Herb(s) of the Week: I Dream of Mugwort
Ah, Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) so awesome and so loved.
See that’s how people react with hysterical joy at seeing Mugwort.
Okay, not really. That’s how herbalists react then.
You don’t buy that either?
Alright…that’s how I react. Happy now?
I love Mugwort. I sometimes get a little too excited about Mugwort on plant walks and can ignore the plants herbalists are supposed to be excited about because they aren’t as common. And since Mugwort is so common it is easy to take for granted.
The fact that it is so common, especially in urban areas is part of the magic for me.
Mugwort loves being near us and supporting us like few plants do. New herbalists are often surprised to find it appearing at their door when it wasn’t there before. It’s just Mugwort’s job to be the herbal welcome wagon and welcome you to the plant friend community.
Personal Connection and Journey:
In the photo above was the Mugwort that welcomed me when I first started studying herbalism formally. It appeared in the doorway of an abandoned garage that I walked by every day on my way to work. It eventually grew to be more than eight feet tall and was the first plant I dreamed about. That specific plant appeared in a dream of mine, inspiring me to make a tea of its leaves and drink before I went to bed that night – leading me to a very life changing dream of reorienting my life to a healing arts path.
Early on in my herbal training I chose Mugwort as the first plant I explored in a journey. From my dream/journey journal of the time:
“I had the image of the green side nourishing me and the silver side protecting me by reflecting harmful energy away. I also saw it reflecting me so I could truly see myself. I felt it entering me and shifting my hormones and re-balancing them.”
At the time I didn’t know how accurate most of that was but it was my first lesson in the value of such explorations in working with plants in addition to actual study (never neglect formal study!)
So Mugwort has been a long time plant ally and even now I pick a leaf and chew it on the way to work each morning.
One of the most poetic summations of the wonders of Mugwort comes from the book Herbal Rituals by Judith Berger (Buy It! Read It! Love It!):
“Mugwort’s renown among common folk as a powerful systemic healer reaching into the reproductive, digestive, urinary, and respiratory tracts has earned this Artemisia the nickname cronewort. Like the old woman who has passed through many moons, harvesting wisdom into the folds of her wide skirt, this common weed, denounced and torn up recklessly by the ignorant, truly walks and lives amongst the people. As the village midwife once nurtured the heart of the community with compassion, knowledge, common sense, and magic, cronewort has soothed the pain of childbirth, eased the tenderness of aching joints, comforted bellies, and instilled vision among human beings for centuries with her knowing medicine.
Intractable and sturdy as a hag, cronewort stretches its roots amid those urban places humans tend to scurry rather than wander in, their hurried pace forgetful of the very existence of the natural world. Affectionately referred to in Russian as zabytko, which means forgetful, cronewort’s strong camphorlike oils, when inhaled, open up chambers of ancient memory with the brain, bringing one’s dream life stirring visions of past and future that overflow with magical imagery. The symbols which dance through our cronewort-touched dreams pull out the cobwebs of our forgetfulness and assist us in remembering old, unwritten ways of healing and living that attend to the needs of the spirit and soul.”
Just beautifully written and it really captures the magic of Mugwort.
Some of the Spirit Properties:
- It is thought to help with fairy antics and to strip away illusion.
- Generally considered magically protective.
- Used for divination – use Mugwort for several nights in a pillow for clairvoyant dreams.
- Believed to enhance spiritual vision, dreams and meditation.
- Aids with connections to self.
I have to admit I tend to use it more along these spirit lines than anything else. But it, of course, has health uses as well.
Some of the Health Properties:
- A bit of nervine and generally calming to the system.
- It’s a good digestive bitter and a Mugwort vinegar will support and improve the digestive system and increase appetite.
- A gentle diaphoretic and warming.
- A strong traditional ally to women, hormonally balancing and an Emmenagogue (do not take during pregnancy.)
- It can also be used as an external remedy with strong infusions helping with Poison Oak, bruises, ulcers, etc.
Not often the go to remedy for any of these conditions, but it is a shame because I think it is a wonderful supporting herb when used in combinations with the other herbs along those lines. Even by itself it is effective and has more gentle action than the first choice herbs used for similar ailments.
It has a variety of fun older common and folk names including: Artemis Herb, Cronewort, Felon Herb, Gypsy’s Tobacco, Mother of Herbs, Naughty Man, Old Man, Old Uncle Harry, Sailor’s Tobacco, St. John’s Plant, Witch Herb.
Here some of my favorite things that I’ve read about but never tried with it:
“Bruised Mugwort leaves mixed with fresh butter is a good remedy for sprains and dislocations. Boil 1 tablespoon Mugwort in wine and water, and take every two hours for gravel and bladder complaints.” – Brother Aloysius
Conclusion: Mugwort is a great plant ally, abundant and helpful. A friend to herbalists too often passed by for flasher herbs. Talk about the girl next door the hero ignores and shouldn’t – that’s Mugwort all over. Spend some time with Mugwort and learn to love it as the Ambassador of the Herbal World that is all around us.
References of Note:
Comfort to the Sick by Brother Aloysius
Healing Magic by Robin Rose Bennett
Herbal Rituals by Judith Berger (most poetic)
Backyard Medicine by Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal (best write up)
Magical Herbalism by Scott Cunningham
The Magical Lore of Herbs by Marion Davies
A Modern Herbal by Maud Grieve
The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants by Matthew Wood