mugwort spiritual uses

The Magic of Mugwort, the Mother of Herbs

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All passionate foragers have their spots where they know certain herbs and medicinal plants grow, and I have mine.  One of those is my spot for mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris).  Along the edges of a large field full of tall grasses that abuts part of the Quinebaug River Wildlife Management Area, mugwort grows prolifically.  I could pick as much as I could possibly need and then some. I’m happy to say that it won’t be long now before I’m there again harvesting this beneficial and magical plant. 


What is Mugwort?

Mugwort is a species of flowering plant in the daisy family Asteraceae. It is one of several species in the genus Artemisia commonly known as mugwort, although (Artemisia vulgaris) is the species most often called mugwort.

Many people who see this plant growing, think it’s just a weed, but we herbalists and wildcrafters know better. Mugwort is a stately, self-assured perennial plant that can reach heights of over six feet. Its tall summer presence is found in many locations, ranging from waysides, roadsides, waste grounds, and between forests and fields. Its magical, culinary, and medicinal properties have been known and valued by cultures throughout history.  


History, Folklore, & Magic?

According to tradition, mugwort was known as the witch’s herb and aptly renamed by some as cronewort. Historically, it was placed by the door of the local witch, healer, and midwife. It was also used as a symbol that would be hung on the door or planted outside.

Its scientific name, Artemisia, may give us a clue as to the powers of this herb. Named after the Greek moon goddess Artemis – who was known for her patronage of women in all phases of their lives, especially at the onset of menstruation, in childbirth, and during menopause – it is easy to see what uses this herb has. 

This plant has earned the title “mother of herbs” for its use in treating female reproductive disorders and for regulating menstrual cycles. Some people call it ‘the old woman’ and consider it to be a manifestation of ancestral wisdom and feminine qualities.

In shamanistic cultures, it was used to facilitate communication with ancestors and the spirit world; people drank it as a tea or tonic at bedtime or placed bundles of the herb under pillows to induce lucid dreams.

In medieval times, this herb passed from the pagan goddess Artemis to the Christian saint John the Baptist. The saint carried the herb into the wilderness with him to ward off evil. This led to “St. John’s Girdle” and the wearing of a mugwort garland on St. John’s Day while dancing around a ceremonial fire. The garland would be tossed into the fire to ensure protection for the following year. In some places, this ritual is still performed today.

“There is no herb that I know of, more imbued with folklore and superstition than mugwort, a plant for which I have a deep affinity likely due to my belief in the magical properties of plants. It is an ancient magical herb with curative and divinatory properties, bearing a special value in feminine disorders and warmly strengthening the body”.

mugwort spiritual uses


Knowing how to identify mugwort’s leaves, flowers, and stems can help you confidently identify them in the wild.

Leaves: The plant’s leaves are a strong identifier. Leaves are 1 to 4½ inches long, up to 3 inches wide, and deeply divided into finger-like, wedge-shaped lobes along the central vein. They are hairless on top, but they have a silvery-white, downy underside. If you are familiar with the smell of sage, the plant should smell similar.

Flowers: Flowers consist of small, yellow and reddish-brown heads that sprout from the upper parts of the plant in branching clusters. The flowers have seven to ten pale yellow thread-like pistils extending from the center. The stems, stalks, and bracts are light green from a covering of frosty hairs.

Stems: Multiple reddish-colored stems grow from the ground, smooth and unbranched in the lower plant, but becoming much-branched with short, matted hairs in the flower cluster.


Mugwort Look-alikes

Mugwort has several look-alikes.  Two of the most common here in the Northeast are wormwood and motherwort.

People often confuse mugwort with wormwood or use the names interchangeably thinking they are the same plant, when in reality mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) and wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) are two different herbs from the same family, the Artemisia genus. 

One way to tell them apart is to look at the leaves. Mugwort leaves are green on the top and white underneath, with pointed tips and purplish stems, while wormwood leaves are silvery on top and bottom, with flowers that are much showier. Also worth pointing out is wormwood is the main ingredient in the infamous drink absinthe.

Motherwort and mugwort plants are similar in appearance, but distinct characteristics set them apart. Mugwort leaves are white-woolly and almost silvery on the underside, while motherwort leaves may be slightly hairy and will be the same color on top and bottom.  Motherwort has its own folklore and history of medicinal use for heart ailments.  Additionally, it was used to remedy nervousness, dizziness, and other disorders of women (an interesting addition to the garden I think). 


Medicinal Benefits & Uses

Mugwort is traditionally used to support appetite, digestion, and nutrient absorption when taken over time in small amounts. In various herbal practices, it is believed to help maintain a healthy digestive system.

Mugwort is also thought to have properties that may support women’s reproductive health, such as promoting menstrual regularity and providing comfort during menstrual cramps. Additionally, it has been historically used for its antiseptic qualities.

Topically, mugwort is used in herbal traditions to promote skin health. It is believed to have antibacterial and antifungal properties, and can be applied to soothe itching and burning. Many herbalists use it in salves for rashes, poison oak, and other skin issues.

During the summer, mugwort is commonly used as a natural insect repellent, to protect clothes from moths, and to create a positive atmosphere by dispelling negative energy in living spaces.

Is Common Mugwort Edible?

Mugwort is edible and can be eaten fresh but is more popularly used as a spice or flavoring agent. It is commonly put in soups, meats, and stews. Mugwort has also been used as a flavoring in beer before the introduction of hops.


Mugwort Tea

Mugwort can be made into tea by adding 1 to 1  1/2 tsp. of dried mugwort to a cup of boiling water and steeping for 10 minutes. While there is no recommended dose of mugwort in any form, I wouldn’t recommend any larger dose until you know how your body reacts to this herb. 


Do not use mugwort if you are: allergic to birch, kiwi, peach, mango, apple, celery, carrots, cabbage, grass, hazelnut, olive pollen, honey, mustard, royal jelly, sweet bell pepper pollen, tobacco, and sunflower, if under 18 years of age or pregnant.

The hallucinogenic properties of Mugwort are slim to none, but caution should be exercised due to its ability to enduce lucid and vivid dreams and even sometimes trance-like half dream states.  These dream states induced by mugwort can be so vivid that they can have the same damaging psychological effects one would get from hallucinogenic drugs or items known to cause vivid hallucinations.


The Outdoor Apotheca website is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice. The information provided is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. While we strive to provide accurate and up-to-date information, it is the reader’s responsibility to ensure proper plant identification and usage.

Please be aware that some plants are poisonous or can have serious adverse health effects. We are not health professionals, medical doctors, or nutritionists. It is essential to consult with qualified professionals for verification of nutritional information, health benefits, and any potential risks associated with edible and medicinal plants mentioned on this website.

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5 thoughts on “The Magic of Mugwort, the Mother of Herbs”

  1. My mugwort plants that I grew from seeds have no smell at all. They are definitely artemisia vulgaris no doubt. Any idea why ?
    Thank you!

  2. Wonderful facts, thank you! Are the leaves AND flowers harvested? Are they used separately or can they be used together?

  3. Unfortunately, we have to add Mugwort to the growing list of invasives that are taking over acres of land, choking out other native species until there is nothing but Mugwort left. I read that it even puts out a poison from its roots to suppress other plant growth. If it could only learn to “play nice with others”. Ed in southeastern NY

    1. Thanks for sharing your concern about Mugwort and its impact on native species. Invasive plants like Mugwort can indeed disrupt ecosystems and outcompete native plants, which is a significant challenge for biodiversity. Efforts to control invasives and restore native habitats are crucial for maintaining ecosystem health. Your comment highlights the ongoing need for environmental stewardship and raises awareness about these challenges.

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