Common mugwort was known as the Mater Herbarum, or Mother of Herbs, with a formidable reputation as a magical plant for women.
One of Mugwort’s common nicknames, St. John’s Plant, comes from the belief that John the Baptist carried Mugwort with him into the wild for protection.
The name Mugwort is often attributed to its historical use in flavouring beer before the use of hops. To make the beer, fresh Mugwort was gathered when in flower, dried, decocted in malt liquor, then added to the beer.
The flowers: incense, fragrance, tea, flavouring herb, poultice
The leaves: dried for tea, tinctures, bitter tonics, vinegars, incense, poultice
The root: tea, decoction, tonic
Season To Harvest
Leaves - late spring/early summer before she flowers. Young shoots can be harvested early spring and eaten raw or cooked.
Flowers - Late summer/autumn
Root - Autumn
Flowers: Volatile oils, beta-sitosterol, coumarins, and alpha and beta-carotene.
Leaves: sesquiterpene lactones, tannins, flavonoids, coumarin derivatives and triterpenes.
Root: tannins and resins.
Although the whole aerial part of the plant is medicinal, the leaves hold the most medicine and are harvested just before the plant flowers as this is when the medicine will be the strongest in the leaves.
Energetically, mugwort is warming, drying, and both a relaxant and stimulant.
Flower: As a flavouring herb to meals or drinks, the flowers can also be used with the leaves as a tea but rarely as a tincture or ongoing medicinal treatment as some say they contain small amounts of toxic substances.
Leaves: As a bitter tonic it aids with digestion, constipation, diarrhoea, worms and the production of bile in the liver and gallbladder.
She also acts as a nervine stimulater, revitalising the nervous system while at the same time being a nervine relaxant and soothing nervousness, anxiety and tension.
Perhaps best well known for its affinity to women, mugwort is an emmenagogue. She can help stimulate and encourage healthy blood flow in menstrual cycles, aid in labour by helping bring on contractions and can act an an abortant if taken in early stages of pregnancy. In fact midwives used to carry a sprig of mugwort in their bags or pockets while tending to a birth for good luck.
Taken as a tea she is also known to be mildly psychoactive, encouraging lucid dreaming and the activation of the third eye.
Both leaves and flowers are antibacterial and antifungal, and can be applied topically to relieve itching and burning. Both are also used as incense to keep moths and insects away.
Root: tea or tonic to boost energy and nervous system.
Mugwort is known not only as the woman's herb but as the witch’s herb. It was often grown, hung or placed by their front doors by witches, healers, medicine women or midwives in order to let other folk know of their services.
Some call this plant ‘the old woman, mother herb or witches herb’ and consider it to be a manifestation of feminine ancestral wisdom. It is also used to facilitate communication with ancestors and the spirit world - drink it as a tea or tonic at bedtime or placed bundles of the herb under pillows to induce lucid dreams.
It is said that weary travellers would stop and place a mugwort leaf in their shoes if they came across the plant as this was thought to help stop their feet from tiring.