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MPSW - Artemisia filifolia

Artemisia filifolia


Taxonomy: Compositae

Common names: Silver sage, Sagebrush, Sand sage, and Sand Sagebrush

By Luz Hernandez, Anderson Manybeads (Summer 2001)

Image by Luz Hernandez


  • Most commonly recognized as sagebrush, Artemisia filifolia is a pleasantly aromatic perennial shrub with a woody texture growing to a height of two to four feet.
  • Having a deciduous habit, this light grayish-green colored shrub looses its narrow threadlike silvery leaves [7], in the fall and into the winter. The shrub has medium-to-fine texture in summer and coarse in winter.
  • The bloom period is from August through mid-September with yellow bloom colors producing copious amounts of pollen, which when briefly displayed, the white seed heads seed heads are showy. [1]
  • It is known to grow in sandy soils and is often consequently found in gullies and arroyos.
  • Artemisia filifolia grows at elevations ranging from 4000 to 6000 [11] feet in Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, parts of Texas, Utah, Wyoming, and as far north as South Dakota.

Image by Luz Hernandez


Seeds of Artemisia filifolia are extremely small and are usually sold or collected along with remnants of the foliage [2]. Because the seeds are so small, they will germinate only close to or on the surface of the seedbed. Surface sow from late winter to early summer in a greenhouse in a free draining soil, but ensure that the compost does not dry out [3]. Small seeds are sprinkled lightly so that when they germinate (within one to two weeks in a warm greenhouse) the plants will not be too close together and start to rot [2]. When large enough to handle, picked seedlings are placed into individual pots and grown in a greenhouse for their first winter and planted “out” in late spring or early summer. [3]

Image by Luz Hernandez


Grown in a well-drained circumneutral or slightly alkaline loamy soil, Artemisia filifolia prefer a warm sunny dry position--established plants are drought tolerant [13]. Plants are longer lived, hardier and more aromatic when they are grown in a poor dry soil. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus and are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer [13]. Maintenance involves pruned winterkilled branches with winterkilled shrubs removed [1].

Image by Luz Hernandez


  • The plant is a carminative [9] and stomachic.
  • A tea is used in the treatment of indigestion.
  • An infusion of the plant and juniper branches is also used in the treatment of indigestion [13]. A strong infusion of the plant is used as a lotion on snakebites.
  • The plant is also used to treat boils [13].
  • Although no reports of toxicity have been reported for this species, skin contact with some members of this genus can cause dermatitis or other allergic reactions in some people. 
  • Medicinal properties of Artemisia filifolia have not been medically or scientifically proven but rather the following information has been gathered: used to treat bile, dyspepsia, flatulence, gastrointestinal disturbances, skin ailments, snakebite, and women’s ailments [9].

Image by Luz Hernandez


  • Artemisia filifolia has a high potential for reducing wind erosion [8] and acting as a wind barrier; provides valuable forage for numerous wildlife species and occasionally livestock [14] only when forage is not plentiful.
  • The shrubs also provide important nesting and protective cover for lesser prairie chickens and other upland game birds [4].


Southwestern Native Americans have made use of Artemisia filifolia and have found their own uses as described [10]:

  • Hopi: Dermatological Aide (plant used to treat boils); Gastrointestinal Aid (infusion of plant and juniper branches taken for indigestion—simple or compound decoction) and for Ceremonial Items (plant used for ritualistic purposes)
  • Kiowa: Paper (used for drying hands and as a substitute for toilet paper)
  • Navajo-Ramah: Snake Bite Remedy (strong infusion taken in large amounts; and used as lotion for snakebites); Fodder (used as livestock feed); and Paper (very soft leaves used as a convenient substitute for toilet paper)
  • Tewa: Carminative (plant chewed or decoction taken for indigestion and flatulence); Dermatological Aid (plant used for boils); Gastrointestinal Aid (infusion of plant and juniper branches taken for indigestion; leaves chewed or decoction taken for indigestion or biliousness; poultice of plant steeped in boiling water applied to stomach); and Ceremonial Items (plant used for ritualistic purposes)

The following excerpt from Dunmire and Tierreys’ Wild Plants of the Pueblo Province quotes:

“The use of sagebrush, Artemisia filifolia, goes back a long way. A sprig of this plant was among the more-than-2,000-year-old remains excavated from Jemez Cave, and ingested sagebrush parts have been recovered at Anasazi sites in the Four Corners region. Much, much later, pioneers in Colorado made a tea from this plant treating Rocky Mountain spotted fever."


