AskDefine | Define mugwort

Dictionary Definition

mugwort n : any of several weedy composite plants of the genus Artemisia

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Any of several aromatic plants of the genus Artemisia native to Europe and Asia.
  2. Artemisia vulgaris, also common wormwood, used as a herb in cooking.


any artemisia
Artemisia vulgaris

Extensive Definition

Artemisia vulgaris (Mugwort or Common Wormwood) is one of several species in the genus Artemisia with names containing mugwort. It is also occasionally known as Felon Herb, Chrysanthemum Weed, Wild Wormwood, or St. John's Plant (not to be confused with St John's wort). It is native to temperate Europe, Asia and northern Africa, but is also present in North America where it is an invasive weed. It is a very common plant growing on nitrogenous soils, like weedy and uncultivated areas, such as waste places and roadsides.
Mugwort is a different species from Wormwood, but of the same genus, and containing some of the same chemical components. The Mugwort is closely allied to the Common Wormwood, but may be readily distinguished by the leaves being white on the under-surfaces only and by the leaf segments being pointed, not blunt. It lacks some of the essential oils of the Wormwood.
It is a tall herbaceous perennial plant growing 1-2 m (rarely 2.5 m) tall, with a woody root. The leaves are 5-20 cm long, dark green, pinnate, with dense white tomentose hairs on the underside. The erect stem often has a red-purplish tinge. The rather small flowers (5 mm long) are radially symmetrical with many yellow or dark red petals. The narrow and numerous capitula (flower heads) spread out in racemose panicles. It flowers from July to September.
A number of species of Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) feed on the leaves and flowers; see List of Lepidoptera that feed on Artemisia for details.


Mugwort is often said to derive from the word 'mug' because it was used in flavoring drinks. However, this may be a folk etymology. Other sources say Mugwort is derived from the old Norse muggi, meaning "marsh", and Germanic "wuertz", meaning "root", which refers to its use since ancient times to repel insects, especially moths.
Mugwort is called chornobyl in Ukrainian, and has given its name to the abandoned city of Chornobyl (Chernobyl in Russian).

Related species

There are other species in the genus Artemisia called mugwort:


Mugwort contains thujone, which is toxic. Pregnant women, in particular, should avoid consuming large amounts of mugwort. The species is little used now due to toxicity concerns, but has a number of recorded historic uses in food, herbal medicine, and as a smoking herb. It is also used by many, as it is thought that placing the herb inside the cover of a pillow and sleeping on the pillow can induce vivid dreams.


The leaves and buds, best picked shortly before the plant flowers in July to September, were used as a bitter flavoring agent to season fat meat and fish. In Germany, known as Beifuß, it is mainly used to season goose, especially the roast goose traditionally eaten for Christmas.
Mugwort is also used in Korea and Japan to give festive rice cakes a greenish color. After the cherry trees bloom in Korea, hordes of bonneted grandmothers collect wild mugwort. It is a common seasoning in Korean soups and pancakes. Known as a blood cleanser, it is believed to have different medicinal properties depending on the region it is collected.
In the Middle Ages Mugwort was used as part of a herbal mixture called gruit, used in the flavoring of beer before the widespread introduction of hops.
In Korea, this herb is often used as a flavouring for soft ricecakes (called 'ssook-dok'), soups, and other foods.

Herbal Medicine

The plant contains ethereal oils (such as cineole, or wormwood oil, and thujone), flavonoids, triterpenes, and coumarin derivatives. It was also used as an anthelminthic, so it is sometimes confused with wormwood (Artemisia absinthium). The plant, called nagadamni in Sanskrit, is used in Ayurveda for cardiac complaints.
Mugwort is used in the practice of traditional Chinese medicine in a pulverized and aged form called moxa. The British RCT yielded results that indicate that moxibustion of mugwort was indeed effective at increasing the cephalic positioning of fetuses who were in a breech position before the intervention. Since it also causes uterine contractions, it has been used to cause abortion. It also plays a role in Asian traditional medicine as a method of correcting breech presentation. A study of 260 Chinese women at 33 weeks of pregnancy demonstrated cephalic version within two weeks in 75% of fetuses carried by patients who were treated with moxibustion, as opposed to 48% in the control group. It has also been shown that acupuncture plus moxibustion slows fetal heart rates while increasing fetal movement. Two recent studies of Italian patients produced conflicting results. In the first, involving 226 patients, there was cephalic presentation at delivery in 54% of women treated between 33 and 35 weeks with acupuncture and moxibustion, vs. 37% in the control group. The second was terminated prematurely because of numerous treatment interruptions.

Folklore & Witchcraft

In the Middle Ages, mugwort was used as a magical protective herb. Mugwort was used to repel insects, especially moths, from gardens. Mugwort has also been used from ancient times as a remedy against fatigue and to protect travelers against evil spirits and wild animals. Roman soldiers put mugwort in their sandals to protect their feet against fatigue.
Much used in witchcraft, mugwort is said to be useful in inducing lucid dreaming and astral travel. Consumption of the plant, or a tincture thereof, prior to sleeping is said to increase the intensity of dreams, the level of control, and to aid in the recall of dreams upon waking. One common method of ingestion is to smoke the plant. Colloquially, this practice is known as "Having a tasp."


External links

mugwort in Bulgarian: Див пелин
mugwort in Catalan: Altimira
mugwort in Czech: Pelyněk černobýl
mugwort in Danish: Grå-Bynke
mugwort in German: Beifuß
mugwort in Spanish: Artemisia vulgaris
mugwort in Persian: برنجاسف
mugwort in French: Armoise commune
mugwort in Italian: Artemisia vulgaris
mugwort in Georgian: მამულა (მცენარე)
mugwort in Haitian: Amwaz
mugwort in Limburgan: Aels (bijvoet)
mugwort in Hungarian: Fekete üröm
mugwort in Dutch: Bijvoet
mugwort in Japanese: ヨモギ
mugwort in Norwegian: Burot
mugwort in Norwegian Nynorsk: Burot
mugwort in Polish: Bylica pospolita
mugwort in Portuguese: Erva-de-são-joão
mugwort in Slovak: Palina obyčajná
mugwort in Finnish: Pujo
mugwort in Swedish: Gråbo
mugwort in Telugu: మాచిపత్రి
mugwort in Vietnamese: Ngải cứu
mugwort in Ukrainian: Чорнобиль (рослина)
mugwort in Chinese: 艾草
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