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Mugwort is a common plant in the British Isles; its angular, purple stalks growing more than three feet in height. It bears dark green leaves with cottony down undersides.
A. vulgaris is a tall, herbaceous, perennial plant growing 1–2 m tall, with an extensive rhizome system. Rather than depending on seed dispersal, it spreads through vegetative expansion and the anthropogenic dispersal of root rhizome fragments. The leaves are 5–20 cm long, dark green, pinnate, and sessile, with dense, white, tomentose hairs on the underside. The erect stems are grooved and often have a red-purplish tinge. The rather small florets (5 mm long) are radially symmetrical with many yellow or dark red petals. The narrow and numerous capitula (flower heads), all fertile, spread out in racemose panicles. It flowers from midsummer to early autumn.
Artemisia vulgaris is an aromatic plant that grows along creek banks and waysides. This member of the Asteraceae family is known for the silvery shine underneath its leaves.
Although it prefers plenty of sun and well-draining soil, once it’s established, mugwort is hardy, drought-tolerant and can cope with a variety of conditions.
It’s even thought that infertile soils and dry conditions can increase the longevity and aromatic intensity of the plant, despite meaning it won’t grow as tall.
Mugwort harvesting can be done at different times of the year, depending on how you plan to use it. It’s most commonly harvested in the fall in advance of the first frosts. The top third of the plant can be cut off and hung in a dry and shady position to dry out.
For millennia, mugwort has been a source for flavoring beverages and food and has also been used for its beneficial properties. There is much traditional folklore surrounding the plant and it has been reported to encourage dreaming.
Mugwort is said to have derived its name from having been used to flavor beer before the wide use of hops. The botanical name is derived from Artemis, the Greek goddess of the hunt, fertility, and the forests and hills. Roman soldiers were known to put mugwort in their sandals to keep their feet from getting tired. Native Americans equate mugwort with witchcraft. They believed that the rubbing of the leaves on the body are said to keep ghosts away, and a necklace of mugwort leaves is said to help protect against dreaming about the dead. It has been believed that John the Baptist wore a girdle of mugwort in the wilderness for protection. Other magical attributes include protection for road weary travelers, and general protection against the evils of the spirit realms.
The herb is quite complex with over 75 unique chemicals that have been identified. When used internally, it supports digestion and has relaxing properties. One of the major uses is in Korean, Japanese and Chinese traditional in the practice of Moxibustion; The herb can be placed directly on the skin, attached to acupuncture needles, or rolled into sticks and waved gently over the area to be treated. In all instances, the herb is ignited and releases heat. Not only is it the herb that is believed to have healing properties in this manner, but also the heat released from the herb in a precise area.
Mugwort herb is commonly brewed into mugwort tea and can also be used as incense, incorporated into dream pillows, and infused into botanical vinegars. Many have reported that if mugwort is used as a tea before bed, or even just sprinkled around your pillow, a person may have lucid dreams that night.