Mugwort grows in almost every part of the world. There are many types and the most commonly known are the Chinese variety, Artemesia argyi, and the common Artemesia vulgaris. The name of the plant comes to us from the Goddess Artemis, lady of the moon, who gives comfort to women in labor, and blessings on hunting and fertility.
There is evidence of mugwort in ancient Egypt, where the smoke was an offering to Isis.
Mugwort has roots that pre-date modern written history and was associated with powers of strength, psychic powers, lucid and prophetic dreams. It was put in a shoe to prevent wild beasts, evil spirits, sunstroke, & fatigue on long journeys. In Anglo-Saxon Britain to cure people who had fallen victim to “elf shot,” which appears to be a catch-all term used to apply to people who had become sick, their illness being blamed upon the invisible arrows of the Fae. Bald’s Leechbook, an herbal book from from around the ninth century, refers to the use of mugwort to cast out demonic possession, in which the author recommends heating a large stone in the fireplace, then sprinkling it with mugwort, and adding water to create a steam for the patient to inhale.
The Chumash Indian name for this plant is Molush, and the Paiute name is translated as Dream Plant. Mugwort is believed by many Californian indigenous tribes to improve people's dreams, making it more likely for them to remember them and interact with them for spiritual purposes. For this reason mugworts would often be burned as incense or dried and sewn into a pillow to ensure positive and spiritually meaningful dreams. Some Miwok people also wore mugwort leaves to keep away ghosts and evil dreams. In addition to these important roles as a dreaming agent, mugwort was also used as a medicine herb to cure headaches, women's reproductive complications, and other ailments.
On of the herbs of St. John The Baptist in Holland, Germany, Britain, who wore a belt of it when wandering in the wilderness. Smoked over a St. Johns Day fire, it was then used to drive out demons. In China it is hung up to be protective against evil spirits. The great Roman herbalist, Pliny the Elder said of mugwort, “The wayfaring man that hath the herb tied about him feeleth no weariness at all and he can never be hurt by any poisonous medicine, by any wild beast, neither yet by the sun itself”. It is said not only to protect, but to reverse hexes, and if hidden near door ways, it will stop unwelcome visitors.
Mugwort is one of the sacred herbs of Woden (God of the wild hunt) invoked in the Anglo-Saxon Nine Herbs Charm, recorded in the 10th century in the Lacnunga, "Remember, Mugwort, what you made known? What you arranged at the Great proclamation? You were called Una, the oldest of herbs, you have power against three and against thirty, you have power against poison and against infection, you have power against the loathsome foe roving through the land."
Mugwort is called Una (One) and the "oldest of herbs". There is mythology that suggests it is the mother of all herbs, and perhaps even the first cultivated medicinal and magical herb carried with humans as they traveled and filled the earth.
In Chamber's Popular Rhymes of Scotland (1870) is an old Scottish legend that says a mermaid surfaced near Port Glasgow and saw the funereal of a young girl who died of Tuberculosis and exclaimed, "If they wad (would) eat Nettles in March and Muggins (Mugwort) in May, sae mony braw (so many fine) maidens would not go to clay." Another similar legend claims a mermaid of Galloway came across a young man mourning over a very ill sweetheart, and the mermaid told the lad that mugwort flowers would be the cure, and indeed he juiced them and the maiden drank the juice, and the flowers did restore her to health. According to these tales mermaids actually relayed the virtues of mugwort to humanity. This connects to the fact that this herb is ruled by moon goddesses, who control the tides, and by extension the waterways.
According to the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, mugwort leaf has bitter, pungent and warm properties, and is associated with the Liver, Spleen and Kidney meridians. Its main functions when used topically in a moxa treatment is to warm the meridians and stop bleeding (prevent miscarriage or early menses), and to dispel cold and stop pain, and is calming both to mother and fetus. When moxibustion is being used to reverse a fetus in breech, the procedure stimulates a specific acupuncture point, BL67, located near the toenail of the fifth toe, creating blood circulation and energy that result in an increase in fetal movements. According to a study by the Journal of the American Medical Association, 75 percent of 130 fetuses reversed positions after the mother was treated with moxibustion
In Ayurveda, oil from the plant can be gently applied over the abdomen to strengthen abdominal muscles and protect against miscarriage, it also relieves menstrual cycle pain.
