Lessons in Magical Herbalism: Mugwort
Lessons in Magical Herbalism: Mugwort
Mugwort is one of those plants you find almost exclusively associated with Witches. Besides Witches and people very interested in herbalism and folk remedies, you don’t find a lot of people keeping mugwort on the old spice shelf. Just say “mugwort” and for most people it conjures up an image of an old woman bent over a bubbling cauldron.
The name literally translates to “drink plant.” Mugwort is native to Africa, Asia, and parts of Europe. It’s quite tall and sprawling, with dark green leaves on top and lighter leaves on the bottom, purplish-green stems, and tiny white-silver flowers. It’s aromatic, very delicate looking, and has a strong, spicy scent that is quite unique.
It’s probably not the most common or useful herb you can find to make space for. If you’re interested, though, it can be quite a fun addition to the garden, as well as the magical cabinet.
Mugwort is a genus with many different species, and they can’t all be grown and used exactly the same—particularly if you ever plan to ingest them because some can be toxic. In this article, I’m focusing on Aremesia Vulgaris, which is common mugwort. Please check your own species of mugwort before applying any of this info.
Details About Mugwort
Mugwort, cronewort, felon herb, St. John's plant, Artemis herb, sailor's tobacco, southern wormwood*.
USDA hardiness zone:
4 - 8
PREGNANT WOMEN SHOULD NEVER RISK taking mugwort for any reason, as it’s an abortifacient.
Allergy alert: if you have ragweed allergies, mugwort might stir them up.
Warning: Many species of mugwort are invasive and considered a noxious weed in some places. If you live in prime growing conditions, you may be very happy with it for a year or two—and then by year three or four you’ll begin to panic because you’ll realize it’s taking over your garden! It spreads not just by seed but by roots. So call your local gardening extension office and check to see if it’s a problem in your area and if it's legal to plant it.
If you really had your heart set on growing mugwort, but are worried about how invasive it gets, the best option would be putting it in pots, and pruning frequently to prevent it from going to seed.
- Propagated by seed or cuttings, or by just leaving last year's plants to die and reseed
- Mugwort prefers full sun, or partial sun in very hot climates.
- It’s not picky about water (except it doesn’t like it’s ‘feet’ to be wet for too long)
- it’s not picky about soil or fertilizer
It grows amply in the wild in many places with no care at all. So basically I just try not to let it get dry for too long and that’s about the extent of care it needs.
If you prefer not to grow mugwort yourself, you can purchase dried mugwort.
Important Medical Warning to Read
DO NOT take the following as medical advice. I am simply providing information about how herbs have been used medicinally, both in ancient and modern times, for those interested in herbalism. I may even relay my own experiences, but I DO NOT RECOMMEND that YOU use any herbal remedies without first consulting a qualified professional. Please remember that even common culinary herbs can be dangerous when taken in quantities that exceed normal food seasoning.
Harvest the plant to keep it from getting too big and wild. Mugwort makes really nice additions to bouquets, wreaths or any kind of floral crafts.
For fresh bouquets, submerge the plant branches in a tub of cold water for a half hour or so (put something on top of it if it floats to hold it down). Then simply put it in your water-filled vase with other cut flowers and plants, it will last nicely.
Mugwort can be dried easily by laying the branches or leaves on a tray and putting them in a very low oven for a few hours. Chop it up and store it in a clean jar in dry area, or wrap up entire branches in newspaper or paper towel and hang them somewhere till you’re ready to use them.
Artemisia vulgaris has a bitter flavor that’s been added to roasting meats and stews for millennial, though it's not an herb you'll normally find in most kitchens.
All Natural Mugwort Antiseptic Cleaner and Insect Repellant
If you’re looking for an all-natural cleaning solution for your home, use mugwort tea!
- Put the leaves in a bowl and cover with boiling water, then cover with a plate.
- Leave it to steep for 45 minutes then strain it and put it in a spray bottle. It’ll keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge.
Use it as a general cleaning solution to spray and wipe counters, cabinets, tables and more. If you are having problems with insects, spray mugwort tea where they enter or where they crawl around to repel them.
