Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) Info Article by Krystal Thompson

Common Names: Felon Herb, St. John’s Plant, Chrysanthemum Weed, Wild Wormwood, Old Uncle Henry, Sailor’s Tobacco, Maiden Wort, Chinese Honeysuckle.

Credit to Krystal Thompson

Description/Taxonomy: Artemisia vulgaris is a member of the daisy family Asteraceae, also sometimes called Compositae. It is a tall-growing plant (between three and six feet when mature) that is native to Europe and Asia but has been naturalized through much of the world. Mugwort propagates easily from small fragments of rhizome, and by this process it has spread rapidly and become an aggressive weed in Canada (10). Mugwort likes weedy areas or places where the soil has been disturbed, but always where there is plenty of sunlight.

Mugwort is commonly found growing in dense stands on  hedge banks and waste places. The stems are angular and often have a purplish hue, with once or twice pinnately lobed leaves that are dark green on top and covered with a dense cottony fuzz on the underside. When in bloom, Mugwort flowers in small, oval-shaped reddish or pale yellow heads. Mugwort is similar in appearance to common Wormwood, but distinguished by its leaves only being white on the underside, and its leaf segments being pointed rather than blunt

Artemisia, mugwort, wormwood, and sagebrush. Isolated.

History: One of Mugwort’s common nicknames, St. John’s Plant, comes from the belief that John the Baptist wore a girdle of Mugwort in the wilderness for protection (2). The actual name Mugwort however is often attributed to its historical use in flavoring drinks, specifically in beer (often with other herbs such as Ground Ivy) before the use of hops became common practice at the end of the 15th century. For this purpose, fresh Mugwort was gathered when in flower, dried, decocted in malt liquor, then added to finished beer. Another theory about the source of this plant’s name is from the Greek word moughte, meaning moth or maggot. Like Wormwood, Mugwort was known for its success in repelling moths (1). The botanical name Artemisia is that of the Greek goddess of the hunt, fertility, and the forests and hills

Essential oil of mugwort wormwood [Artemisia vulgaris ] in a small brown bottle, fresh sagebrush branches on a dark wooden table

Parts Used: Leaves, root, flowering tops. Interestingly, the cottony down underside of the leaves is sometimes sought exclusively. This is harvested by heating the leaves and rubbing them between the harvester’s hands until the cottony fibers alone remain. These fibers are then formed into small cones or cylinders for topical use (1). See Medicinal Uses below for more on this!

During the Dragon Boat Festival, mugwort is usually hung on the door, which is used to ward off evil spirits and to drive away mosquitoes.

Cultivation and Harvest: The flowering tops of Mugwort should be collected as soon as they bloom, as this is the height of volatile oil concentration (10). Mugwort leaves should be collected before the plant flowers and dried like Wormwood: spread into fan shapes so the leaves dry evenly, then tied into bundles and hung in open air. Though Mugwort’s aromatic properties are not quite as potent as Wormwood’s, it is still good practice to hang the bundles in a shady space protected from direct sunlight; this will ensure preservation of the aromatic properties. Mugwort roots are dug in autumn and immediately washed in cold water to be separated from rootlets. Roots should be well spread out before left to dry, as contact could promote mold growth. They should be dried in a warm room for about ten days and turned frequently. Once they appear a bit shrunken and shriveled, the drying process must be finished artificially in a drying room or near a stove or fire. The drying process is not complete until roots are dry all the way through and brittle; they should snap when bent (1).

Dragon boat festival poster, with cute Chinese dragon holding delicious rice dumpling, Chinese translation: Duanwu, 5th May in lunar calendar

Herbal Actions: Anthelmintic: expels parasitic worms and other internal parasites without harming the host. Diaphoretic: induces perspiration. Diuretic: promotes urine production. Emmenagogue: stimulates blood flow in the pelvic area and uterus; some stimulate menstruation. Nervine: benefits the nervous system, in this case as both a stimulant and tonic nervine. Oneirogen: enhances dreaming. Stomachic: promotes the appetite or aids digestion.

Freshly picked mugwort and dried mugwort.

Constituents: Roots contain tannin, inulin, resin. Volatile oil contains over one hundred identified components including cineole, camphor and thujone. The flowers contain beta-sitosterol, coumarins, and alpha and beta-carotene. Study of a crude extract yielded alkaloids, coumarins, flavonoids, saponins, sterols, and terpenes.

Artemisia Vulgaris branch isolated on white

Mugwort seeds, leaf & plants are available here  on this site most times


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Author: Henry