Mugwort

Mugwort: Artemisia vulgaris

Family: Asteraceae (Compositae)

Mugwort is one of those plants that seems to be growing everywhere. Its tough. It is often found growing in cracks in sidewalks and abandoned places. It loves abandoned places. Its named for Artemis, the Greek goddess of wilderness, the forest, uncultivated places, wild animals, and hunting, but also of the moon, fertility, healing, and childbirth.

2013-05-21 15.37.07It was among the first wild plants that I learned to identify although it has thrown me a few times with its unusual variation of leaf shapes.

My introduction to Mugwort was through my friend and herbalist Claudia Keel of Earthflower. I was recovering after a miscarriage and trying to rebuild my health to try again for another baby. I met with Claudia for a consultation in her Manhattan office and she recommended a variety of behavioral and dietary changes, as well as a number of herbal supplements including a regular infusion of Mugwort to restore my vitality. Claudia told me about a group of community gardeners she knew in the Bronx who had dedicated an entire garden bed for growing Mugwort because its medicinal value was so important to them. Claudia also warned me that it might give me very vivid dreams, and it did.

Mugwort liked to grow in the narrow space between slabs of concrete by the driveway at our house in Queens. It also tried to sneak into all my perennial flower beds. It was hard to imagine anyone wanting to pamper it in a lush raised bed.
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The first Spring in our current home in Connecticut, we discovered we had an entire meadow of Mugwort (with a bit of Poison Ivy and Garlic Mustard thrown in) growing at the back corner of the property on the septic drain field.

A few of our new neighbors came by for a tour of our garden and to talk about permaculture, and I told them about the uses of some of the wild plants. About Mugwort, I told them that it could be eaten (young shoots) or used for tea, and that I had been told it was used by many Native American tribes to induce strong dreams. I didn’t demonstrate by nibbling Mugwort though, as I was pregnant.

That summer, I recruited my son to help me tackle the Mugwort Meadow. Mugwort is plentiful in this area, and I want to see what will grow in the meadow once Mugwort and some of the other dominant plant species are removed, to increase biodiversity as part of my ecosystem regeneration goals. After spending about two hours pulling up Mugwort and putting it in piles to decompose, I had crazy vivid dreams that night! I don’t know if my son did, but he says he never remembers his dreams.

IMG_5598That fall, I learned another common usage for Mugwort. I was nearing 42 weeks of pregnancy and my midwife thought I should receive acupuncture treatments to induce labor, and I agreed. So I went to see Chris Grodski in my friend Elissa’s wellness center The Heal Space. As part of a treatment, Chris recommended moxibustion to promote the movement of Qi, which would hopefully kick-start labor. I had not experienced moxibustion before, and being curious about plants and their healing properties, I had to ask him what plant this was burning. I was quite surprised to find out it was Mugwort!

One cannot know for sure if it was because of the Mugwort Moxa, or simply because my daughter had decided that 42 weeks was as much time as she needed, but I did go into labor that night and she was in our arms the next morning. We named her Lauren, which means a person from the place where Mountain Laurel grows. I suppose we could have instead named her after Mugwort, since there is also plenty of that on our property. Sorry, Artemis.

This is just a tiny piece of Mugwort’s magic. If you would like to learn more about Mugwort, you can start at Eat the Weeds and Wise Woman Herbal Ezine.

Status in my garden: To be removed.

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