Mugwort is a common name for several species of aromatic plants in the genus Artemisia. Artemisia vulgaris is the species most often referred to as mugwort. The photos and most of the information refers to this variety.
Mugwort is a tall herbaceous perennial plant that grows 3 to 6 feet tall. It has long, dark green, pinnate leaves with dense white hairs on the underside. The redish-purple stems are grooved. Clusters of dark red or yellow flowers peak out of a small oval involucres (a specialized leaf) that are also covered in white hairs.
Botanical Name: Artemisia vulgaris
Common/Folk Names: Common Wormwood (not the wormwood used for absinthe [Artemisia absinthium]) Chrysanthemum Weed, Cronewort, Felon Herb, Naughty Man, Old Man, Old Uncle Henry, Sailor’s Tobacco, Wild St. John’s Plant (not St. John’s Wort), and Wild Wormwood
Life Cycle: perennial
Habitat: weedy areas, roadsides, fields, meadow, seashores and lakeshores, and wastelands with full sun
Blooms: mid-summer to early autumn
Smell: strong, herbal (similar to sage)
Taste: slightly bitter
- Beginning in the Iron Age, mugwort was used to flavor beverages (including beer before hops). It’s thought the name mugwort is derived from this use (drinks with this plant served in mugs). Wort is an old term for plant.
- Mugwort oil contains thujone, which is toxic in large amounts or taken over prolonged periods.
- It’s often considered a weed and an invasive plant.
- The plants attract butterflies and moths.
- Mugwort was used in Europe to induce abortions, help expel the afterbirth, and regulate the menstrual cycle. Conversely, mugwort was used in China to prevent miscarriage. I suspect they are different mugwort varieties.
- In traditional Chinese, Japanese, and Korean medicine, Chinese mugwort (Artemisia argyi) is used for moxibustion (a form of heat therapy), and for a large variety of health issues. I mention this because it shows up in a lot of mugwort searches and the plant variety is the distinction.
- It’s been used as a digestive to alleviate gas and bloating.
- Mugwort has been used as a topical anesthetic and in antibacterial and antifungal applications.
- Fresh, crushed mugwort leaves relieves burning, itching, and pain when applied to the skin.
- Chewing fresh mugwort leaves helps relieve fatigue and clear the mind.
- An infusion of the dried leaves and flowers helps expel pin worms.
- Regular use of mugwort can cause nervous issues, liver damage, and convulsions.
- Mugwort pollen can trigger hay fever attacks.
- Dried mugwort added to a fire will help keep it smoldering for a long time.
- Roman soldiers put mugwort in their sandals to keep from getting fatigued.
- In China, it was hung over doors to keep evil spirits out.
- In Holland and Germany, mugwort was gathered on St John’s Eve and made into a crown to protect the wearer from possession, disease, and general misfortune.
- It’s one of the Old English herbs used in the Nine Herb Charm (10th century). The charm was to treat poisoning and infection.
- It’s used to season fish and meat.
- It is also used to flavor rice cakes, soups, and salads in parts of Asia.
- Carrying some in the pocket will safeguard the wearer from poison, wild beasts, and sunstroke.
- Placing some in the home or over the threshold prevents fae, elves, and evil creature from entering.
- A bundle placed under the pillow will bring peaceful sleep. It also aids in lucid dreaming and astral travel.
- Mugwort tea aids with divination.
- Thrown on the Midsummer (Summer Solstice) fire will ensure protection for the coming year.
- Mugwort is used for cleansing ritual tools.
- Spells and rituals use mugwort for strength, psychic work, protection, prophetic dreams, healing, and astral projection.
In the Language of Flowers, it means: happiness; good luck
This is a reference for fiction writers and should not be taken as medical or spiritual advice.
Encyclopedia of Folk Medicine: Old World and New World Traditions by Gabrielle Hatfield
images from WikiCommons: plant-H. Zell, flowers-H.Zell, leaves
series logo image by openclipart.org, awesome colorization by me!