This past week, I've been steeped in mugwort. I've been mixing it into tincture blends for friends, adding it to bath infusions, crafting smoking blends. It might just be that the energy of the new moon is getting to me. Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) is a lunar herb if there ever was one, deeply connected with femininity, dreaming, and the continuous renewal that is found in the cycles of being.
Mugwort is one of the first plants to appear in the spring, and I am eagerly awaiting it. It grows in wild and urban areas alike. It is a tenacious perennial, even releasing an herbicide from its roots to out-compete other species. Mugwort is most recognizable by the silvery underside of its leaves. The young shoots can be eaten: it has a flavor like a very floral parsley. The name comes from its history of flavoring beer, mug referring to a mug of beer and wort meaning plant.
Mugwort is a local powerhouse herb. It can be used for a wide variety of feminine challenges, as well as digestive discomforts. It is local, abundant, and generous. Quite frankly, I am currently much more intrigued by mugwort's magical properties, but I'll give you a small sampling of its medicinal qualities because it's widely applicable and just may be helpful (not that I would ever imply that magical properties are not also medicinal).
Mugwort is an herb that encourages flow, opens channels in the body systems and in our energy bodies. Its lunar energy encourages us in smooth transitions through physical cycles of menstruation, menopause, and digestion; it also encourages us to flow through the types of transitions in life in which we need to open space for new goodness to flow in. As a nervine, mugwort helps us to relax in these transitions, to understand that the transition itself is a blessing to experience. Release is natural. It leads to expansion.
Nicholas Culpeper, a sixteenth century herbalist, tell us that mugwort is ruled by Venus. It is not necessarily romance, however, but self love that mugwort truly encourages. This is the wisdom of the divine feminine: a gentle compassion for ourselves as we, sometimes clumsily, move through life. It is our own selves with whom we need to fall deeply in love in order to connect with the outer world in a fulfilling way.
As a Venus-ruled herb, mugwort is indeed used to support female health in a variety of ways. It is a uterine stimulant that can bring on delayed menstruation and aid in cramping. Mugwort's affinity for cycles can help to normalize a woman's cycle, and it can ease a woman into the transition of menopause. Mugwort is considered a uterine tonic, and thus can be safely taken over long periods of time, except during pregnancy.
Mugwort is also a nerve tonic, diuretic, and digestive stimulant. It can be a warming, stomach-stimulating pre-dinner drink to relax before dinner and prevent flatulence and bloating. Mugwort can be enjoyed as an infusion or in a tincture. I prefer to use it as an infusion for digestive and immediate concerns such as cramping, but I tend to sneak some mugwort tincture into any tinctures that I (or my nocturnally-inclined friends) take before bed. This is because mugwort can lead to vivid, stimulating dreams.
Mugwort can be burned as incense or smoked to ease you into a deeper meditation or trance state. It's not an herb that makes you high, persay; perhaps it opens a more direct channel to the lunar magic that is always there, latent in the brightness of the sun. I usually blend it with other herbs such as sage, mullein, and motherwort for smoking. It can be a lovely, spiritual experience.
Mugwort helps us to release our wild, untamed selves. It encourages both men and women to connect with the divine feminine within, to open our third eye to our visions and dreams.
One of my favorite ways to enjoy mugwort is in a bath. Herbalist Robin Rose Bennett describes baths as a way of reclaiming our space, our selves. I will take a mugwort bath to ease myself through a transition, to acknowledge my own voice and needs amid change.
To enjoy a mugwort bath:
Fill a quart jar fully with fresh mugwort, or half way with dried mugwort. Enjoy the aroma as you pack the jar. Fill the jar with just-boiled water. Cover and steep for 15 minutes to 1 hour. When the mugwort has steeped, draw your bath. Add any salts, light some candles. Leave your phone in another room. Strain the mugwort before you get in the bath. I like to get in the bath and pour the infusion over my head, imagining it baptizing me into my next phase of being . Thank the mugwort for her divine beauty. Allow yourself to feel the lunar energy rise within you. Rest in your own intuition as you claim your power, your own right to be for yourself. Enjoy your bath, enjoy the candles, and when you are done, leave anything that's no longer serving you in the bathwater. Let it flow down the drain to be recycled by the earth.