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What Is Mugwort?

Herb related to ragweed used in naturopathic and traditional Chinese medicine

Arno Kroner, DAOM, LAc, is a board-certified acupuncturist, as well as an herbalist and integrative medicine doctor. He operates a private practice in Santa Monica, California.

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Mugwort ( Artemisia vulgaris ) is a flowering plant native to northern Europe, Asia, and parts of North America. The sage-colored plant is commonly used for beer-making but is also thought to prevent or treat health conditions like anxiety, digestion problems, and irregular periods, among others.

The roots, leaves, stems, and blossoms of the mugwort plant are all used in folk medicine to make tinctures, extracts, tonics, teas, powders, and essential oils.

This article describes the medical uses of mugwort as well as the possible risks and side effects. It also offers tips on how to select and use mugwort safely.

Commonly Known As

  • Artemisia
  • Hierba de San Juan
  • Armoise
  • Vulgaris herba
  • Felon herb
  • St. John's herb
  • Chrysanthemum weed
  • Herbe royale

Click Play to Learn More About Mugwort Tea

This video has been medically reviewed by Meredith Bull, ND.

What Is Mugwort Used For?

Many people consider mugwort to be a common weed. This is because the plant spreads aggressively and can take over large parts of a garden. The plant is also related to ragweed and may cause allergies in people allergic to ragweed.

So when it is found in a yard or garden, mugwort is often destroyed. But in certain parts of the world, mugwort is purposely grown to make herbal medicine.

Mugwort was used by marching soldiers in ancient Rome who put the plant in their shoes to relieve aching feet. St. John the Baptist was said to have worn a girdle of mugwort to relieve stomach pain.

Today, mugwort is used for many medical reasons, including:

  • Relieving stress
  • Boosting energy
  • Promoting blood circulation
  • Relieving headaches
  • Supporting liver health
  • Relieving itching
  • Increasing urine output
  • Easing digestion problem
  • Repelling insects
  • Relieving muscle aches
  • Normalizing menstrual cycles

Active Components

The parts of the mugwort plant that grow above the ground are used to make essential oil. Compounds in the oil (including camphor, pinene, and cineole) are said to have potent antioxidant, antibacterial, and antifungal effects.

A chemical called artemisinin is also found in the root, stem, leaves, and blossoms of the mugwort plant. When taken by mouth, artemisinin is said to cause gentle contractions of the uterus, promoting regular periods. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), it is also sometimes used to induce labor.

Artemisinin is thought to have anti-cancer properties, though this has yet to be proven.

Conditions Treated

To date, there is little scientific poor that mugwort can prevent or treat any medical condition. Even so, it is regularly used for people with:

  • Amenorrhea (irregular or absent periods)
  • Anxiety
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Colic
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Eczema
  • Diarrhea
  • Epilepsy
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea or vomiting

In traditional Chinese medicine, mugwort is also used in the practice of moxibustion . Moxibustion involves rolling mugwort into sticks or cones, igniting it, and waving it over the part of the body being treated. This is thought to enhance the effects of acupuncture.

A 2012 review published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology suggested that moxibustion can aid in the delivery of breech babies, reducing the need for cesarean sections. Further research is needed.

Recap

Mugwort is thought to treat anxiety, constipation, diarrhea, epilepsy, eczema, headaches, insomnia, and irregular periods, among other health conditions. It is also used in the practice of moxibustion to enhance the effects of acupuncture. There is little evidence that mugwort can prevent or treat any illness.

Possible Side Effects

Mugwort is considered safe more most people but should not be used in those who are pregnant as it may cause the uterus to contract and induce miscarriage. Due to the lack of safety research, mugwort should also not be used in children or people who are breastfeeding.

People with a ragweed allergy should use mugwort with caution due to an increased risk of an allergic reaction.

