Mugwort – characteristics, cultivation and use

Mugwort
Mugwort

Mugwort is a rather inconspicuous herb that can be found on many roadsides and on brownfields. Despite its inconspicuousness, mugwort is known as a medicinal herb as well as a spice for numerous dishes. Many may well know the herb as an ingredient of Christmas goose. Its diverse ingredients, especially bitter substances, make especially high-fat foods wholesome.

Profile of mugwort:

Scientific name: Artemisia vulgaris

Plant family: composite, asters (Asteraceae)

Other names: riverside wormwood, felon herb, chrysanthemum weed, wild wormwood, old Uncle Henry, sailor’s tobacco, naughty man, old man, St. John’s plant

Sowing time / Planting time: March – April

Flowering period: June – September

Harvest time: August – October

Useful plant parts: leaves, flowers, roots, shoots

Location: sunny to partially shaded

Soil quality: nutrient-rich, slightly calcareous and permeable soils

Use as a medicinal herb: headache, loss of appetite, menopause, nausea, discomfort during menstruation, restlessness, bile problems

Use as aromatic herb: greasy meat dishes, Christmas dishes, egg dishes, herb butter

Plant characteristics and classification of mugwort

Origin and occurrence of mugwort

The mugwort is these days widespread on almost the entire northern hemisphere and thus a very common plant. It is just as present in North America, including Alaska as far as Mexico, as well as in the Central European countries and Central Asia. The exact origin is not known exactly. However, it is believed that the plant was originally native to central and northern Europe and was spread from there by humans.

Mugwort above all loves undemanding locations such as brownfields, sandy squares, railway tracks or debris fields. Where it occurs, he is usually found in large numbers. It grows preferentially on nitrogenous soils, which is why the plant can represent an indicator plant. Although many species occur in steppes, dry grasslands and semi-deserts, some are adapted to a salty location.

Plant order of mugwort

The mugwort belongs to the large family of the daisies (Asteraceae). In the closer kinship (genus) the mugwort is a typical Artemisia. It is a species-rich genus with more than 400 plants. The plant is thus related to other known herbs as southernwood (Artemisia abrotanum), tarragon (Artemisia dranuculus) or wormwood (Artemisia absinthum).

Over time, two relevant subspecies have emerged, the European mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris var. Vulgaris) and the Asian mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris var. Indica). Not to be confused is the common mugwort described here with the sweet wormwood (Artemisia annua), which occurs primarily in Asia and Southeastern Europe.

Flowers of mugwort plant
Flowers of mugwort plant

Characteristics of mugwort herb

Plant

The common mugwort is a perennial, herbaceous and relatively inconspicuous plant that can reach heights of growth between 70 and 180 cm (28 and 70 in). The root stock of the plant is multi-headed. The roots themselves are about finger thick and have a woody look and as well as the flowers have an aromatic smell.

Leaves

The leaves are lanceolate, pinnate and can be up to 10 cm (4 in) long. On the underside of the leaves, a slight, white-felted hairiness can be seen. The color of the leaves is usually dark to slightly greyish-green. The lower leaves are rather pinnate, whereas the upper leaves are rather narrow-stemmed and lanceolate.

Flowering

Mugwort can bloom between the beginning of June and the end of September, depending on weather conditions. The flowers arranged in a spike or grape change their color during the flowering time from gray-green to yellow or pale pink. The bracts surrounding the flower have felt like hair.

Ripeness

As is the case with perennials, so-called achenes form at the time of fruit ripening. The plant forms a lot of pollen and is usually the cause of allergic reactions.

Mugwort – cultivation and care

The mugwort is an extremely uncomplicated plant that needs very little care. As a garden plant, however, it is rarely cultivated, as it is found frequently in nature and can proliferate quickly.

Location

The herb grows in both sunny and partially shaded spots.

Soil

At the planting site the soil should not be too wet. The most suitable is a lean, well-drained soil, as often found in the stone garden or rock garden. The same applies to potted plants where good drainage is the key.