Comforting Mugwort Oil Rub
Use a vegetable-based oil, such as olive, jojoba, grapeseed, or safflower.
- For every 1/2 cup of oil you'll need about 2 tbsp. of crushed mugwort (fresh or dried).
- Heat the oil, but do not allow it to simmer.
- Add the mugwort. Let it steep overnight.
- Strain the oil and put it in a clean jar.
Medicinal Uses of Mugwort
Safety Issues: using mugwort internally is controversial. Many sources consider it unsafe, regardless of species. Other sources regard certain species, such as Artemisia Vulgaris, safe to ingest. PREGNANT WOMEN SHOULD NEVER RISK taking mugwort for any reason, as it’s an abortifacient.
Mugwort tea has been taken internally to help ease heavy menstruation, kidney stones, gout and bowel problems. It's been used to expel parasites and worms as well.
There’s also some who take it or certain kinds of cancer as an alternative remedy, or for diabetes to lower blood sugar, however its effectiveness has not yet been verified so again—consult an herbal health care expert.
External use is generally considered safe. So you don’t have to take mugwort internally to reap its medicinal benefits. It’s actually an excellent plant for making infusions to go into baths or wash water. Soak in a mugwort bath to ease the pain of rheumatism or to relax you.
On long journeys, people would put mugwort in their shoes. The walking, sweat and body oils would break the mugwort down into a poultice of sorts, which would be soothing to the feet.
If you have acne try washing your face with mugwort as it’s a great antiseptic.
If you have a bruise, a mugwort salve or poultice will help reduce the inflammation and discoloration.
For general aches and pains after a hard day, make a mugwort massage oil to rub onto your sore muscles and aches.
Mugwort Folklore: 9 Herbs Charm
Remember, Mugwort, what you made known,
What you arranged at the Great proclamation.
You were called Una, the oldest of herbs,
you have power against three and against thirty,
you have power against poison and against contagion,
you have power against the loathsome foe roving through the land.
This is only the first verse from a Christo-Pagan Anglo-saxon manuscript from the 10th century. It tells us of a poison healing charm that was quite popular. It is known as the 9 Herbs Charm. The herbs involved were mugwort, plantain, lamb's cress, water cress, chamomille, nettle, crab apple, chervil and fennel.
Each of the 9 herbs had a chant, you were to sing that chant over each of the herbs three times before preparing them. You would also sing a chant to an apple. You would pound them into a powder, mix them with old soap and the juice of the apple.
The mixture would be made into a paste with water, ash and beaten egg. Then you would sing the charm into the mouth and both ears of the person you want to cure, and you'd apply the mixture as a salve.
Mugwort makes a wonderful potion to induce trances, aid divination and prophetic dreams. I like to make a mixture of mugwort and valerian root for this purpose, particularly around Samhain—it’s quite the potent concoction.
See warnings above about taking mugwort internally before drinking any mugwort potions, and remember to NEVER USE WHEN PREGNANT OR NURSING under any circumstance.
If you prefer, put mugwort into your incense mixed with sandalwood powder and burn it while channeling, scrying, or fill a room with the scent of it before going to sleep. You can also make a mugwort-stuffed pillow for prophetic dreams, but don’t use it every night—sometimes you do need to let your mind just rest.
A mugwort infusion is ideal for occasionally cleaning divination tools like scrying mirrors, crystals and pendulums. It doesn't hurt to keep a spring of mugwort in storage with these items.
If performing herbal magic, throw in a bit of mugwort to give an energy boost to the other herbs you’re using.
In Northern Europe, girdles of mugwort were worn for protection against nature (particularly poisons) and evil. It was strewn about the home or hung in doors and windows to ward off demons and other evil spirits, and sometimes sprigs were carried because they were thought to neutralize the effects of poison (I wouldn’t put that one to the test).
And of course (as indicated by its name Artemisia), this plant is considered sacred to the Goddess Artemis—put some mugwort sachets or bouquets on Her altar, or mix it into incense burned to the Goddess.