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Mugwort: A Weed to Some, but a Beneficial Herb to Others

Story at-a-glance

  • Weeds are considered to be a gardening nuisance because they can spread like wildfire. But one weed in particular may help you change your mind about them: mugwort
  • Despite being classified as a weed, mugwort surprisingly has several practical applications, many of which you may find useful

Weeds are invasive plant species that can thrive in various environments.1 They typically produce a large number of seeds, which allows them to take over a location where they are not supposed to grow. Hence, gardeners exert tremendous effort to remove them whenever possible because their produce can suffer.2 However, not all weeds are inherently bad and should be immediately uprooted. Some weeds can actually be beneficial to your health, like mugwort.

Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) is an aromatic plant with a rich history, with many ancient cultures using it for numerous uses. Its botanical name is derived from Artemis, the Greek goddess for chastity, virginity, the hunt and the environment.3 Historically, Anglo-Saxon tribes revered mugwort as a sacred herb gifted to them by their chief deity, Woden. Romans, on the other hand, planted mugwort on sidewalks to help travelers rest their feet from long walks.4

The Benefits of Mugwort

Mugwort plays an important role in Chinese acupuncture, with a history going back around 3,000 years ago. It is used in moxibustion, a process where mugwort leaves are gathered into sticks or cones the size of a cigar, and then burned over an acupuncture point to help release energy.5

Moxibustion can help treat menstrual cramping, stimulate a regular menstrual cycle and may even aid unborn infants to move into the correct position prior to delivery. In a study published in The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, researchers noticed that performing moxibustion at the tip of the fifth toe yielded positive results for infants in the breech position.6

Mugwort may also be used for the following conditions:7







Nerve problems


Different Uses of Mugwort You May Like

Despite being classified as a weed, mugwort surprisingly has several practical applications, which you may find useful. The most well-known include:8

Growing Mugwort in Your Garden

Being a weed, mugwort can thrive just about anywhere, from fields to ditches and even the side of the road.10 That being said, growing mugwort requires discipline and consistency, because it can quickly overtake your garden and become truly invasive.

Preparing Mugwort Seeds

Before growing mugwort, the seeds need to be prepared for germination through stratification, a method that breaks seed dormancy by creating an optimal environment for them to grow. This drastically reduces the time it takes for seedlings to emerge.11

To stratify the seeds, you must simulate a cold climate. Start by mixing them with lightly misted sandy soil or peat moss inside a plastic bag. Then, chill the bag in a refrigerator for two weeks. Check every other day to ensure that the mixture is moist. If not, add some water again to maintain moisture.12

Planting the Seeds in Your Garden

Once stratification is done, plant the seeds during the early spring, because the cold soil will enhance the stratified seeds further. Scatter the seeds lightly and evenly on the soil's surface, 3 inches apart in all directions.13 Don't worry about the soil's pH level. However, it should have good drainage and full sun exposure. If all instructions are followed correctly, seedlings should appear in two weeks.14

What to Do Once Seeds Emerge

Once the seedlings reach a height of 4 inches, prune them to avoid overcrowding. Spread out the healthy seedlings, placing them 2 feet apart. Low-quality seedlings can be removed using garden shears.15

Maintaining Your Mugwort Plants

As your plants grow and reach maturity, maintain them properly to yield a high-quality harvest. Avoid overwatering, and trim them to prevent being overshadowed by fellow mugwort plants. If a plant becomes too heavy to support itself, remove the top or sides with pruning shears.16

Recipe: Making Mugwort Tea

Mugwort has several applications in cooking, but it is mostly known as an alternative to tea. It became popular during World War II in England, due to the increasing prices of regular tea throughout that period.17

How to Harvest the Best Mugwort Tea Leaves

Harvesting mugwort specifically for tea follows a certain procedure. Please follow this to harvest high-quality mugwort tea:

  1. Cut the top one-third of the plant when mugwort's flower is in bloom.
  2. Hang the plant upside down to dry (such as from an indoor clothesline), or chop it into small pieces, spread out on a newspaper. The roots are dug up and collected in the fall.
  3. Use a scrub brush and running water to clean the roots, then spread them out on a newspaper to let them dry completely.
  4. Store all parts of the plant away from light, such as in paper bags.

Procedure for Making Mugwort Tea

  1. Place 1 ounce of dried mugwort in 4 cups of boiling water and let it boil for five to 10 minutes, then strain.
  2. If you let it sit longer and make a standard infusion in a mason jar for four hours, the tea will become quite bitter.
  3. Feel free to halve this recipe if you want to make less tea. You can keep any unused tea in the refrigerator for two to three days.

You Can Make Mugwort Root Tea as Well

For a different kind of tea flavor, you can use mugwort roots. Here's the procedure:

  1. Chop 1 ounce of mugwort roots and place them inside a glass or ceramic pot. Add 4 cups water afterwards.
  2. Let the mixture come to a boil, then continue to simmer while covered, until it reduces by half. This should take around 20 to 30 minutes.
  3. Strain and drink.

Mugwort Is Also Useful as an Essential Oil

Aside from being used in culinary creations, mugwort enjoys a reputation in aromatherapy. To produce mugwort essential oil, the leaves, buds and flowering tops are heat-distilled, and the essential oil is extracted, gathered and packaged.18

Benefits of Mugwort Essential Oil

In aromatherapy, mugwort oil is known to provide the following benefits:19

Before using mugwort essential oil, however, be sure to visit a doctor. Your skin may have an allergic reaction to it, making it unsafe to use. You can perform a skin patch test by placing a diluted drop on your arm; wait and see if any negative reaction will occur. In addition, if you're pregnant, it's not recommended to use this oil.

[+] Sources and References [-] Sources and References

  • 1 USDA National Invasive Species Information Center, “Invasive Species: Plants”
  • 2 Department of the Environment and Energy, “What Is a Weed?”
  • 3, “Artemis”
  • 4, “Mugwort”
  • 5, 7 Healthline, “Mugwort: A Weed With Potential”
  • 6 The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, “Cephalic Version by Moxibustion for Breech Presentation” May 16, 2012
  • 8, 17 The Grow Network, “For the Love of Mugwort: 7 Uses for Mugwort” October 5, 2015
  • 9 Adventures in Making, “DIY: Dream Pillows”
  • 10 Gardening Know How, “Mugwort Control: Tips for Getting Rid of Mugwort”
  • 11 Gardening Know How, “Seed Stratification: Learn About Stratification of Seeds & What Seeds Require Cold Treatment”
  • 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 The Bump, “How to Grow Mugwort and Germination Instructions”
  • 18, 19 Organic Facts, “Health Benefits of Mugwort Essential Oil”
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