Sowing

The best time for sowing is early spring and late autumn. However, spring is the best time to avoid any mild winters, which can lead to early sprouting of the plants. Mugwort can be sown in the field around the beginning of April. Since the herb is a light germ, it is sufficient to press the seeds lightly into the soil. As a rule, the seedlings appear after 2 to 3 weeks. A distance of at least 40 cm (16 in) should be kept between the plants, as otherwise the plants compete for nutrients and water.

Sowing on the balcony is possible, but large pots should be used. If the plant is kept in pot culture, it must be watered and fertilized a little more frequently if the plant has reached a height of over 50 cm (20 in). Normal potting soil or commercial herb soil should be mixed with some sand.

Fertilization

Inasmuch as mugwort is cultivated in nutrient-rich soil, only little fertilizer is recommended. Incidentally, too much fertilizer can affect the quality of the plant and even cause disease. If available, compost is usually sufficient, which can be mixed in on the soil surface. Otherwise, nitrogenous fertilizers should be used.

Watering

In terms of water supply, mugwort is very easy-care. The plant is basically specialized in dry locations and thus comes out with very little water. Frequently, even the natural rain cycles are sufficient for optimal irrigation. The exception is very hot summer days without rainfall.

Wintering

The own foliage serves the mugwort as winter protection. Who wants to cut the shrubs for optical reasons already in the fall, they should then mulch with leaves. Winter hardiness is related to the location: on dry places, which are similar to the natural location of the plant, it is therefore much higher than on permanently damp places.

Care Tips

Mugwort is generally very undemanding and comes with a minimum of care. In late spring the plant is cut back. In winter, the old foliage should remain on the plant, as it serves as a natural antifreeze. The shrubs should not be cut back to the strongly woody part, because this can endanger the new growth.

A mugwort plant
A mugwort plant

Use of mugwort

The mugwort is a versatile herb that is used both as a spice herb and as a medicinal herb. As a spice, only the panicle and delicate leaves are usually used. For healing purposes, both the leaves, the panicle and the root are used.

Mugwort in the kitchen

Mugwort is a very good spice herb. It has a bitter, aromatic and spicy taste and is particularly suitable for fat and difficult-to-digest dishes. The panicle, which are much milder than the leaves, are usually used. The leaves are extremely bitter and remind of the taste of wormwood. Young leaves and shoots, however, can be used.

The use of the plant as a spice has a pleasant and healthy side effect. The ingredients stimulate the digestion and the appetite.

For preparation, it does not matter whether fresh or dried mugwort is used. Both variants unfold their full aroma when cooking, frying or baking. Inasmuch as dried herb is to be used, it is advisable to buy the rubbed version. This can be processed better.

Of particular importance is mugwort as a typical winter herb for the preparation of Christmas goose. For a normal sized Christmas goose you usually use up to 2 sprigs. At Christmas time mugwort branches are very often found in the herb shelves of supermarkets.

Also in vegetable soups, potato soups or other savory dishes, the appetizing mugwort is an aromatic and spicy ingredient. It harmonizes especially well with garlic and pepper. It is just as well suited as an ingredient in a Mediterranean spice mixture with rosemary, savory, thyme and oregano.

Mugwort, however, can be used for much more dishes. The herb is excellent for spicing up cheese, egg dishes, fatty meats, as well as potatoes and salads.

Mugwort as a medicinal herb

Mugwort is a very old herb and has been used very frequently in antiquity and in the Middle Ages. Even today, the plant is still used in naturopathy or in folk medicine for various ailments and diseases. Both the leaves, the panicle and the roots are used.

Even among the ancient Greeks, Hippocrates, Pliny, Dioscorides and Galenes praised mugwort as the most important plant in gynecology. It has a relaxing effect on menstrual cramps and promotes bleeding in the absence of or weak menses. With abdominal discomfort, ovarian inflammation, vaginal discharge and bladder catarrh, it can provide valuable help due to its warming property.

Next is mugwort, as well as ribwort plantain, a companion of the hiker. In the old days, fresh herb of the plant, tied to the leg or put in shoes, should make tired feet lively again. Today tired legs and feet are rubbed with tincture or oil. It should drive away fatigue on long car rides. For that to happen a bunch of mugwort is hanged in the car.

