A Writers Guide to Mugwort

Mugwort Plant

Mugwort Plant

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.

Particulars

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

Mugwort Leaves

Mugwort Leaves

Notes

  • 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.

History

  • 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.
Mugwort Flowers

Mugwort Flowers

Lore

  • 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.

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References:
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17 Comments

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  1. Hi Holly – fascinating history about the plant and associates of mugwort …I knew some of it – but as it is H day – I'm glad it means happiness and good luck – we all need these now … cheers and have a good week – Hilary

    http://positiveletters.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/h-is-for-horse.html

    1. There is even more history and lore on mugwort. I didn't know just how much until I started researching it.

  2. Thanks for clearing up the source of mugwort's common name. I've always wondered how a beautiful name like Artemisia could devolve into mugwort!

  3. I have wormwood in my fridge. Didn't know it was the same thing. Neato.

    1. They are and they aren't in the sense that there are so many varieties.

  4. This is going to sound crazy but I've wanted to grow mugwort ever since I first watched Practical Magic. I love growing unusual herbs, as well as the common ones.

  5. At first I thought this was going to be something about Harry Potter.

    Sounds like a potentially useful plant.

  6. Funny how it ended up with such a name. Thanks for the details. I had no idea!

  7. Interesting folklore on mugworts–thanks for sharing. Does it have anything to do with the inevitable squirrel uprising or the sudden outbreak of werehermitcrabs?

  8. A fascinating post. I do like saying its name. I do wonder how it would taste in beer. One of my friends works at a local brewery, and they're always brainstorming about different things to try in their beers.

  9. That is one freaky-bleaky plant. It's like it does everything and then some. I can't help wonder if JK Rowling used it to come up with the names Hogworts and Muggles. Very cool info. Thanks & have a great Easter!

  10. mugwart is such a great fantasy name! and i'll be tossing some on a firepit if I can find some!

    ps – I added my answer to the "character" question – I had the hardest time wording it, so I'm sure it confused others too!
    Thanks for playing =)

  11. The botanical name has much more oomph to it, like Artemis–goddess of the hunt. 🙂 Like a few other people here, I too thought of Harry Potter when I saw the name. I like the lore of keeping the baddies away.

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