Mugwort

Mugwort
Artemisia vulgaris

Family  Asteraceae (aster)
Genus  Artemisia
Species vulgaris

Synonyms and Common names: Artemis Herb, Artemisia, Common Mugwort Felon Herb, Muggons, Naughty Man, Old Man, Old Uncle Henry, Sailor's Tobacco, St John's Plant

Description and Habitat: Mugwort is a perennial plant. The downy, grooved stems are black, grow from 1 to 5 feet tall and bear alternate, pinnate leaves that are green on top and downy beneath. The leaflets are linear to spatulate and coarsely toothed. In addition, there is a basal rosette of pinnate leaves that survive the winter. Is found in waste places, ditches, bushy areas, along roadsides and in fields of many farming crops. Its flowers are small, greenish yellow to brown, and grow in spikes from July to October.

Parts used:  leaves and root

Collection and preparation:  The leaves and flowering stalks should be gathered just at blossoming time, usually between July and early September, the root is gathered after the flowering time in late autumn. The root is washed and dried, and the leaves and flowering stalks dried in a dry and dark and warm place.

Constituents: Volatile oil containing cincole and thujone; a bitter principle, tannin, resin, inulin.

Actions:  Bitter tonic, stimulant, nervine tonic, emmenagogue, anti-bilious, laxative and sedative.

Indications: Delayed and painful menstruation, Irregular menstruation, Indigestion, Nausea accompanied by headache, Depression, Liver or digestive disorders, Nervousness, run down. Arthritis and gout, Intestinal worms. Bruises and chilblains.

Therapeutics and Pharmacology: Mugwort relieves painful menstruation, and can bring on delayed or irregular menstruation, it stimulates the uterine muscle.  Mugwort lifts depression and its sedative properties can be of use for aiding epilepsy. Its greatest aid is probably that of the digestive system, where it will expel intestinal worms, calm a nervous stomach and aid digestion through the bitter stimulation of the juices. Bruises and chilblains can be helped by a poultice of Mugwort.

Contraindications: As this herb stimulates the uterine muscle it must not be used by pregnant women.

Preparation and dosage: The volatile oil in Mugwort is an essential part of its healing properties, so care must be taken during preparation, so as not to loose this valuable oil.

Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1 to 2 teaspoons of the dried herb and leave to infuse for 10 to 15 minutes in a covered container to preserve the volatile oil. Drink 3 times a day, Mugwort can be used as flavouring in aperitifs, a pleasant way to take this herb.

Tincture: take 1 to 4ml of the tincture three times a day.

Compress: Mash the herb and place on the skin for bruises and chilblains.
As an aid to fatigue, pick the flowering tips of Mugwort which you will easily find in many hedgerows and along the side of the road, chew them thoroughly and your tiredness will dissipate as the aromatics clear the mind.

Additional comments & Folklore: Mugwort is an ancient herb, its common name dates from Anglo Saxon times and is from Old English ‘muggiawort’, meaning midge plant, it was used to repel insects, and the herb is still today plucked and added to flowers in the house to keep away house flies and other insects.

The Name Artemisia is from the Goddess Artemis (1st century AD) who inspired the plants genus name, because of its abilities to heal the female reproductive system.

Used by people all over Europe, China and in the Americas. A fascinating use of Chinese Medicine in pregnancy is its role in turning a foetus that is presenting breech, i.e., feet first.
The treatment uses Mugwort (called moxa in China). Moxabustion is the burning of the herb moxa and the application of the generated heat to certain acupressure points. For turning the foetus the meridian point is located on the outside corner of the nail on the little toe.

The preparation of moxa uses the downy leaves of the herb which the Japanese use to cure rheumatism. The down is separated by heating the leaves and afterwards rubbing them between the hands until the cottony fibres alone remain, these are then made up into small cones or cylinders for use. This cottony substance has also been used as a substitute for tinder.

It has long been used to revive weary travellers and is said to protect them against evil spirits and attack by wild beasts. Roman soldiers placed it in their shoes to help aching feet.

William Coles in The Art of Simpling (1656) says “If a footman put it into his shoes in the morning he may go 40 miles before noon and not be weary”

Smudge sticks can be made from any species of Artemisia: Pick the tops of the herbs just before the flowers open, pick pieces about 6” long and let them dry for a day or two. Gather them into a bundle about 1 inch across and bind them together with cotton thread. Do not use synthetic fibre. To use, set fire to the end, blow the flames out and let the bundle smoulder.

It is said that if you place Mugwort under the pillow it will bring focus to dreams and help protect against nightmares.

In Native American folklore Mugwort was also a Witchcraft medicine, rubbed the leaves on ones body to keep ghosts away or wearing a necklace to prevent dreaming of the dead.

In the middle Ages a crown made from its sprays was worn on St. John's Eve to gain security from evil possession. Mugwort was often used to flavour drinks like beer before the introduction of hops.

Around seventy years ago the dried leaves of Mugwort were in use by the working classes in Cornwall as one of the substitutes for tea, at a time when tea cost 7s. per lb.

On the Continent Mugwort is occasionally employed as an aromatic culinary herb,
being one of the green herbs with which geese are often stuffed during roasting.