Other names for Mugwort Cronewort, Common wormwood, wild wormwood, Felon herb, St. John’s Plant, Chrysanthemum weed, sailor’s tobacco, moxa, Artemis Herb, Naughty Man, Old man, Old Uncle Henry, Muggins
Mugwort is occasionally confused with Wormwood Artemisia absinthium. Tell the difference by examining the leaves. Mugwort leaves are green above and white below and have pointed tips and purplish stems. Wormwood leaves are silvery top and bottom and the flowers are showier.
Mugwort in Nature
Mugwort is a member of the daisy family (Asteracea) with characteristic disk flowers in panicles, (a panicle is a flower made up of many small flowers, in groups, several off the same stem) very small, reddish or greenish yellow. Unlike other members of the family Asteracea, mugwort’s flowers, and those of its other close Artemesia relatives, are not very showy or attractive, but they do give off a great deal of pollen which can aggrivate the sensitivities of anyone allergic to other members of the the Asteracea family, such as ragweed.
Mugwort can grow from three to six feet tall on an erect purple-tinged stem. The leaves are feathery, greyish-green with silvery fuzz on the bottom, deeply pinnately lobed. This herb has a rather bushy habit.
Mugwort blooms from July to September. It is native to Europe & Asia but has naturalized through much of the world. Mugwort enjoys weedy areas and waste places where the soil has been disturbed and there is plenty of sunlight.
Mugwort in the Garden
Mugwort is very hardy though it prefers nitrogenous soil and lots of sun. It spreads by an underground root system, so care must be taken that your plants don’t escape your garden to become someone else’s weeds. Do not overwater mugwort. It is drought tolerant but does not like its feet wet. Otherwise, this plant is nearly impossible to kill. You can save yourself a bit of hassle by planting it in a pot.
Harvesting and Preserving Mugwort
Harvest mugwort shortly before it flowers and hang the leafy steps upside down in a dry place away from sunlight to dry.
Collect the root in autumn. Wash and dry mugwort root thoroughly and lay it on a screen to dry. Do not let the roots touch one another or they may mold.
Mugwort Around the House
Dried mugwort added to a fire will help keep it smoldering for a long time. The stalks make good kindling.
Mugwort’s long stems and nifty leaves make great wreaths and garlands.
An infusion of mugwort, or mugwort oil is a good all-purpose cleaner and insect repellent.
Mugwort in the Kitchen
Mugwort has a slightly bitter taste. It is used to season fish and meat, especially game and is a traditional seasoning for Christmas Goose in Germany. It is also used to flavor rice cakes in Asia.
Before hops, mugwort was used to flavor beer. For this purpose, the plant should be gathered while in flower and dried before use.
Mugwort for Healing
Mugwort is a topical anesthetic with antibacterial and antifungal properties.
Fresh, crushed mugwort leaves applied to the skin relieves burning, itching and pain and, with continued application, can help get rid of warts.
It is also said that coating your skin with mugwort juice before exposure to poison oak will prevent a rash.
It is said that chewing fresh mugwort leaves will help relieve fatigue and clear the mind. A decoction of the roots was used also for this purpose.
An infusion of fresh leaves can be used for chronic stomach complaints and to stimulate the appetite.
Mugwort has also been used in Europe to induce abortions. It helps strengthen contractions and it is used in a compress to promote labor and help expel the afterbirth. It is also used to help regulate the menstrual cycle and ease painful menstruation and the onset of menopause. Use in combination with ginger in a tea to soothe difficult menstruation.
On the other hand, mugwort has also been used in China to prevent miscarriage and ease excessive menstrual bleeding.
It is used in traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine to make Moxas to cure rheumatism and to correct fetal position prior to delivery. The fluff is carefully removed and rolled into a cylinder which is heated and placed near pressure points to relieve pain. This method is called moxibustion.
Mugwort has been used for centuries for disorders and epilepsy, as it has mild sedative and antispasmodic properties.
