Mugwort (Artemisia douglasiana)

“You can never have too much Mugwort”. That is the mantra by which some of us live, when it comes to this plant. For us, it is an amazing tinder. It’s slow smoldering properties make it an exceptional walking match,rivaled only by touch wood. In fact, Native Americans of the area often carried it, while smoldering, from campsite to campsite.— It was far easier to carry your fire than having to make a whole new fire using the hand drill. But this plant is so much more, not only to Native Americans but to other world cultures as well.

Artemisia vulgaris is easily recognized by its leaves which grow from a single stalk — Deep shiny green on top and silvery white underneath. The leaves tend to be deeply lobed, but can also grow without the lobes. Typically, this plant grows to a size of about three feet, but I have run across it much taller than that. The aroma and leaves are a dead giveaway, however.

In China, Japan, and Korea Mugwort is known as Moxa and is used in moxibustion. Moxibustion has been used throughout Asia for thousands of years; in fact, the actual Chinese character for acupuncture, translated literally, means “acupuncture-moxibustion.” The purpose of moxibustion, as with most forms of traditional Chinese medicine, is to strengthen the blood, stimulate the flow of qi, and maintain general health.
Mugwort has a long history of use in folk medicine. Research has shown there is evidence that it acts as an emmenagogue ­ that is, an agent that increases blood circulation to the pelvic area and uterus and stimulates menstruation. This could explain its use in treating breech births and menstrual cramps.

In Mexico, Mugwort is known as estafiate and is used as a tea to treat digestive disorders. It is also believed to ward off bad spirits, when there is reason to believe someone has been cursed.

It is said Mugwort is probably the most used herb in the practice of Witchcraft, though I couldn’t tell you from first hand experience.

Across Native American cultures, Mugwort was revered for it’s many uses:

  • The Karok used it as an analgesic used by women to ease pain after childbirth. It was also used as a cold remedy
  • The Kiowa used it as medicine to dispel intestinal worms
  • The Miwok wore the leaves in the nostrils for headaches, as decoction for rheumatism, rubbed leaves on the body to keep ghosts away, was warn as a necklace to prevent dreaming of the dead.
  • The Paiute made a poultice to treat colds, as an decoction applied to gonorrheal sores, and as an aid for female back pains.
  • The Pomo used it to stop excessive menstruation among women.
  • Chumash chewed the leaves to relieve tooth aches and gum pain

Oh there are many uses for this wonderful plant, including the use in making beer, and promoting of vivid dreams, but for me, the most common use is  as an exceptional long burning tinder, which smells better than incense. In fact, the burning of mugwort in my home is a regular occurrence.