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Home Plant Lore Mugwort


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SEPTEMBER: MUGWORT – Artemisia Vulgaris

Mugwort Description and Habitat: Mugwort is a perennial plant that abounds in most parts of England. It is found in hedgerows, ditches, alongside roads and in fields of many farming crops. The downy, grooved, angular stems are dark purple and grow from 1 to 5 feet or more tall and bear alternate, coarsely toothed leaves that are green on top and downy beneath. These leaves produce a pungent aroma when crushed. Its flowers are small, greenish yellow to brown, and grow in spikes from July to October. A number of species of butterflies and moths feed on the leaves and flowers.

Common names: Artemis Herb, Artemisia, Common Mugwort, Felon Herb, Muggons, Naughty Man, Old Man, Old Uncle Henry, Sailor's Tobacco, St John's Plant, Chrysanthemum Weed, Wild Wormwood.

The Genus name Artemisia is from the Goddess Artemis who was the Goddess of the Hunt, Wild Animals, Childbirth, Virginity and Young Girls. Many of the plants in this genus heal the female reproductive system.

Mugwort is often said to derive from the word "Mug" because it was used in flavoring drinks and particularly beer before the introduction of hops. Until recent years, it was still used in some parts of the country to flavour the table beer brewed by cottagers. Other sources say Mugwort is derived from the old Norse “muggi”, meaning "marsh", and the Germanic "wuertz", meaning "root".

The Old English word for Mugwort is "mucgwyrt". "Mucg-" could be a variation of the Old English word "mycg" meaning midge or a variation of the Old English “moughte” meaning a moth or maggot, both of these derivations possibly referring to its use since ancient times as an insect repellant. Wort comes from the Old English "wyrt" (root/herb/plant) which stems from the Old High German "wurz" (root) and the Old Norse "urt" (plant). Mugwort is called chornobylnik in Ukraine, and has given its name to the abandoned city of Chernobyl (Chornobyl in Ukrainian). The name chornobyl means "place where Mugwort grows" in the related Indo-European languages.

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.

Therapeutics and Pharmacology: Mugwort has been used to relieve painful menstruation and bring on delayed or irregular menstruation. Its sedative properties have been used to aid epilepsy and it has also been used as a stimulant to lift depression and as a laxative. Its most frequent use was for the digestive system to expel intestinal worms and treat liver and digestive disorders. Bruises and chilblains were also treated by a poultice of Mugwort and it has also been used to treat nausea, headache, arthritis and gout.

Folklore: Mugwort is an ancient herb. Know to have been used in Ancient Egypt and Greece, Anglo-Saxon tribes believed that Mugwort was one of the nine sacred herbs given to the world by the God Woden. There are several references to the Chinese using Mugwort in cuisine and the famous Chinese poet Su Shi in the 11th century mentioned it in one of his poems. There are even older Chinese poems and songs that mention Mugwort that can be traced back to 3 BC.

Native Americans rubbed the leaves on their body to keep ghosts away or would wear a necklace of Mugwort to prevent dreaming of the dead. In the Middle Ages a crown made from Mugwort was worn on St. John's Eve to gain security from evil possession and in Holland and Germany it was believed that if gathered on St. John's Eve it gave protection against diseases and misfortunes.

Sheep are said to enjoy the herbage of the Mugwort and also the roots. The plant may perhaps be the “Artemesia of Pontos”, which was celebrated among the ancients for fattening these animals. It is said to be good for poultry and turkeys.

Still widely used throughout the World today, in Europe it is used as an aromatic culinary herb and in particular in Germany it is used to season goose, especially the roast goose traditionally eaten for Christmas. It is also used in Korea as a common ingredient in rice cakes, teas, soups, and pancakes and as a blood cleanser. Widely used in Japan to make desserts and sweets, it is also hung outside homes to keep evil spirits away. In Chinese medicine today, Mugwort, known as Ai ye or Hao-shu is highly valued as the herb used in moxibustion, a method of heating specific acupuncture points on the body to treat physical conditions. Mugwort is carefully harvested, dried and aged and then shaped into a cigar-like roll. This "moxa" is burned close to the skin to heat the specific pressure points. It has been used in this way to alleviate rheumatic pains aggravated by cold and damp circumstances. Mugwort has also been used in various size cones that are places on the skin directly or on top of a herb or some salt and burned.

Mugwort is considered a magical herb, with special properties to protect road-weary travellers against exhaustion. The Romans planted Mugwort by roadsides where it would be available to passers-by to put in their shoes to relieve aching feet and also protect them from sunstroke, evil spirits and wild beasts. For that reason, St. John the Baptist was said to have worn a girdle of Mugwort when he set out into the wilderness. Equally, a garland or belt of Mugwort can be worn while dancing around the fire during summer solstice celebrations, with the herb then being thrown into the fire to ensure continued protection throughout the coming year.

Some of the magic in Mugwort is in its reputed ability to protect against nightmares and induce prophetic and vivid dreams when the herb is placed near the bed or under the sleeper's pillow and it is also reputed to give lucid dreams and hallucinations if drunk as a tea or smoked. Mugwort added to a bath is a good relaxant.

Contraindications: As this herb stimulates the uterine muscle it must not be used by pregnant women. Care should also be taken in its use as ingestion of Mugwort for 10 consecutive days can result in illness and sometimes death.


Last Updated on Sunday, 03 October 2010 18:11  


#1 Catherine 2010-09-21 12:29
Malcolm... I love this! I definately need some near the bed, the gate and possibly in my shoes as I dart (figuratively) about the garden. Excellent history!



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