Fleetneedles' Forage: Mugwort

Plant
Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)

Description
Mugwort is a wild plant which inhabits hedge banks and waysides. It grows between 1 and 3 feet tall and has an unusual sage like scent.  The tiny flowers grow in clusters and are usually yellow but can occasionally be dark red. The stem is a purplish colour, the deeply indented leaves are dark green on top with a silver green underside.

Anti-depressant, anti-fatigue, antiseptic, blood cleanser, digestive stimulant, fever breaker, immune support, liver cleanser, mild diuretic, metabolic booster, menstrual cycle regulator, relaxant and stimulant

Nutrients           
Contains vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, C, E & K plus calcium, copper, folate, iron, manganese, magnesium, niacin, phosphorous, potassium and zinc.

Caution
Do not take this herb if you are pregnant as it has been known to cause contractions.
Mugwort can cause allergic reactions, this is most common in people with existing allergies to birch, celery, chrysanthemums, daisies, honey, marigolds, ragwort, royal jelly, tobacco and wild carrot.

Benefits
Anti-depressant, anti-fatigue, antiseptic, blood cleanser, digestive stimulant, fever breaker, immune support, liver cleanser, mild diuretic, metabolic booster, menstrual cycle regulator, relaxant and stimulant

Everyday Use     
Mugwort is from the same plant family as Wormwood which is a famous ingredient of vermouth and absinthe. In the Middle Ages Mugwort was believed to be a protective herb against devils and evil spirits. Mainly because of its antiseptic properties it is considered the European equivalent of Echinacea. As with Echinacea it can be taken in the early stages of a bug or a cold to support the immune system.

I first came across Mugwort when reading an old book about strange and curious cures which claimed that leaves of the plant placed under your pillow gave you deep, lucid and possibly prophetic dreams. Sounding very like an old wives tale I never thought about this again, until last week when I spent an afternoon collecting mugwort and carried a bundle of it home. That night I slept very deeply (I am normally a light sleeper) and had lucid dreams all night. This may be coincidence but having handled the plant a lot and washed it the previous evening, the scent had made me feel dizzy and slightly high. Mugwort is known to be mildly narcotic, and after preparing the fresh plant I can only imagine how strong the dried tea is.

The leaves and flower tops are edible and are regularly eaten in Japan. It was also once a much enjoyed British culinary herb, most commonly made into beer and used in a traditional stuffing eaten with goose. When the price of tea was prohibitive the leaves of the Mugwort plant were dried and drunk as a tea substitute.  

It is an ancient folk remedy for fatigue and, at one time, travellers would combat weariness by popping the leaves into their shoes. In reality mugwort is a mild stimulant so does alleviate feelings of tiredness. Despite the contradiction it is also a known relaxant, thought to be useful for insomnia, tension, nerve disorders and as a treatment for depression.

It was once considered a solely female herb partly due to is tranquilising effects on the ‘hysteria’ which was believed to be a female malady. It also regulates menstruation, reduces blood loss and is useful in encouraging a delayed period, which is why it should never be taken by a pregnant woman.
The plants bitter tonic qualities aid digestion and support and cleanse the liver whilst it can also quell nausea and stimulate appetite. In general it is an excellent detoxifying herb, working not only on the blood and internal organs but purifying the system with its diuretic capacities. All of these actions stimulate the metabolism making Mugwort an excellent weight loss herb, in conjunction with a balanced diet. It is also a diaphoretic i.e. it induces sweating during a fever to lower the bodies temperature. Perhaps because of this Mugwort was an ancient folk remedy for colds and fevers.
Added to this dried Mugwort is an excellent insect repellent and a small bunch of the herb hung in your home will keep moths and midges at bay.

These are some of my personal experiences using Mugwort combined with information I have researched over a number of years. I am not encouraging people to self-medicate, in the treatment of specific conditions it is best to consult with a herbalist or your GP. If you should develop an adverse reaction to any of the above please stop using the herb immediately. And always take care when identifying the plant.

Happy Hunting, Claire Fleetneedle

LIFE ON PIG ROW DISCLAIMER: We’d like to thank Claire for this wonderful piece, as she points out, this is her personal experience and common sense must prevail in homemade herbal remedies. Therefore, if you are out and about foraging and aren’t confident that what you are about to pick is edible or medicinal the best advice is to leave it where it is. In the event of an adverse reaction to any homemade herbal remedy or foraged edible food you are advised to seek out medical advice. While every care is taken in the production of these posts neither Claire Fleetneedle nor Life on Pig Row are responsible for adverse reactions. Please remember to check local by-laws before foraging and never forage on private land without permission. Please use common sense when foraging.

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