Mugwort – A Foraging Guide to Its Food, Medicine and Other Uses

Mugwort is one of the commonest weeds in northern Europe.

It held an important place in herbals as a ‘women’s herb’ and as a remedy for stomach disorders in both food and medicine.

Scientific Name

Artemisia vulgaris

Family

Asteraceae.

Botanical Description

Small reddish or pale yellow woolly 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.

Status

Perennial. Introduced.

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.

Harvest Time

Summer to autumn.

Food Uses

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

Nutritional Profile

The plant is rich in vitamin C and unsaturated fatty acids.5,6

Mugwort Recipes

Herbal 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

Other Uses

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

Cautions

Mugwort should not be used during pregnancy because it can promote menstruation.

Further Reading

References

  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.

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  1. I love this plant. I like to make wild crackers using yellow dock “flour” and the seeds of Artemisia vulgaris I roll onto the dough before baking. Adds a nice flavour! I’ll have to give your mugwort jelly a try – sounds good!

    Reply
  2. Hi Robin Always enjoy your emails…just graduated myself in Western Herbal Medicine, but of course a new kid on the block as far as herbs are concerned. I was drawn to your information on Mugwort. I am currently taking liquid extract herbal mix for a horrible mosquito born virus called Ross River Fever and my research has lead to the herb Artmisia annua (sweet wormwood)..assume this is in the same family as Artesmia vulgaris?.Rumour has it that North Korean soldiers during the Korean was were given it to combat malaria with great success. Hope it works for me too. Can you shed any further light on this?…Thanks in advance.

    Reply
  3. Hi Robin, I’m a newbie here and I’ve greatly enjoyed reading your beautifully described meeting with Lady M! I have just planted a bunch of young Mugwort plants grown from seed, and I can’t wait to see what will they be like. I’m experimenting with growing wild plants which I can’t find when foraging. Lady M sounds a bit scary but I will get to know her better 🙂 gotta try the jelly too. Thanks for sharing. Gabriella

    Reply
  4. Hello like minded friends, My Japanese accupuncturist tells me that tradition is to shave the underside of the mugwort leaves and use this to burn at the other side of needle that is inserted into skin, very long process, that is rarely used now days because it is so time consuming.

    Reply
  5. HI Robin, have you come across Mugwort called Croneswort and where that came from? It is a powerful plant and to call it Mugwort seems derogatory. I prefer to call it Croneswort.

    Reply
    • Mugwort is not derogatory. It’s an old English word meaning ‘midge-plant’ because it was believed to repel midges. The Soviets and Nazis loved trying to rewrite history to fit their worldview. Just sayin’.

      Reply
    • Hi Julia, there is an linguistic explanation, that mug comes from the celtic “miegle” = to warm/ heat up. Heat as life-force would make it more a kind of “powerwort”, which pays tribute to a powerful herb 🙂

      Reply
  6. I have been smoking this herb to help get a deeper sleep on the weekends, as well as to relax me. I originally used pre-collected herbs, but I am collecting some as we speak, to dry it myself. I also noticed in a book I was perusing today that it helps with depression and tension, both of which also apply to me.

    Reply
  7. I have loved the artemesia family for many years now – I smoked mugwort when I was younger have been drinking it as tea recently good to learn I can eat the leaves as spinach .

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  8. I would love to know how to eradicate this from my garden , have been dealing with it for 40 years. We’ve sprayed it with round up , covered it with black plastic and baked it for a year and it still goes some where else in the garden. It has totally taken over some flower beds. I never planted it to my knowledge, it must have come in a plant from a friend. Any hints. Google calls it the plant from hell

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    • consider it a gift, the natives say the plant that grows freely nearest our residence, is the one we most need to consume.

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      • I have understood the above and I have also read that it was planted by Herbalists to advertise their profession. So if you were looking for a Herbalist you would look for this plant. I have been reading and looking at plants for over twenty years now and it appeared in my garden about fifteen years ago and I asked myself will this plant help relieve some of my health issues and what is this plant trying to communicate to me.

        Reply
  9. Hi Karen. There’s an abundance of dandelions where I live. (Also one of the Asteraceae genus). They are also herbal bitters and every part can be eaten. I take them and purée them and strain the juice and drink. I feel they help my digestion and give me energy. I suffer chronic fatigue. I also dry winter roots and brew tea from them and add the dried leaves to the tea in winter. The winter roots are said to be more therapeutic. I drank this tea whilst using aubergine extract topically to heal two melanomas. One on my nail bed and one on my abdomen. Both are gone. I also cultivate artemisia annua in a tub and harvest and dry the leaves for clearing intestinal fungi and parasites along with ground clove and black walnut hull powder. My brothers brew wines and meads from the flowers, which takes almost a year to clear for drinking. They call it a tonic and claim it is well well worth waiting for. I love adding the petals and leaves to salads. I let it take root in my garden and harvest regularly. I also love going over the park and picking the best leaves. I’d love to find mugwort and need to examine closely what it looks like. I may buy seeds to start some off and get it growing in our parks.

    Reply
  10. Sixteen years ago, I was pregnant with a breech baby, and went to a local Chinese clinic in Cambridge for moxibustion, with some skepticism.

    The practitioner put needles in my little toes and burned sticks of “moxi”, then left me in the room for a bit, charged me £15 and sent me home.

    That night the baby turned: it woke me up as it was very weird indeed, like an internal earthquake. I looked up what she had been burning after that, and found that English midwives had used the same herb as the Chinese for the same purpose for centuries.

    Reply
  11. Hi! Been working with mugwort and noticed that in the most recent batch i foraged the leaves turned black or dark after / within an hour or two after i pulled them off of the stem…

    Is this normal? I was gonna make Aimee smudge sticks, and i use it for tea as well, but concerned on wether i should consume these.

    These are wild mugwort branched far from pollution or from any chemical additives.

    I look forward to your reply and thank you in advance!

    Reply

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