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Herbal Monograph

Herb:  MUGWORT   (Artemisia vulgaris; Compositae)

Other Names:    felon herb, St. John’s Plant (2); Felon herb (57)

Character/Energetics:   Pleasant tangy taste;  root is sweet and pungent, herb aromatic and bitter.    (2) bitter, acrid, slightly warm    (6);  …pungent, drying, quite cold   (15)

Meridians/Organs/Body Parts affected:    spleen, liver, kidney (6); nerves, circulation, stomach, uterus.    (14)

Part(s) used:    the leaves    (6);  leaves or root (9)                                                                                                   

Identification & Harvesting:    Ovoid flower heads, 4 mm long by 2 mm wide;  numerous flowers are short stemmed, erect or slightly drooping, in dense, heavily branched panicles with numerous lanceolate leaf sheaths which are downy white with a green midrib.  Flowers are yellowish or red-brown.  Plant is long-stemmed, 2′-5′ high shrub with a branced, many-headed creeping rhizome without runners.  Shoots are slightly pubescent, often red-tinged, faintly unpleasant odor.  Leaves are 2″-4″ long and leathery;  upper surface is dark green and smooth.  Found in Asia, North America, Europe.    (2)

The leaves and flowering stalks should be gathered just a blossoming time, which is between July and September.  (9)

Harvest while flowering in late summer.   (15)

Stem is angular, burrowed longitudinally.  Leaves are dark green above, alternate, pinnatisect, with five to seven lobes, which are semi-erect, decurrent, deeply incised, with sharply serrate teeth, nearly smooth above, but silvery white, with appressed, bifid, cottony hairs beneath.  Tastes bitterish and aromatic.    (57)

Active Constituents:    Volatile oils of complex constitution, chiefly, according to breed, 1,8-cineol, camphor, linalool or thujone;  sesquiterpene lactones;  lipophilic flavonoids;  polyynes;  hydroxycoumarins incl. umbelliferone and aesculetin.    (2)

Essential oil: cineole, thujone, bitter principle     (6)

volatile oil containing cineole and thujone;…, tannin, resin, inulin   (9)  

volatile oil (inc. sesquiterpene lactones and thujone),…flavonoids…silica, antibiotic               polyacetylenes,…hydroxycoumarins    (15)

Actions:    Antibiotic, sedative.    (2)

Emmenagogue, hemostatic, antispasmodic, mild narcotic, bitter tonic  (6);   …stimulant, nervine tonic, … (9)            

Primarily emmenagogue, nervine, stomachic;  also diaphoretic, diuretic.    (14)

    …bitter digestive tonic, uterine stimulant, stimulating nervine, menstrual       regulator, antirheumatic.   (15)

Emmenagogue, diuretic, diaphoretic.    (57)

Conditions & Uses:    Used in complaints of the gastrointestinal tract;  worm infestations, epilepsy, persistent vomiting, to promote circulation, and as a sedative.  Used in combination with other remedies for psychoneuroses, neurasthenia, depression, hypochondria, autonomic neuroses, irritability, restlessness, insomnia, and anxiety.  However the herb’s effectiveness for these indications has not been substantiated.    (2)

Mugwort stops excessive menstrual bleeding caused by deficiency and coldness, circulates the blood, warms the womb, pacifies the fetus, arrests threatened miscarriages, and alleviates abdominal pain caused by coldness. It also is used as a bitter tonic for the liver and stomach. It can be topically applied as a liniment or wash to relieve itching. Internally and externally it is effective both as a curative and preventive of parasites and worms. The dried, aged and powdered herb, which has a cottony consistency, can be rolled into a cigar using tissue paper. One end is bumed and held near the site of a painful area to increase blood circulation and give relief from pain. This is particularly effective injuries and bruises. Called moxibustion, this is a standard method of treatment used by acupuncturists: instead of needles, the burning cylinder is held over certain acupuncture points.     (6)

         Mugwort can be used wherever a digestive stimulant is needed. It will aid the digestion through the bitter stimulation of the juices while also providing a carminative oil. It has a mildly nervine action in aiding depression and easing tension, which appears to be due to the volatile oil, so it is essential that this is not lost in preparation. Mugwort may also be used as an emmenagogue in the aiding of normal menstrual flow.  (9)

Internal uses — colds, fevers, flu:  infusion, decoction.  Epilepsy:  tincture, fluid extract.  Insomnia:  tincture, fluid extract, infusion, decoction.  Menstrual cramps:  tincture*, fluid extract, infusion*, decoction.  Menstrual obstruction:  infusion*, decoction*, powder*.  Bowel pains, stomach pains:  infusion, decoction, tincture, fluid extract.  Stomach disorders:  tincture, fluid extract, infusion, decoction.

External uses —  abscesses, bruises, carbuncles, stomach pains:  fomentation, poultice.

*Usually used in combination with other herbs when treating the indicated problem.

