Mugwort’s scientific name is Artemisia vulgaris which means common Artemisia. It is one of the 300 Artemisia species, which are part of the Asteraceae (daisy) family.
This perennial herb is indigenous to Europe, Asia, and northern Africa, but has spread throughout Northern America and other parts of the world. It is used in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. Europeans travelers lined their shows with the herb which was said to prevent fatigue. They also used it to treat poisoning during Medieval times.
Mugwort is believed to be a magical herb since it promotes and enhances lucid dreams. It can also protect from misfortunes and diseases. As an anti fungal and antiseptic, it has many medicinal properties. This herb has thujone which is a spasmodic that can be toxic in large quantities. Do not use medicinally or eat if you are pregnant because it can cause miscarriage and early labor.
Mugwort is edible; its slightly bitter and aromatic leaves can be eaten raw or cooked. Young spring shoots can also be cooked. All parts of the plant (leaves, flowers and roots) can be used in tea. It can also be distilled and was often used to flavor beer until it was replaced by hops.
Growing and Identifying Mugwort
It is pretty easy to grow Mugwort, which is considered an invasive weed in some countries. Plant it in a container to prevent it from taking over your garden. It can choke out plants that are close to it because of a chemical released by the roots. This herb spreads quickly through rhizomatous roots which are strong and study enough to support the height of the plant. Finding a single plant is quite uncommon, since they tend to reproduce and form dense patches.
Many confuse mugwort with wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) which are closely related, but are different species and have different (and similar) medicinal uses. Wormwood has blunt leaves that are silvery on the top and bottom; while mugwort has green leaves on the top with sharp edges and white hairs on the undersides.
This herb has dark green straight stems with a particular purple color and gray-green leaves. During summer it produces small flowers that are yellow, orange, red or pink. These flowers bloom in clusters and are attractive to pollinators such as bees.
Cut the dead flower heads to stop its reproduction by seeds. If you suffer from hay fever make sure to cut off the flowers before they bloom because its pollen causes this condition. This aromatic plant releases a smell that is similar to sage. It can be grown around a wall or in the garden to give it a wild meadow look.
How to Grow Mugwort From Seeds
This species needs help to wake up from its natural dormancy, so you will need to stratify them (like growing lavender) for at least two weeks. Place your seeds on the surface of a medium that can retain moisture, such as equal amounts of peat moss and sand. Mist the mixture lightly and put the seeds in a sealed bag or a small container with a lid. Place them in the refrigerator and check every few days to make sure it is still moist.
You can also sow your mugwort seeds early spring to break the dormancy period. The colder soil enhances the chill of the stratification process. Scatter seeds at least 3 inches apart in all directions. Seedlings should germinate within two weeks. Wait until they have reached a height of 4 inches to move them to their final place. Make sure to wait until the soil is warm enough to add compost, sand or peat moss to improve drainage.
How to Grow Mugwort From Cuttings
Divide the roots in spring, before the new foliage appears, or in fall. It is best to establish a cutting later in spring when the new growth appears. Two or three mugwort cuttings can be placed in a 10 inch container. Cuttings need to be 4 to 6 inches in length and should be cut below the nodes on an area that has new growth. Make sure to remove the leaves from the bottom third of each cutting. Rooting hormone can be used, but it is not necessary.
Fill the container with horticultural perlite and make a hole with a pencil to put the cutting. Place more soil on top to create a mound to support it. Water your plant and place the container in an area with indirect sunlight. Use a plastic bag upside down over the container to create a greenhouse effect if your house is not warm enough. Mist with a spray bottle every few days. In a few weeks check to see if the cutting tugs when moved, which indicates new root growth. It can also be grown in a glass of water.
Transplant in the garden and space plants between 12 to 18 inches to provide them with enough space. It is best to contain them by placing barriers under the soil or planting them in containers.
Mugwort Growing Conditions
Mugwort is a very versatile herb that can grow in many conditions. It can tolerate many types of soil, even soil with high nitrogen content or alkalinity. Ideally, it should be grown in well drain soil that are slightly moist. But it can survive in dry and infertile soil, as a shorter plant with a longer life. Do not over water your plant, since this will cause root rot. Only water young plants frequently, once established it is quite tolerant to drought.
This herb can live in a wide range of temperatures. However, high heat and humidity will make the foliage droop and the stems will flop. Your plant will not be healthy, but it is likely to survive. Those that live in the United States can grow this plant in zones 3 to 9.
Grow mugwort in a place where they will receive full sunlight. Although they can cope with partial shade. Do not give your plant too much fertilizer since it will cause the plant to fall over. It does like to grow in soil with nitrogen, so you can supply it with this nutritive element. This herb does not suffer from pests and diseases.
How to Prune and Harvest Mugwort
It is good to prune this medicinal herb frequently to make it thrive. Cut it with pruning shears almost to the ground before the winter (if you live in a cold area) for it to grow again in mid spring. Start the pruning process once it is two to three feet tall.
Cutting one foot off the top of your plant, which can grow up to six feet tall, will encourage branching and make it shrubby. This plant could become too tall or full to hold itself upright, so it is best to prune it or use stalks to give it support.
Harvest mugwort when pruning it. The most common time to harvest leaves and roots is in the fall before the first frosts. Flowers should be harvested at the beginning of the blooming period (between June and July) since older flowers and leaves are more bitter.
Hang the part of the plant in a dry, dark and warm area for it to dry out. Basements or garages are good places to dry herbs. Drying areas should have good air circulation and not too much humidity. This herb can be used both fresh and dried.