Traditional and Modern Use of Mugwort

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.

Common Name

Mugwort.

Scientific Name

Artemisia vulgaris.

Family

Asteraceae.

Botanical Description

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.

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.
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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.

About The Author

Robin HarfordRobin Harford is a plant-based forager, ethnobotanical researcher, and wild food educator. He is the author of Plantopedia: The Past and Present Uses of Wild Plants.

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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!

  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.

  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

  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.

  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.

    • 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’.

    • 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 🙂

  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.

  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 .

  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

    • 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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