MEDICINAL HERBS & USES: MUGWORT
Mugwort: Artemisia vulgaris
Herb Properties and Medicinal Uses
Properties Mugwort leaves are edible, young leaves are boiled as a pot herb or used in salad, they aid in digestion although said to have a bitter taste. Used for centuries as an alternative medicine, it is antibacterial, anthelmintic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic, carminative, cholagogue, diaphoretic, digestive, diuretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, haemostatic, nervine, purgative, stimulant, stomachic, and tonic, cleansing toxins from the blood. An infusion of the leaves and flowering tops is used in the treatment of all matters connected to the digestive system, it increases stomach acid and bile production, eases gas and bloating, improving digestion, the absorption of nutrients and strengthening the entire digestive system. It is used in alternative medicine to expel intestinal worms, nervous and spasmodic affections, asthma, sterility, functional bleeding of the uterus and menstrual complaints, and diseases of the brain. As a gargle for sore throat, a wash for sores and a poultice for infections, tumors and to stop bleeding. These actions and uses are now backed by scientific studies on the plants main constituents volatile oils containing 1,8-cineole, artemisin, azulenes sesquiterpene lactones, flavonoids, coumarin derivatives, tannins, thujone and triterpenes. The leaves have an antibacterial action, inhibiting the growth of Staphococcus aureus, Bacillus typhi, B. dysenteriae, streptococci, E. coli, B. subtilis, and pseudomonas. A weak tea made from the infused plant is a good all-purpose insecticide. The fresh or the dried plant repels insects.Caution: Should not be used by pregnant women since it can cause a miscarriage.
Perennial herb native to Africa, temperate Asia, and Europe, widely naturalized in most parts of the world. Found growing on hedgebanks and waysides, uncultivated and waste land. Cultivation is fairly easy Mugwort prefers slightly alkaline, well-drained loamy soil, in a a sunny position. A tall-growing shrubby plant, with angular stems, which are and often purplish, growing 3 feet or more in height. The leaves are smooth and dark green above and covered with a cottony down beneath. They are alternate, pinnately lobed, and segmented. The small greenish yellow flowers are panicled spikes with a cottony appearance. Blooming is from July to October. Mugwort is closely related to Common Wormwood (Absinthe). Gather leaves and stems when in bloom, dry for later herb use.
In Native American folklore Mugwort was also a Witchcraft medicine, rubbed the leaves on ones body to keep ghosts away or wearing a necklace to prevent dreaming of the dead. In the Middle Ages a crown made from its sprays was worn on St. John’s Eve to gain security from evil possession. Mugwort derived its common name from being used to flavor drinks like beer before the introduction of hops. The Name Artemisia is from the Goddess Artemis (1st century AD) who inspired the plants genus name.
Recipe Medicinal tea: Steep 1 tsp. dried herb in a cup boiling water, take in mouthful doses throughout the day.
Medicinal Use: Leaf tea diuretic, induces sweating. Regulates erratic menstruation, brings on delayed periods, expels afterbirth, helps with menopausal symptoms. Promotes appetite and bile production, tonic for digestion. Tonic for nerves; mild sedative. Used for bronchitis, colds, colic, kidney ailments, fevers. Bath additive for rheumatism and tired legs. Juice relieves itching of poison oak. Disinfectant and antiseptic. Used for moxibustion.
Traditional Magical Use: In the Middle Ages, mugwort was connected with St. John the Baptist, who was said to have worn a belt of the herb during his time in the wilderness. St. John’s Herb, as the plant became known, had the power to drive out demons, and sprays of the herbs were worn around the head on St. John’s Eve as a protection against possession by evil forces. In China, bunches of mugwort were hung in the home during the Dragon Festival to keep away evil spirits. The Ainus of Japan burn bunches to exorcise spirits of disease, who are thought to hatethe odor. Planted along roadsides by the Romans, who put sprigs in their shoes to prevent aching feet on long journeys. Carry to ward against wild beasts, poison, and stroke. Prevents elves and other evil things from entering houses. Said to cure madness and aid in astral projection.
A pillow stuffed with mugwort and slept upon will produce prophetic dreams. Mugwort is burned during scrying rituals, and a mugwort-and-honey infusion is drunk before divination. The infusion is also used to wash crystal balls and magic mirrors, and mugwort leaves are placed around the base of the ball, or beneath it, to aid in psychic workings. Pick just before sunrise on the waxing moon, preferably from a plant that leans north. A Roman invocation to be used when picking mugwort is: Tollam te artemisia, ne lassus sim in via.
Shamanic Magical Use: This is the plant of Midgard, burned at the start of a ritual. One starts and ends with Mugwort, as one starts and ends with Midgard. Its shamanic purpose is purification. We tend to think of purification, in these days of advanced medical antisepsis, as being sterile. To us, “pure” has come to mean “without life”. When we use something whose basic power is purification, we expect, on some level, for it to clean everything and leave it a blank slate. However, that’s not what magical purification actually does.
Mugwort is the herb that is most often burned as recels, the Old English word for incense; pronounced ray-kels. The act of burning it is referred to as recaning, which can be pronounced various ways, but the most graceful seems to be reek-en-ing; the verb recan is cognate to our work “reek”. Celtic-tradition people use the term saining. It’s an alternative to the Native American-derived term “smudging”, and it can be bound in lashed bundles and burned in the same way as white sagebrush. It also has a clearing effect on the mind, and a heightening of the extra senses, so it is a good thing to start any working that is going to involve an altered or trance state at some point.