Mugwort is excellent for female complaints such as suppressed menstruation and menstrual cramps.  It is especially good when combined with cramp bark, marigold and black haw for these problems.  Mugwort is good in kidney combinations when there are stones or gravel.  For pains in the stomach and bowels, drink the tea in small frequent doses and apply a fomentation of the infusion over the painful area.  May be applied externally as a poultice to boils, carbuncles, and absecesses.  Drink the tea for nervousness, shaking and insomnia.    (14)

Gentle nervine; useful for menopausal tension, mild depression, and stress. 

A gentle nervine and menstrual regulator, (mugwort) can be helpful for menopausal and menstrual problems. A bitter digestive remedy, (mugwort) can also be used in chills and fevers. In Asia, sticks of the dried herb (ai ye) are burned at the end of acupuncture needles (moxibustion) to clear “cold” and “dampness.”     (15)  

Chiefly used in female medicines and for amenorrhea, usually in combination with pennyroyal and southernwood.    (57)

Combinations:    Used in combination with other remedies for psychoneuroses, neurasthenia, depression, hypochondria, autonomic neuroses, irritability, restlessness, insomnia, and anxiety.    (2)

Dried mugwort alone, or mixed with other herbs like sage, thuja leaves or osha root, may be burned over a piece of charcoal in a sea shell (or other suitable container) and the smoke used to purify the spiritual and physical environment. This is a Native American practice called “smudging.” (6)

Combine with wood betony, skullcap, or vervain for menopausal tension with emotional stress. Combine tinctures up to a total of 5 ml per dose.     (15)

Motherwort–Combine with other sedative herbs like lavender or vervain, or with sage to ease night sweats, or with mugwort.    (15)

Chiefly used in female medicines and for amenorrhea, usually in combination with pennyroyal and southernwood.    (57)

Precautions:    No known hazards or side effects with designated dosages.  Occasional skin contact sensitization.    (2)

Avoid both herbs (wormwood and mugwort) during pregnancy   (They are uterine stimulants, and may cause fetal abnormalities) and if breastfeeding (thujone may be passed to the baby in the mother’s milk).  

If using the tincture of either herb for liver or digestive disorders, use the hot water method (see p. 125) to reduce the alcohol.     (15) 

Tincturing Process:

Applications:    Moxibustion:  In China and Japan, leaves are ground with water in a  mortar and after the removal of the larger remnants, small cones are formed and dried to be later burnt onto the skin of the patient.    (2)

Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1 — 2 teaspoonsful of the dried herb and leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes in a covered container.  3x daily.  (9)

            Take for menopausal syndrome or use as a bitter to cool the digestive tract in fever management….for menopausal tension, mild depression and stress) drink a weak infusion.   (15)

Decoction: Combine 5g with an equal amount of dry ginger to make a warming tea for menstrual pain.   (15)

Flavoring: (M) used as a flavoring in a number of aperitive drinks, a pleasant way to take it.    (9)

Tincture–Take for menstrual pain, scanty menstruation, and prolonged bleeding. Use as a stimulant in liver stagnation and sluggish digestion. In childbirth it is used for prolonged labor and retained placenta;  (For menopausal tension, mild depression and stress) Take up to 2 ml tincture 3x daily or drink a weak infusion.   (15);   Combine with wood betony, skullcap, or vervain for menopausal tension with emotional stress. Combine tinctures up to a total of 5 ml per dose.    (15)

Powder:  Up to 10 #0 capsules (up to 60 grains) as needed.    (14)


Dosage: 3‑9 gms.  (6);   Tincture: 1 — 4 ml 3x daily.    (9)

The infusion of an ounce to a pint of boiling water is taken in half-cup doses.  Liquid extract dose 1/2-1 drachm.    (57)

General Notes:   Penelope Ody includes wormwood and mugwort on the same page in her book:

These two related herbs are highly regarded medicinally in both East and West. The Anglo-Saxons listed mugwort as one of the “nine sacred herbs” given to the world by the god Woden. It was also reputedly planted along roadsides by the Romans, who put sprigs in their sandals to prevent aching feet on long journeys. Both herbs are bitter digestive remedies, and many bitter apertifs such as vermouth contain wormwood as a digestive stimulant. As its name implies, wormwood is also used to expel parasitic worms.      

  “Eldest of worts…for venom availest, for flying vile things, mighty against loathed one’s…” The Lacnunga, 9th century.     (15)          



(2)  PDR for Herbal Medicines (Medical Economics Co., 1998), pgs. 667-68

(6) Planetary Herbology by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., pgs. 264-265

(9) The Herbal Handbook by David Hoffman, pg. 160

(14) Natural Healing With Herbs by Humbart Santillo BS, MH, pgs. 148-49

(15) The Complete Medicinal Herbal by Penelope Ody, pgs 39, 125, 164-165, 169

(57) Potter’s Cyclopaedia by R.C. Wren, F.L.S., p. 242


PHOTO: Wikipedia