest and most difficult taxa to understand under an ethnobotanical point of view. The medicinal use of Artemisia spp. was introduced into the Indian Himalayas by different cultural and ethnic groups who entered this region in the past coming from Mediterranean and Arabian regions. Artemisia nilagarica (C.B. Clarke) Pamp. (syn. A. vulgaris sensu Hook.f.) is the most common species found in earlier Indian literature. It was used as a decoction and infusion for the relief of nervous and spasmodic afflictions by Himalayan people. The plant was used also for magical purposes; it was traditionally kept at front doors and under pillows to discourage evil spirits and ghosts, and the aerial parts were used in festivals for worshipping or offered to the local divinity (Shah 1996 and references therein). The essential oil is also finding its place in the indigenous perfumery industry. The use of Artemisia as incense has perhaps evolved in this region, and it is still used for this purpose by placing the immature leaves and inflorescences as dried material on burning charcoal in a special bowl. The preference of the immature plant parts over the mature ones is probably due to the higher content of thujone and 1,8-cineole, whose psychoactive properties could help people to forget severe cold conditions and the other hardships of the region (Shah and Thakur 1992).

A detailed description of the ethnobotanical research of different regions of Catalonia, Spain, is given by Vallès et al. (1996), where the authors refer to the medical properties and uses of A. absinthium L., A. campestris L., A. chamaemelifolia Vill., A. verlotiorum Lamotte and of A. vulgaris L.

China is a country with an old ethnobotanical tradition; each of its 56 nationalities has accumulated a wealth of experience in the utilization of plants, including about 500 species of Asteraceae used as medicinal plants. About 100 species are used in Tibetan medicine and those are mainly from the genera Artemisia L., Saussurea, Taraxacum, Inula, Ligularia and Cremanthodium Benth. (Huang and Ling 1996).

In the dietetic and medical traditions of Chinese ethnobotany, some species are used for specific folk customs. For example, in the Dragon Boat Festival on 5th of May of the Lunar Calendar, people like to hang the mugwort, Artemisia argyi or A. indica and Acorus calamus L. at the door. The herbs are thought to ward off evil spirits or at least to drive the harmful insects away, owing to their essential oil content. Mongolian nationals often use the roots, stems and leaves of Artemisia brachyloba to make a special national tea, banderol gan tea instead of Camellia tea, which is also a good drug for curing indigestion. In China government officers, experts and the public pay close attention to the development of food resources, industrial materials, sustainable energy and medicines from plants. The effective constituents of more than 240 species of Asteraceae have been analysed for medicinal properties, and about 86 chemical constituents have been identified from some species of Artemisia and Saussurea.

The number of Artemisia species used in China as medicinal, food (wild edible plants), forage, aromatic, nectariferous and oil producing plants is impressive (Huang and Ling 1996).

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Aromatherapy Ambiance

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