Internally – the herb should not be taken by pregnant or breast-feeding women. As it acts as an emmenagogue. - that is, an agent that increases blood circulation to the pelvic area and uterus and stimulates menstruation. The root can be taken in small doses for stress, depression, irritability, insomnia, and even as an energy tonic. People take mugwort root as a “tonic” and to boost energy. People take the rest of the plant for stomach and intestinal conditions including colic, diarrhea, constipation, cramps, weak digestion, worm infestations, and persistent vomiting. Mugwort is also used to stimulate gastric juice and bile secretion
Mugwort, like wormwood, sage, tarragon, and many types of evergreens, contains terpenoid α-thujone. While toxic in large quantities, it also is toxic to intestinal worms and parasites and is known to aid digestion. It been known for its use in absinthe to have effects to stimulate the imagination and bring about more vivid dreams. Thujone, is excitatory on the brain and may produce mood elevation and antidepressant effects. It is a been researched to inhibiting GABA receptors, and thus decreases GABA's slow down effect and allows neurons to fire more easily. New research is showing that GABA antagonsits can protect the cognitive and memory functions of the brain. (https://www.alzforum.org/news/research-news/gaba-and-plasticity-can-antagonists-improve-cognition)
Although studies have shown that the liver quickly metabolizes thujone, making a toxic dose almost impossible (http://www.wormwoodsociety.org/index.php/216-knowledge-library/general-articles-and-editorials/1-the-shaky-history-of-thujone) , I would still recommend using the plant internally with care, taking breaks from use – matching the days drinking it with the amount of days off (1 day on, 1 day off, or 1 week on 1 week off). IT is always best with a new plant medicine to start with a small amount. Allergic reactions are rare, but always possible.
Mugwort contains several other important components such as camphor, sabinene, pinene, cineole, artemisia oil, chrysanthenyl acetate, germacrene D, caryophyllene, borneol, quercetin, silica, antibiotic polyacetylenes, inulin, hydroxycoumarins, fiber, calcium, zinc, vitamin C, and more than 100 other constitutes (Chemical composition of essential oils of Artemisia vulgaris L. from North Lithuania by Judžentiene A. and Buzelyt J. 2006)
Completed and current ongoing studies on the possible uses of mugwort indicate that links to the fundamental component of the plant, artemisinins, as being toxic to certain cancer cells. Relatedly, mugwort is a naturally occurring anti-malarial.
As scientists have continued to study the components that effect malaria, they’ve found links to artemisinins targeting mitochondria, endoplasmic reticulum and the lysosome. Cancer cells contain a higher level of iron then healthy cells do, which in turn, makes them more susceptible to the toxicity in artemisinin.
In one study, scientists paired the iron heavy cancerous cells with the artemisinin. Once the combination was inside the cells, the result was enhanced toxicity — which means, more potential killing capacity towards the cancer. In the exact words of the hypothesis: “This tagged-compound could potentially develop into an effective chemotherapeutic agent for cancer treatment.”
While this isn’t a proven method for treating cancer yet, it’s certainly something to be on the lookout for as the results of more studies and research unfold.
Shamanic Magical Use: This is the plant of Midgard, burned at the start of a ritual. One starts and ends with Mugwort, as one starts and ends with Midgard. Its shamanic purpose is purification. We tend to think of purification, in these days of advanced medical antisepsis, as being sterile. To us, "pure" has come to mean "without life". When we use something whose basic power is purification, we expect, on some level, for it to clean everything and leave it a blank slate. However, that's not what magical purification actually does.
Perhaps a better term for it would be "sanctification". Purifying magics create that aura of sacred space, which is so clear when you're in it but so elusive to describe. In order to create that energy, they do push out other sorts of energy, including the busy, well-worn, "messy" energy of the everyday. After the purification energy fades, the other stuff may drift back, or it might not, so it can have a cleaning effect in some cases.
Mugwort is the herb that is most often burned as recels, the Old English word for incense; pronounced ray-kels. The act of burning it is referred to as recaning, which can be pronounced various ways, but the most graceful seems to be reek-en-ing; the verb recan is cognate to our work "reek". Celtic-tradition people use the term saining. It's an alternative to the Native American-derived term "smudging", and it can be bound in lashed bundles and burned in the same way as white sagebrush. It also has a clearing effect on the mind, and a heightening of the extra senses, so it is a good thing to start any working that is going to involve an altered or trance state at some point.
A pillow stuffed with mugwort and slept upon will produce prophetic dreams. Mugwort is burned during scrying rituals, and a mugwort-and-honey infusion is drunk before divination. The infusion is also used to wash crystal balls and magic mirrors, and mugwort leaves are placed around the base of the ball, or beneath it, to aid in psychic workings. Pick just before sunrise on the waxing moon, preferably from a plant that leans north. A Roman invocation to be used when picking mugwort is: Tollam te artemisia, ne lassus sim in via.
Some Native American Nations believed wearing an amulet of mugwort around the neck as you slept would provide security from nightmares and angry spirits. Drink a strong infusion of tea before bed if you are seeking prophetic or vivid dreams. To make a tea infuse one cup of hot (not boiling) water with at least two teaspoons of dried herbs or three to five teaspoons of fresh herbs, with honey, for five to ten minutes.
Drinking a strong cup of tea, smoking, or burning mugwort is helpful before practicing any form of prophecy. This herb has a powerful magical presence and is an aid to anyone who knows of its gifts. Mugwort can be used in all protection spells, but especially for travelers (both physical and psychic), clearing energies, banishing evils, and enhancing all forms of dreaming, divination, and prophecy. Try growing Mugwort to learn from and enjoy the sacred, ancient energy.