The principal uses of Artemisia filifolia are medicinal, largely owing to aromatic oils including camphor contained in its leaves. Because of its camphor content, Artemisia filifolia has been highly valued in treating colds and coughs [Dunmire and Tierrey]. The strong “cough medicine” fragrance of the plant, particularly after rainfalls, has prompted the investigation of the steam distillate of Artemisia filifolia [11].


Investigations by Sterling J. Torrance and Cornelius Steeling have studies [11] showing a relatively high percentage of steam volatile oil. The major constituents were separated by gas-liquid chromatography and identified as (-)-camphor, 1,8-cineole (commonly referred to as Eucalyptol), and isophorone. A fourth constituent was shown to be cyclobutanone(-)-filifolone [11].


Chemical Name

Biological Activities

1,8-cineole (Eucalyptol)

  • Allergenic
  • Anesthetic
  • Antiacetylcholinesterase
  • Antiallergenic
  • Antibacterial
  • Antibronchial
  • Anticholinesterase
  • Antifatigue
  • Antihalitosic
  • Antilaryngitic
  • Antipharyngitic
  • Antiseptic
  • Antispasmodic
  • CNS-Stimulant
  • Carcinogenic
  • Convulsant
  • Counterirritant
  • Edemagenic
  • Flavor
  • Fungicide
  • Gram(+)icide
  • Gram(-)icide
  • Hepatotonic
  • Herbicide
  • Hypotensive
  • Inflammatory
  • Insectifuge
  • Irritant
  • Myorelaxant
  • Nematicide
  • Neurotoxic
  • Perfume
  • Pesticide
  • Sedative
  • Spasmogenic
  • Surfactant


  • Analgesic
  • Anesthetic
  • Antiacne
  • Antidiarrheic
  • Antidysenteric
  • Antiseptic
  • Antispasmodic
  • CNS-stimulant
  • Cancer-preventive
  • Convulsant
  • Cosmetic
  • Counterirritant
  • Decongestant
  • Deliriant
  • Epileptigenic
  • Fungicide
  • Herbicide
  • Insect-Repellent
  • Insectifuge
  • Irritant
  • Nematicide
  • Pesticide
  • Respirainhibitor
  • Respirastimulant


Biological activity unknown


Biological activity unknown


[1]        Artemisia filifolia Detail (aff). June 11, 2001.


[2]        Artemisia species. June 13, 2001.


[3] June 29, 2001.


[4]        Cannon, R. W.; F. L. Knopf. 1981. Lesser prairie chicken densities on shinnery oak and sand sagebrush rangelands in Oklahoma. Journal of Wildlife Management. 45:521-524.

[5]        Dunmire, W. and Tierrey, G. Wild Plants of the Pueblo Province. Museum of New Mexico Press. Pp. 150-152.

[6]       FEIS.  


More in-depth information was obtained from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (2001, May). Fire Effects Information System.

[7]        Granite Seed. June 5, 2001.


[8]        Hagen, L. J.; L. Lyles. Estimating small grain equivalents of shrub-dominated rangelands for wind erosion control. Transactions of the American Society of Agricultural Engineers. 1988. Vol. 31. 769-775.

[9]        Johnson, Timothy. CRC Ethnobotany Desk Reference. CRC Press LLC. 1999. pp 76 with Preface.

[10]     Native American Ethnobotany Database. June 11, 2001.


[11]     New Monoterpenes from Artemisia filifolia (Torrey). Structure, synthesis, rearrangements, and biosynthesis. Torrance SJ, Steelink C. J Org Chem 1974 Apr 19; 39 (8); 1068-74.

[12]     Sagebrush Control, G80-510-A. June 13, 2001.


[13]     Sand sage Artemisia filifolia Plants at June 29, 2001.


[14]     Sandsage. June 5, 2001.



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Updated February 13, 2008

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