Herb Profile: Mugwort

Botanical Name: Artemisia vulgaris

Family: Asteraceae

Common Names: Mugwort, Motherwort, Cronewort, Gypsy’s Tobacco, Muggar, Maidenswort

Identification: an erect, slightly downy and aromatic perennial which grows to 60-120cm tall with reddish stems which when broken contain a white pith. The leaves are 5-8cm long and pinnate: dark green and hairless above, but silvery white-cottony below. The flowers grow in erect racemes in a leafy panicle

Parts Used: Flowering tops & leaves, Root

Edibility & Nutrition: Mugwort is edible, and can be eaten raw in salads or added to soups. It has more historical use as a beverage, drunk dried as a tea or brewed into beers and ales.

Growing & Harvesting:  A very common wayside plant found on roadsides and waste grounds across most of the British Isles. Mugwort is best harvested while still in flower, but before going to seed, ideally at full moon. Its leaves before coming into flower could be mistaken for deadly Wolfsbane (Aconitum napellus), so while harvesting be sure to look for the silvery underside of the leaves, or wait until the plant is in flower. It is a fast growing perennial herb which can tolerate many different soil conditions and is easily cultivated.

Medicinal Actions: Bitter tonic, Carminative Emmenagogue, Nervine Tonic, Stimulant

Qualities: Aromatic Bitter, Warming & Drying

Uses:

  • Mugwort is an aromatic bitter herb, used for increasing digestion by stimulating digestive & bile secretions as well as helping to expel wind & relieve bloating
  • As a mild nervine action it can ease depression and tension, especially where associated with digestive weakness. By improving circulation to the nerves and muscles it is slightly invigorating
  • Mugwort used to be known as ‘Motherwort’ referring to its action on the uterus. Since at least the 1st Century Mugwort has been used to promote normal menstrual flow, especially where there are irregular cycles or the period is absent. Mugwort acts strongly on the uterine & pelvic regions – increasing circulation, moving blood and removing stagnation. It has been used for violent menstrual cramps, to facilitate labour or encourage the afterbirth.
  • Mugwort has long been associated with ‘intuition, creativity, dreaming & the arts’ It shines in the moonlight and is said to aid dreaming & protect from nightmares.

History & Folklore:

  • Mugwort has a long history of use globally, and is featured in the materia medica of Ancient Greece, Chinese medicine & Ayurveda as well as Traditional Western Herbalism. In an Ancient Anglo-Saxon medical text ‘the Charm of the Nine Worts’ it was called ‘yldost wyrta’ – the Oldest of Plants, and in several cultures is known as the ‘mother of herbs’
  • Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) is named after Artemis, the Greek moon goddess and patron of women. This herb was considered protective for women & travellers.
  • An old Scottish saying tells us that “If nettles were used in March, and Muggins in May, many a bra’ lass wouldna turn t’clay”
  • Mugwort used to be used to brew beer, before the use of Hops became popular. It was often combined with Yarrow, Bog Myrtle & Heather.
  • Infinite uses in the house: dried leaves used as a substitute for tea,  flavoured beer, protected clothes from moths, strewn around to repel fleas or burned to keep insects at bay, smoked in lieu of tobacco
  • Herbalist Simone Melanie of Solar Ripe Herbs uses Mugwort to ‘find what she is looking for’, often smoking it while out looking for a particular herb

Preparations:  Smoking mixes, smudge sticks. Tinctures, dried infusion, fresh infusion.

Doses: 1-4ml three times a day (1:5 in 25%), or an infusion three times a day

Active Constituents:  Volatile oils (linalool, 1,8-cineole, B-thujone, borneol, a- and b-pinene), sesquiterpene lactones, flavonoids, coumarin derivatives, triterpenes

Cautions & Contra-indications:

As a member of the Daisy family (Asteraceae), Mugwort could cause a sensitivity reaction in people who are allergic to the Asteraceae family.

This is a medium strength herb. It contains a volatile oil called thujone which is cumulatively toxic.  Do not exceed normal doses or use for a prolonged period of time. It is contraindicated in pregnancy & breastfeeding due to its emmenagogue properties and thujone content.

                                         

Mugwort smudge sticks made by Simone Melanie of Solar Ripe Herbs

References:

Bruton-Seal Julie & Matthew (2008) Hedgerow Medicine

Hatfield, Gabriella (2009) Hatfield’s Herbal: The Curious Stories of Britain’s Wild Plants

Hoffman, David (2003) Medical Herbalism

Homes, Peter (1999) The Energetics of Western Herbs: Volume One

Wood, Matthew (2007) Earthwise Herbal

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