Another important application is the digestive effect, it supports the pancreas, promotes bile production and helps with bloating. In addition, mugwort was used as a remedy for epilepsy. The extent to which today’s use in cases of epilepsy is possible has not been sufficiently investigated scientifically.

In case of nervous sleep disorders as well as fear of flying, mugwort has a relaxing effect. In addition to foot baths or tea, a herbal pillow filled with its leaves and flowers can help.

Mugwort is very warming and therefore has special power in all suffering caused by hypothermia. In acute feverish diseases mugwort should not be used.

The artemisinin contained in the mugwort is used today in the treatment of malaria. However, this is the annual mugwort (Artemisia annua) and not the common mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris). The common mugwort contains less artemisinin, which is why the annual is preferred.

Preparation of mugwort tea

Mugwort tea is drunk internally for all gynecological problems, for strengthening and warming, at birth and for relaxation.

  • put 1 teaspoon of mugwort leaves in a tea strainer in a cup
  • dash with boiling water
  • let brew for about 2-3 minutes

The finished tea is drunk in small sips, preferably unsweetened.

From this tea you drink as needed 1 to 3 cups daily.

Since mugwort is a powerful medicinal plant, it should not be drunk regularly for too long. After a maximum of 6 weeks of continuous use, you should take at least a 3-week break.

Mugwort can be used for these ailments and diseases

  • aching
  • bad breath
  • bloating
  • birth
  • circulatory disorders
  • cold feet
  • cold hands
  • cystitis
  • diarrhea (chronic)
  • gallen weakness
  • gynecology
  • hemorrhoids
  • indigestion
  • menopausal symptoms
  • menstrual cramps
  • nausea
  • nervous tension
  • neuralgia
  • ovarian inflammation (chronic)
  • period pain
  • sleep disorders
  • tired legs
  • unrest
  • uterine cramps

Medicinal properties

  • antibacterial
  • antifungal
  • antispasmodic
  • appetizing
  • digestive
  • ecbolic
  • improves circulation
  • menstruation promoting
  • reassuring
  • strengthening

Mugwort in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

Mugwort leaves are used in Chinese medicine for moxibustion.

For this, mugwort leaves are rolled into small cones. These cones are lit so that they glow and heat up. The glowing moxa-cones are placed on the skin to specific acupuncture points. There they generate heat and act on the acupuncture points. Before it gets too hot on the skin, the moxa-cones are removed. To be on the safe side, ginger or garlic slices are placed under the moxa-cones by some medical practitioners to prevent burns.

In a relatively modern Japanese form of moxa treatment, the moxa cones are placed on special acupuncture needles. With these heated acupuncture needles the effect of the acupuncture treatment is intensified.

Side effects

Some people are allergic to mugwort pollen and pollen from other species of Artemisia. Pregnant women should not drink the tea or seek medical advice from the gynecologist or the midwife before taking it. The tea can be labor-promoting!

Disclaimer:

Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.

Buy mugwort – What is there to pay attention to?

Mugwort is a mostly very seasonal product. In the winter months or before Christmas season larger amounts of the herb can be found in supermarkets. As a rule, the panicle are sold to season the Christmas roast. Some spice providers also offer mugwort powder, which is easier to process and better dose than the panicle.

Gardeners who want to plant mugwort can purchase seeds in selected specialist garden centers or in online trade. It is also possible to purchase fresh plants. In larger plant centers or hardware stores, however, plants are rarely available. Pay attention to the botanical name Artemisia vulgaris. The Indian mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris var. indica), a subspecies, is occasionally offered as mugwort. Basically, this subspecies is a bit richer in the composition of the essential oils, which gives it a different taste. The price for fresh plants is about 2.5 to 4 € / $. Seeds are about 2 € / $.

For healing applications, the leaves and cut roots should be purchased. Roots are very rare to buy, if only in pharmacies. Leaves for tea preparations are available from many herbalists or from several online retailers. As mugwort does not decompose at all, there should be hardly any quality differences.

Some manufacturers also offer mugwort and mugwort tinctures, which can be used for aromatherapeutic products.

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