Mugwort: A Magical and Medicinal Weed


March 30, 2020

This article originally appeared in Garden Culture Magazine UK33 & US31.

Tall and robust with dark green lobes for leaves, mugwort, or Artemisia Vulgaris, is a weed that has many wonderful virtues. 

This perennial plant grows just about anywhere; find it along roadsides, railroads, and riverbanks to waste places and fields. It is so common that many of us will walk by it without giving it a second glance. 

Mugwort, however, has long been used in medicine, around the house, and even by those who believe in magic! 

The botanical name Artemisia Vulgaris honors the Greek goddess, Artemis. Like its namesake, the plant is associated with the moon, cycles, women’s health, and childbirth. 

Mugwort has been used to help women through all the stages of their lives, from regulating the menstrual cycle and easing its symptoms, to facilitating childbirth and helping to make menopause more bearable. However, this plant stimulates the uterus and menses; pregnant women should never use this plant, as it can cause miscarriage or premature labor.

Mugwort for sore and achy muscles

This generous weed has a high magnesium content, which is very nourishing. Combine that with the presence of the active component, borneol, and mugwort is excellent for alleviating muscle aches and pains. 

Mugwort is used in traditional Chinese medicine as moxa. The aged, dried herb is lit and used above the surface of the skin to create gentle warmth that helps improve circulation and increase blood and lymph flow to areas of the body, reducing pain and inflammation. You can also enjoy the benefits of mugwort by making a herbal oil infusion. 

Aching muscle infused oil recipe

Once correctly identifying the weed, harvest the tops of the fresh plant material. It is essential to pick plants from a clean environment, far away from busy roads and polluted areas.

  • Allow the mugwort to wilt for half a day and chop the plant into tiny pieces. 
  • Put in a glass jar and fill to the top with olive oil. Be sure to remove any air bubbles by moving the mixture around with a chopstick. 
  • Add more oil to cover the plant material and cap with cheesecloth or dishcloth and secure with a rubber band. The humidity must evaporate, so avoid using an airtight lid. 
  • Place the jar in a sunny window for five to six weeks. Stir occasionally, but it is imperative to make sure all of the plant material is covered with oil so that mold doesn’t form.
  • After five or six weeks, filter the oil, throwing the plant into the compost bin. The infused oil will have a deep green color. The darker the green, the more potent the medicine. Store in a cool, dark place. It will keep for three to six months.
  • Rub and massage the oil into sore muscles or restless legs and enjoy the soothing benefits of mugwort!

In the kitchen and around the house

In Asia, mugwort flavors tea and rice dishes; in western cultures, it is often used as a culinary herb for poultry and pork. Before the rise of hops in the beer-making process, mugwort was added to flavor the ale. 

The herb stimulates gastric juice and bile secretion, promoting digestion, especially after eating fatty foods. The plant also eases gas and bloating, improves the absorption of nutrients, and strengthens the entire digestive system.

In the garden

Mugwort has been historically used in a powdered form to repel moths. Some natural gardeners also use it by laying branches between rows of onions and carrots to discourage the insect and other pests.

A mystical and magical weed

Mugwort grows around the world, and so many cultures have different uses for it. The Aztecs considered mugwort a sacred plant and used it for incense. In witchcraft traditions, it has long been used to induce lucid dreaming, for astral projection, and to enhance psychic powers. When placed in a pouch under a pillow, the dried flowering tops of the plant are said to promote vivid dreams. Native Americans also burned mugwort to purify the spiritual and physical environment around them. In ancient China, Japan, and Europe, people would use the weed to ward off evil spirits.  

Possible side effects

Mugwort is a powerful medicinal herb that can do a lot for our well-being. However, some of its active components, such as thujone, can be toxic in excessive doses, causing liver damage, nausea, and convulsions. 

Mugwort belongs to the daisy family, which can cause some people to develop a skin rash upon contact. One of the most common triggers for hayfever is mugwort pollen, so allergic reactions to drinking the herbal tea or consuming a tincture are not uncommon. If you are an allergy sufferer, do not use this plant. Always do your research and consult a physician before taking any herbal medicine.

More from Garden Culture’s Medicinal Weeds series: 

The Mighty Burdock Weed: A Cornucopia of Virtues

The Health And Medicinal Properties Of Common Garden Weeds

Medicinal Weeds: Stinging Nettle

Plantain: The Overlooked Medicinal Weed

Dandelions: Medicinal Weeds of Gold

Caroline Rivard

Caroline Rivard

A therapist and healer for over 15 years, Caroline’s passion for medicinal plants only began after leaving the city for the quiet country life in Quebec, Canada. Eager to learn, she’s never looked back, using forests and wildflower fields as her classroom ever since. In a time where reconnecting with plants and nature is badly needed, she spreads her love for herbalism by holding teaching workshops about the powers of medicinal herbs and natural remedies.
Caroline Rivard

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