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Mugwort is one of our commonest weeds, with around 250-300 species in northern Europe, including wormwood, southernwood and the common mugwort.
As a group of plants, mugworts held an important place in antiquity. They were dedicated to Artemis in Greek mythology or to her equivalent Diana in Roman mythology, the goddess of the moon, women and childbirth.
Her temples were places of healing, and her sacred herb was often used for curing female-related illnesses.
Another ancient story tells of Queen Artemisia, who was sister, consort and successor to Mausolus (c376–353BC) of Caria in southwest Anatolia. Around 352BC, she built a monument using mugworts to her husband Halicarnassus.
We don’t know whether the common mugwort was the same Artemisia of legend, but it’s likely to be the same plant known to herbalists in the Middle Ages.
It is considered a female plant reflecting its mythical origins; another species in the same group, wormwood, is considered to be male.
Common mugwort was known as the Mater Herbarum, or Mother of Herbs, in Europe with a formidable reputation as a magical plant, a reliable remedy for female complaints, and an effective nerve tonic.
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.
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.
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.
The young stems can be added to salads and the leaves or shoots can be cooked as a vegetable.
The plant is rich in vitamin C and unsaturated fatty acids.
Herbal Medicine Uses
Mugwort is sometimes referred to as the ‘women’s herb’ because it was used to promote menstruation and induce childbirth.
Another common use for the plant was to treat stomach disorders, including stimulating the appetite, easing nausea or curing worms.
Mugwort is sometimes used as an ingredient in perfumes and soaps. 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.
Mugwort should not be used during pregnancy because it can promote menstruation.
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