An infusion of the dried leaves and flowers helps expel pinworms.
Mix the dry herb with honey and apply to bruises to fade them.
Infusion – 1 ounce dried herb to 1 pint boiling water. 5-10 minutes. Do not make steep for too long or it will become intolerably bitter.
Tincture- Cover four ounces of fresh herb with 1 pint 100 proof alcohol, vodka, gin or brandy. Cover and keep in a dark place, shaking several times per day for two weeks.
Do not continue to take any Artemesias for more than 1 week. Break for several weeks before taking mugwort again as regular use of mugwort can cause nervous issues.
Mugwort and Magick
All varieties of Artemesia are sacred to the Goddess Artemis who gives comfort (or death) to women in labor. Also, Diana through association and Hecate, Patron of herbalists and midwives. Mugwort is also associated with the moon which in turn is associated with the cycles of womanhood.
Mugwort is feminine in nature, associated with the element of earth, and either Venus or the Moon (depends who you ask) and ruled by either Taurus or Libra.
Mugwort can be used as a sacred smoking herb or burned as a fumigant for protection or divination. It is safe to smoke (as safe as smoking anything is) by itself, mixed with tobacco, or other smokeables in a ritual context and is said to enhance astral projection, lucid dreaming and other altered states of consciousness. Some say that simply keeping mugwort under your pillow or in your bedroom will encourage prophetic dreams. Try making a dream pillow stuffed with mugwort. If you do keep it in your bedroom, remember that it is closely related to ragweed and the flowers may trigger some allergies.
Others say you must burn it or smoke it in order to utilize its conscious-altering effects. Burn mugwort in an incense burner as you use divination tools to help open your mind to any messages coming in.
If you are not pregnant, a cup of mugwort tea before bedtime will also encourage lucid dreaming. This shouldn’t be a regular occurrence but is useful for ceremonial purposes and as an aid while learning.
Mugwort is also used in protective sachets, especially those created in relation to travel. It is said to prevent delays and other annoyances associated with traveling, as well as to protect the traveler from accidents, thieves and other dangers associated with traveling.
Mugwort stems also make very nice wands, though they aren’t very sturdy.
Use herbal water made of mugwort to cleanse ritual tools, especially those used for divination.
Hanging mugwort over or on a door will keep unwelcome energies from passing through.
A garland or girdle of mugwort can be worn while dancing around the midsummer balefire and thrown into the fire at the end of the night to ensure protection throughout the year.
Mugwort in History and Folklore
The name Mugwort is said to have come from the plant’s traditional use of flavoring beverages- you drink them out of mugs, see?
Another theory suggests that the name came from a word meaning “moth” alluding to the plant’s usefulness at keeping away pests.
Wort is an old term for “plant”, especially one of a useful nature.
Roman soldiers put mugwort in their sandals to keep their feet from getting tired.
In Holland and Germany the plant was considered sacred to John the Baptist who presumably wore a girdle of Mugwort. The plants are gathered on St John’s Eve, made into a crown and worn to protect from possession, disease and general misfortune.
Poultry and grazing animals enjoy this plant, and it may be the same Artemisia of Pontos lauded by the ancients as excellent for fattening livestock.
In Wales, mugwort was tied to the left thigh of a woman having difficult labor. But it was believed that if the mugwort was not immediately removed after the birth, she might hemorrhage.
Additional Notes and Warnings
Mugwort is considered a noxious weed in some of the United States. Check with your State’s laws before planting as some carry heavy fines for planting certain plants.
Mugwort should never be used internally during pregnancy or lactation or by anyone who has pelvic inflammatory issues as it can cause uterine contractions and can be passed through the mother’s milk.
Mugwort should not be used for more than one week continuously. Continued, habitual use of mugwort can cause nervous problems, liver damage, and convulsions.
Mugwort flower pollen can trigger hay fever attacks in sensitive people. Some people have topical allergies to mugwort. Test some on your skin before using.