Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) is one of the commonest weeds in northern Europe. It held an important place in herbals as a ‘women’s herb’ and as remedy for stomach disorders in both food and medicine.
Small reddish or pale yellow wooly flowers on short reddish or purplish stems with shiny green, pointed leaves. The roots are long, tough and brown with inner white flesh. The plant grows up to 1.5 m.
Habitat and Distribution
This European and Asian native is naturalised in North America and Canada, and has been introduced to Iceland. Mugwort is found growing along roadside verges, waste places and fields.
Parts Used For Food
Young shoots, flower buds, flowers, stems and leaves.
Summer to autumn.
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Mugwort can be used as an aromatic herb added to soups, stews or stuffing for meat dishes, or infused as a tea. The herb is said to improve digestion.1,2 The young stems can be added to salads and the leaves or shoots can be cooked as a vegetable.3,4
The plant is rich in vitamin C and unsaturated fatty acids.5,6
Traditional Medicine Uses
Mugwort is sometimes referred to as the ‘women’s herb’ because it was used to promote menstruation and induce childbirth.7 Another common use for the plant was to treat stomach disorders, including stimulating the appetite, easing nausea or curing worms.8,9
Mugwort is sometimes used as an ingredient in perfumes and soaps.1 It has also been used as an insect repellant. The Irish smoked the leaves as a substitute for tobacco, which was said to stimulate poor appetites.2
Mugwort should not be used during pregnancy because it can promote menstruation.
1. Hatfield, G. Hatfield’s Herbal. Allen Lane, Penguin Books. London, 2007.
2. Jackson, PW. Ireland’s Generous Nature. The Past and Present Uses of Wild Plants in Ireland. Missouri Botanical Garden Press. St Louis, Missouri, 2014.
3. Couplan, F. The Encyclopedia of Edible Plants of North America. Nature’s Green Feast. Keats Publishing. Connecticut, 1998.
4. Kermath, BM, Bennet, BC, Pulsipher, LM. Food Plants in the Americas: A Survey of the Domesticated, Cultivated, and Wild Plants Used for Human Food in North, Central and South America and the Caribbean.
5. Kuhnlein, HV, Turner NJ. Traditional Plant Foods of Canadian Indigenous Peoples.Nutrition, Botany and Use. Springer. London, 1991.
6. Carvalho et al. Fatty acids profile of selected Artemisia spp. plants: Health promotion. Food Science and Technology.
7. De Cleene, M, Lejeune, MC. Compendium of Symbolic and Ritual Plants in Europe volume 1: Herbs. Man & Culture Publishers. Belgium, 2003.
8. Grieve, M. A Modern Herbal. Tiger Books International. London, 1996.