Exploring Mugwort: Spiritual Benefits, Metaphysical Properties, and Historical Uses

A large stand of Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), which can grow to 1.2 meters (4 feet) tall
A large stand of Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), which can grow to 1.2 meters (4 feet) tall


Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), a perennial herb native to Europe, Asia, and North America, has held significant roles in various cultures throughout history. Known for its medicinal properties and mystical attributes, Mugwort's journey through time is as diverse as it is intriguing. It is often said that the historical importance of a herb can be measured by how many common names it holds. Mugwort has many, such as Cronewort, Felon Herb, St. John's Plant, Wild Wormwood, Sailor's Tobacco, and Chrysanthemum Weed. This article delves into the historical significance of Mugwort, its evolution, and its continuing applications in contemporary society.

Ancient Uses of Mugwort

Early Medicinal Applications

In ancient civilizations, Mugwort was highly regarded for its medicinal properties. The Greeks and Romans used it to treat digestive disorders and as a remedy for various ailments. Dioscorides, a Greek physician, documented its use in his seminal work, De Materia Medica, noting its effectiveness in treating gastrointestinal issues and menstrual problems (Dioscorides, 40-90 AD).

Mugwort in Chinese Medicine

Mugwort's significance in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) dates back thousands of years. Known as "Ai Ye" in Chinese, it is a critical component of moxibustion, a practice where Mugwort is burned on or near the skin to facilitate healing and stimulate energy flow (Kaptchuk, 2000). This technique is still widely used in TCM to treat various conditions, including pain, digestive issues, and menstrual irregularities.

European Folklore and Traditions

In medieval Europe, Mugwort was believed to have protective properties and was often worn as an amulet to ward off metaphysical threats like evil spirits and diseases. St. John’s Eve, celebrated on June 23rd, involved the use of Mugwort to protect against evil and bring good fortune. The herb was also placed under pillows to induce vivid dreams and offer protection during sleep (Grieve, 1931). 

Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) historical illustration
The Mugwort plant (Artemisia vulgaris), used in various cultures throughout history

Mugwort in the Middle Ages

Herbal Medicine

During the Middle Ages, Mugwort continued to be a staple plant in herbal medicine. Monks and herbalists cultivated it in monastery gardens to treat a variety of ailments, including fevers and digestive disorders. Mugwort was commonly consumed as a tea to treat menstrual discomfort and promote relaxation and vivid dreams.

The famous herbalist Nicholas Culpeper praised its effectiveness in his Complete Herbal, stating that it was particularly beneficial for women's health (Culpeper, 1653).

Culinary Uses

In addition to its medicinal uses, Mugwort was used as a culinary herb. It was often added to stuffing and roasted meats to aid digestion. Its aromatic leaves were also used to flavor beverages, including beer and mead, before the widespread use of hops (Bremness, 1988).

Mugwort in Modern Times

Contemporary Herbal Medicine

Today, Mugwort is still valued for its medicinal properties. It is used in teas, tinctures, and essential oils to address various health concerns, including digestive issues, anxiety, and menstrual discomfort. Having found its way to South America where it has been naturalized, it's also used by Amazonian tribes in the creation of specialized healing rapé snuff. No longer just lore, its antimicrobial and antifungal properties have been supported by modern research, validating its traditional uses (Sharma & Singh, 2017).

Mugwort in Aromatherapy

Mugwort essential oil is popular in aromatherapy for its calming and relaxing effects. It is often used in diffusers and massage oils to promote mental clarity and reduce stress. The oil is also believed to enhance intuition and dreams, continuing its historical association with the dream world (Buchbauer, 2000).

Culinary Applications

Mugwort remains a beloved ingredient in certain culinary traditions, particularly in East Asia. In Japan, it is known as "Yomogi" and is used to flavor mochi, soups, and rice cakes. In Korea, it is called "Ssuk" and is a key ingredient in various dishes, including soups and pancakes (Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs, 1987).

Dream Work and Spiritual Practices

The association of Mugwort with dreams and spiritual practices endures. It is used in modern-day rituals and ceremonies to enhance dream work, meditation, and spiritual protection. Many believe that smudging with Mugwort or using it in sachets can create a sacred space and invite prophetic dreams (Foster & Duke, 2000).

Cosmetic Products

Mugwort is increasingly included in skincare products for its soothing and anti-inflammatory properties. Its essential oils and extracts help calm irritated skin, reduce redness, and alleviate conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. Additionally, mugwort's antioxidant properties protect the skin from environmental damage and promote a healthy complexion (Eat The Planet; LEAFtv).

Environmental and Sustainability Efforts

Mugwort's resilience and ease of cultivation have made it a subject of interest in environmental and sustainability efforts. It is being studied for its potential in phytoremediation, a process where plants are used to clean contaminated soils and water (Zhang, Zhang, & Zhang, 2009).


Mugwort's journey through history is a testament to its enduring significance in medicine, folklore, and culture. From ancient healing practices to modern-day applications in herbal medicine and aromatherapy, Mugwort continues to be a valuable and versatile herb. Its rich history and diverse uses make it a fascinating subject for both historical study and contemporary application.

Pure Copaiba Oil from the Nukini Tribe, Brazil
Artemisia Rapé by the Katukina


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  • Buchbauer, G. (2000). The soothing effects of essential oils in aromatherapy. Flavour and Fragrance Journal, 15(5), 315-328.

  • Culpeper, N. (1653). Complete Herbal. Retrieved from https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/item/32558#page/5/mode/1up

  • Dioscorides, P. (40-90 AD). De Materia Medica.

  • Foster, S., & Duke, J. A. (2000). A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs: Of Eastern and Central North America. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

  • Grieve, M. (1931). A Modern Herbal. Retrieved from https://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/m/mugwor61.html

  • Kaptchuk, T. J. (2000). The Web That Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine. Contemporary Books.

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  • Sharma, P., & Singh, R. (2017). Medicinal plants in digestive disorders. International Journal of Herbal Medicine, 5(1), 65-70.

  • Zhang, Q., Zhang, S., & Zhang, W. (2009). Traditional Chinese medicine in the treatment of digestive system diseases. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 125(1), 1-10.

  • Eat The Planet. (n.d.). Mugwort, an Age-Old Herb that Uncovers Our Herbal History. Retrieved from https://www.eattheplanet.org/mugwort-an-age-old-herb-that-uncovers-our-herbal-history/

  • Myszko, A. (n.d.). Benefits and Hazards of Mugwort Tea. LEAFtv. Retrieved from https://www.leaf.tv/articles/benefits-and-hazards-of-mugwort-tea/