What Is Mugwort?
Mugwort is an herb with a fascinating history. It was once used by Roman soldiers in their sandals to relieve foot fatigue and has also seen frequent use as an herb to promote lucid dreaming.
Though mugwort is not one of the most popular herbs today, it has many properties that deserve attention. It's also one of the easiest herbs to grow (it belongs to the "annoying weed" category), which makes it readily available and inexpensive.
Here's more about the history and benefit of mugwort, plus how you can make use of it.
Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) is closely related to wormwood, a stronger herb that is one of the best herbs for a parasite cleanse and can be used as an insect repellant. Both herbs belong to the daisy (Asteraceae) plant family.
Considered by many to be an annoying weed (even a 'noxious' weed in certain areas), mugwort can grow up to 6 feet tall and blooms with either yellowish or reddish-brown flowers. The leaves are usually the part harvested for use and have a bitter taste with minty and sage-like undertones.
Though mugwort contains many of the same compounds as wormwood, it isn't as bitter or as strong, so it's not used as frequently for parasites or to repel insects.
Instead, mugwort has long been valued for digestion and women's health. It has been used for thousands of years, particularly in traditional Chinese medicine and Native American medicine and spiritual ceremonies. The Greeks and Romans also valued mugwort, and it continued to be used to a certain extent throughout Europe.
Besides its health properties, mugwort was also used to make a certain type of beer (hence the name "mug" wort), for lucid dreams, and to ward off evil spirits.
It goes by many other names, including cronewort, common wormwood, felon herb, Artemis herb, and chrysanthemum weed.
What are the Health Benefits of Mugwort?
Aids Digestion and Appetite
One of the top uses for mugwort is as a digestive aid.
The bitter compounds in the leaves give it choleretic properties, which means that it aids liver function and bile secretion. When your body produces enough bile, you digest better- particularly fats- and can also absorb more nutrients from food.
Mugwort has also been used to stimulate a poor appetite and for constipation, indigestion, and travel sickness.
Another traditional use for mugwort is as an emmenagogue. Emmenagogues are substances that stimulate or increase menstrual flow. They are most frequently used in herbalism for those with a delayed or absent menstrual cycle.
Mugwort mainly works by stimulating circulation in the pelvic region. This is an important part of a healthy cycle and has an added bonus of making menstrual cramps less painful.
Note: Because it is an emmenagogue, mugwort is contraindicated in pregnancy because it can cause a miscarriage.
Another one of the most traditional benefits of mugwort is its relaxing properties. It has been used as a nervine to calm the nervous system and reduce stress, which also makes it beneficial for getting better sleep at night. (1)
You can use it as a tea for this purpose or even place the leaves under your pillow at night to help you relax.
One of the most fascinating uses for mugwort is to stimulate lucid dreams- the type that feel very real and you remember clearly when you wake up. It has been used for this purpose for centuries (and probably longer), even being considered a "visionary herb."
No studies have been conducted on this interesting aspect of mugwort yet, but herbalists with experience say that it can be taken as a tea, tincture, or smoke for this purpose. You can also place it above your bed or under your pillow.
May Help Arthritis Pain
A few small studies have shown that there may be benefits of mugwort for pain relief, specifically from arthritis.
In some studies, it was used in an ancient Chinese technique known as moxibustion (more on that later). In another one, it was used as an extract in a formulation given to participants with hip and knee osteoarthritis. The results so far in both cases have been positive: reduction of pain and better mobility. (2)(3)
May Help Menopause Symptoms
Mugwort has been used for women's health throughout all life stages. One of its common names is 'cronewort', which goes to show that it was considered helpful for older as well as younger women.
Specifically, mugwort may be a natural remedy for menopause symptoms. Much of the evidence for this comes from a small study in which mugwort was able to reduce the frequency and severity of hot flashes. This is also a traditional use for mugwort. (4)
Used in Moxibustion: An Ancient Practice
Mugwort has a very unique use in an ancient technique known as moxibustion. The basic principle is that mugwort (and sometimes wormwood) leaves are formed into a specific shape and burned over an acupuncture point. Often, this process is done during an acupuncture session to increase its effectiveness.
One of the main benefits of moxibustion is to stimulate blood flow and energy. It has also been specifically used to help unborn babies who are in the breech position reverse themselves (especially important for a safe birth before modern medicine).
Amazingly, one research study found that moxibustion increased fetal activity and also increased the amount of babies who switched to the "correct" position before birth. (5)
How to Use Mugwort?
There are several ways to get the benefits of mugwort. One of the most traditional is to make a tea by using 1-3 teaspoons of dried mugwort steeped in a cup of boiling water for about 10 minutes.
You can also take it as a tincture, smoking herb, or through a professional moxibustion technique. For sleep and dreaming, you can try simply placing mugwort under or near you pillow or take it internally.
What are the side effects of Mugwort?
There are two main precautions with mugwort.
First, it belongs to the same plant family as ragweed, which many people are allergic to. It's primarily the pollen of mugwort that is likely to cause an allergic reaction, but the leaves can as well. If you have a history of allergies, start with a small amount and stop taking it immediately if you have a reaction.
Also, mugwort should not be taken during pregnancy or breastfeeding. The same plant compounds that can stimulate menstruation may also cause a miscarriage.
Mugwort has many beneficial qualities that deserve to be "rediscovered." Whether you want to use it for digestion, sleep, or something else, this is a good herb to learn more about!
Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice and should not be substituted for medical advice. Please consult your health care provider, herbalist, midwife, or naturopathic physician before taking herbs, supplements, etc. Here's the link to our full disclaimer.