Mild allergic symptoms to mugwort include:

  • Hives or rash
  • Itching
  • Mouth tingling
  • Swollen lips
  • Headaches
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea or vomiting

Severe allergic symptoms to mugwort include:

  • Sudden, severe hives or rash
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeats
  • Swelling of the face, throat, or neck
  • Lightheadedness or fainting

Severe allergic symptoms are signs of a potentially deadly, whole-body allergy known as anaphylaxis . Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency that can lead to shock and death if not treated immediately.

People allergic to celery, birch, or carrot should also use mugwort with caution because the herb is linked to “celery-carrot-mugwort-spice syndrome." This is typically a milder allergy but one that can cause anaphylaxis in rare cases.

A 2008 study from the Netherlands found that 87% of people allergic to celery were also allergic to mugwort, while 52% of those allergic to birch and 26% of those allergic to caraway also had mugwort allergies.

Recap

As mugwort is related to ragweed, people with a ragweed allergy may experience an allergic reaction to mugwort as well. Due to the lack of safety research, mugwort should be avoided in children and people who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Dosage and Preparation

Mugwort is used in cooking to flavor foods and beverages, including fish, meat, desserts, pancakes, soups, salads, and more. Mugwort was used in Europe to flavor beer long before hops were discovered.

Mugwort can be found online and in drugstores, natural food stores, and herbalist shops in many different forms, including:

  • Extracts
  • Tinctures
  • Dried whole leaves
  • Powders
  • Essential oil
  • Supplements (including tablets, capsules, and softgels)

Mugwort can be made into a tea by adding one and a half teaspoons of dried mugwort to a cup of boiling water and steeping for 10 minutes.

There is no recommended dose of mugwort in any form. With that said, mugwort supplements may be safest as the dose is more controlled. As a rule, do not exceed the dose on the product label.

Recap

Mugwort is available as a dietary supplement, essential oil, liquid extract, tincture, powder, or whole dried leaves. There is no recommended dose of mugwort.

What to Look For

Keep in mind that herbal remedies and supplements are not strictly regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

To better ensure safety, select products that have been certified by the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USF), NSF International, or ConsumerLab. These independent bodies evaluate and report on the purity and safety of natural or herbal supplements like mugwort.

When foraging for mugwort to make essential oil, it is important to harvest the plant when it is just starting to bloom. This is when the flower contains the most potent oil content.

Recap

Mugwort is available as a supplement, liquid extract, tincture, essential oil, powder, and whole dried leaves. There is no recommended dose. To ensure purity, opt for brands that have been tested by a third-party certifying body like U.S. Pharmacopeia, NSF International, or ConsumerLab.

Summary

Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris L.) is a plant related to ragweed used as a food flavorant and for herbal medicine. It is thought to boost energy, calm nerves, support digestion, relieve itching and pain, and promote regular periods, among other things. The evidence supporting these claims is lacking.

Mugwort is available as a dietary supplement, tincture, extract, essential oil, powder, or whole dried leaves. It is generally safe for use, although it may cause an allergic reaction in people with ragweed allergies as well as allergies to celery, carrot, or birch. There is no recommended dose.

Mugwort should not be used in children or people who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

A Word From Verywell

Mugwort is considered an invasive species in some geographic areas. In fact, it grows so fast, rapidly taking over gardens and other spaces, that it is illegal to grow in some states. Be sure to check your local and state regulations before cultivating mugwort. There are heavy fines for planting mugwort in some states.

Frequently Asked Questions

Mugwort is a mild psychoactive herb that can alter your senses, Some types of psychoactive herbs may cause hallucinations, but it's unlikely with mugwort. You'd have to take in an extreme amount of mugwort to alter your senses enough to hallucinate.

Actually, it could be very dangerous, but more research on the risks is needed. For thousands of years, traditional medicine has used mugwort smoke to treat ailments. It may be smoked like tobacco or burned near the skin. In both forms, the smoke contains chemicals that are cancerous and harmful.

Wormwood is often considered a type of mugwort, but the names are used interchangeably. There are many species of mugwort and many species of wormwood, but they are grouped into one scientific family, the Artemisia genus. Plants are then divided into smaller groups that differ by how they look, where they live, or other traits.

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