Herb Profile: Mugwort

ArtemisiaVulgarisBotanical Name: Artemisia vulgaris

Family: Asteraceae 

Common Names: Mugwort, Liath-lus (Gallic), Common Wormwood, Sailor’s Tobacco, Old Man, Old Uncle Henry, Naughty Man, Chrysanthemum Weed, St John’s Plant

Identification: It can be found throughout Europe, eastern North America, North Africa and western Asia. In Britain it is a very common weed, found on most roadsides. It has dark green leaves, which are silvery white underneath, and small yellow or reddish flowers during July and September.

Growing: Easily grown in well-drained, neutral or slightly alkalkine soil. Prefers a sunny position. The plants live longer, and more hardy and more aromatic when grown in poor dry soil.

Parts Used: Aerial parts

Qualities: Warming and drying, aromatic

Medicinal Actions & Uses:  Antibacterial, antifungal, stimulant, digestive, aromatic, tonic, nervine, diuretic, diaphoretic, emmenagogue 

  • As a bitter, aromatic digestive herb, mugwort stimulates digestive and bile secretions, and so it enhances nutrition.
  • Matthew Wood writes that mugwort can be used to enhance feminine instincts of creativity, intuition, art and dreams, or as a restorative to female nature when this has been damaged
  • An an emmenagogue, mugwort can bring on a delayed period 
  • In Chinese herbalism, fibres from the leaves of Mugwort are rolled into sticks and burned over cold, stiff joints and cold areas to increase warmth & circulation in a process called ‘moxibustion’.

History and Folklore: 

It is said to have derived its name from its use flavouring drinks. It was used along with other herbs like Ground Ivy to flavour beer before the introduction of hops.

In the folklore of the Middle Ages, the herb was known as cingulum sancti – St John’s Girdle, as St John the Baptist was rumoured to have worn a girdle of mugwort whilst in the wilderness.

In Ancient times mugwort was named Mater Herbarum (mother of herbs), and was sacred to the Anglo Saxons. The Lacnunga, the old herbal of the Anglo Saxon healers, said of mugwort: “eldest of worts, thou hast might for three, and against thirty, for venom availest, for flying vile things, might against loathed ones that through the land rove.”

The city of ‘Chernobyl’ means city where Mugwort grows.

Active Constituents: Thujone, volatile oil, resin, tannins, flavonoids, coumarin derivatives

Contra-indications: Thujone can be toxic in large doses or after prolonged usage. Pregnant women should avoid consuming large doses of mugwort.


Carr Gomm Philip & Carr Gomm Stephanie (2007) The Druid Plant Oracle, Connections Book Publishing, London

Mrs Grieve’s Modern Herbal [online] www.botanical.com

Plants for a Future   www.pfaf.org

Rowan Remedies www.rowanremedies.com/herb/artemisia-vulgaris-mugwort/

Wood, Matthew (2008) The Earthwise Herbal: A complete guide to old world medicinal plants, Berkley, California: North Atlantic Books


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