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Mugwort – How To Grow And Use

Mugwort is one of those hidden gems of a herb. Used throughout history from as far and wide as Asia to Europe.

Once mugwort is established it is easy to grow and will thrive in full sun to partial shade. Growing to between 1-2 meters in height, mugwort is invasive and some refer to it as a weed as it will self-sow as well as putting out roots that will kill off local plants. It is important to grow in pots and keep it in check.

There is a little more to it than this, but in general Artemisia will love growing in the UK.

How To Identify Mugwort

From above mugwort is dark green, with larger leaves towards the base of each stalk getting smaller towards the tips. The leaves can be as large as 4 inches (10cm) in length and 3 inches (7.5cm) in width. They are spikey with deep teeth along the sides. From the stem they alternate out and are feathery underneath with silver/grey hairs.

Mugwort does develop very delicate flowers. The shoot up in clusters, but because the petals are so small 1/8 inch it gives the appearance of a sea of color. Ranging from light pink to dark red.

Mugwort is a hardy perennial and will grow to anywhere between 1-2 meters in height. It has a large spread and will self sow and propagate from roots with a suffocating effect on neighboring plants. It needs containing! Deadheading before seeds can form is essential if you would like to keep it under control.

Mugwort is often confused with wormwood and therefore a lot of the names it is known by are the same as wormwood. Sometimes called sailor’s tobacco, muggons, felon herb, chrysanthemum weed, old man, moxa, wild wormwood, old uncle Henry, St. John’s plant and cronewort. These are traditional names passed down during their usage.

how to grow mugwort

How To Grow Mugwort Artemisia Vulgaris

For a notoriously invasive plant, Mugwort can be a bit tricky to grow from seed. Once established it will quickly take over your garden, and we will come to tactics to reduce this problem in a moment.

Growing From Seed

  1. In the UK sow undercover between August and December. A cold frame is perfect for this.
  2. Surface sow in trays of moist general purpose soil. By not covering you are allowing your seeds to see the light, but press them on to the soil to reduce the risk of mold developing and the seeds rotting.
  3. Moisten the soil and cover with glass. Leave in the cold frame for Winter to do it’s thing! Mugwort seeds need stratification to awaken them and crack the seed covering.
  4. When it starts to warm up in early Spring germination should have taken place. Mugwort seeds take around 4 months for germination.
  5. Acclimatize the mugwort seedlings to outdoors by moving from the cold frame in the day and when the fear of frost has passed you can transplant.
  6. Once the seedlings are large enough to handle, transplant out to a larger pot for now just 8cm. They will need two pairs or true leaves before they can be happily moved.
  7. As mugwort is so invasive you will want to plant in it pots. If you do want this great foliage and delicate flowers to be part of a more natural look, sink the pots into the planting area.

Propagation From Cuttings

  1. Take your cuttings in Summer from healthy Mugwort stems. Softwood cuttings should be around 6 inches in length.
  2. Fill a medium sized pot (20cm /8 inches wide) with a 50% vermiculite or other suitable potting material and 50% potting soil mix. Wet it thoroughly.
  3. Clear the lower inch of your artemisia stem from leaves and dip into a rooting hormone.
  4. With a twig or pencil make a hole in your potting mix. Place the cutting into the pot.
  5. Cover and water well, allowing it to drain. Your mugwort cuttings will not thank you for being soggy, but for now moisture is needed.
  6. Mist the cuttings and loosely cover your pot with a plastic bag. Making sure that the plastic does not touch your mugwort leaves as you do not want mold to be encouraged.
  7. Leave your cuttings in a warm and light area, not direct sunlight but some sun.
  8. In a few weeks to months the cuttings will have taken root. A gentle tug test will let you know if there is resistance to your pressure. If there is that means that the root system has taken. Bear in mind that mugwort has very deep roots when it is more mature, but delicate roots initially.
  9. It will be around a year before your mugwort cuttings become a viable plant. One that can be harvested and used in cooking or medicinal ways. So you will need to repot after the roots have taken.

TOP TIPS – Mugwort is known for being invasive. It will travel via its root system and pop up all around your garden. These runners can be taken control of by vigorous digging and cutting back. However it is easier to grow in pots and contain the roots this way. The next thing to know is that mugwort roots are actually harmful to many other plants growing nearby. Another reason to contain it in pots.

Mugwort Health Benefits and Side Effects

  1. Mugwort root has traditionally been used as a tonic, made as a decoction, to boost energy and generally as a pick me up.
  2. Women have also drunk mugwort to aid with menstrual pains and irregular periods. This is a word of warning for pregnant women and those who suspect they may be pregnant. Mugwort is used to bring on menstruation, and it has warnings to start contractions.
  3. Mugwort has been used to stimulate gastric juices and bile secretion.
  4. It is taken as a drink to reduce vomiting and mugwort has also been used to lessen the affects of diarrhea.
  5. Mugwort has also been used to lessen the trouble associated with constipation and cramps.
  6. Artemisia can be applied as a lotion to treat itchiness and rashes on the skin.
  7. Mugwort has been used with other herbs and botanicals to treat epilepsy and convulsions in children.
  8. Artemisia has a tradition of being used to help with psychoneuroses such as depression, hypochondria, restlessness, insomnia and generalized anxiety.

Possible Side Effects Of Artemisia

  • Mugwort is linked with it’s affects on the uterus and therefore should not be taken by pregnant women. There is little evidence to suggest it has an ill effect on breast feeding, but it is always better safe than sorry. Lack of research can sometimes be the reason there is no link, so do not take if you are breastfeeding.
  • Mugwort is a member of the Asteraceae family, so anyone with a sensitivity to marigolds, chrysanthemums etc will also be allergic to mugwort.
  • There is something known as ‘celery-carrot-mugwort-spice syndrome’ which refers to the allergic grouping of these plants.
  • Certain evidence points towards the pollen being potent to those who also allergic to tobacco.

These mild allergic reactions to mugwort can include;

  • swelling of lips, eyes and the face can be an anecdotal side effect for those who have an allergic reaction to mugwort.
  • tingling mouth has been reported in some people who are allergic to mugwort.
  • nausea and vomiting may also occur if you are allergic to mugwort.

Disclaimer – As with any herbal remedy it is always to be used in conjunction with more modern medicines. So always consult a qualified medical professional prior to and during using more traditional medicines.

how to use mugwort

How To Use Mugwort

Artemisia can be taken in many ways. Always consult your GP for advice and guidance prior to using any of these forms.

  • Extracts can be added to herbal infusions.
  • As a tonic the root of mugwort can be used as a regular tonic.
  • Tinctures of mugwort are not uncommon.
  • Dried Leaves in teas that have been steeped in boiled water for around ten to twenty minutes. 1.5 teaspoons to each cup roughly. For more on making herbal infusions we have a free guide available here.
  • As a supplement in pill form, available from reputable health food stores.
  • As a poultice applied directly to sore areas on the skin. Mugwort can reduce swelling and itchiness.
  • As a lotion mixed with other essential oils to reduce itchiness and rashes to the skin.

Shopping Options & Further Reading

What Next

Whether you want to grow mugwort for eating or the foliage it can be a rewarding herb. Thanks for reading and I hope you feel confident to grow your own Artemisia.

If you are looking to expand your herb garden with other hardy perennials, please do have a look here for inspiration.

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