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Mugwort And Wormwood








The herb Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), a Composite plant, is
frequent about hedgerows and waste ground throughout Britain; and
it chiefly merits a place among Herbal Simples because of a special
medicinal use in certain female derangements. Its name Mugwort
has [353] been attributed to moughte, a moth, or maggot, this title
being given to the plant because Dioscorides commended it for
keeping off moths. Its Anglo-Saxon synonym is Wyrmwyrt.
Mugwort is named from Artemis the Greek goddess of the moon,
and is also called Maidenwort or Motherwort (womb wort), being
a plant beneficial to the womb.

Macer says, terming it by mistake Mother of Worts:

Herbarum matrem justum puto ponere primo
Praepue morbis mulieribus illa medetur.

A decoction of the fresh tops acts famously to correct female
irregularities when employed as a bath. Uterina est, adeoque usus
est creberrimus mulierculis quoe eam adhibent externe, atque
interne ut vix balnea et lotiones parent in quibus artemisia non
contineatur. Thus writes Ray, quoting from Schroder. Or it may be
that the term Mugwort became popularly applied because this herb
was in demand for helping to preserve ale. The plant was formerly
known as Cingulum Sancti Johannis, since a crown made from its
sprays was worn on St. John's Eve, to gain security from evil
possession; also as Zona divi Johannis, it being believed that John
the Baptist bore a girdle of it in the wilderness. In Germany and
Holland it has received the name of St. John's Plant, because, if
gathered on St. John's Eve, it is thought protective against diseases
and misfortunes. The Mugwort is also styled Felon wort, or
Felon herb. If placed in the shoes, it will prevent weariness. A
dram of the powdered leaves taken four times a day has cured
chronic hysterical fits, which were otherwise intractable.
Mugwort, says Gerard, cureth the shakings of the joynts inclining
to the palsie.

The mermaid of the Clyde is said to have exclaimed, [354] when
she beheld the funeral of a young maiden who had died from
consumption and decline:--

If they wad drink nettles in March,
And eat muggins [Mugwort] in May,
Sae mony braw young maidens
Wad na' be gang to clay.

Portions of old dead roots are found at the base of the herb, which
go by the name of coals, and are thought to be preventive of
epilepsy when taken internally, or worn around the neck as an
amulet. Parkinson says: Mugwort is of wonderful help to women in
risings of the mother, or hysteria. It is also useful against gout by
boiling the tender parts of the roots in weak broth, and taking this
frequently; whilst at the same time the affected limbs should be
bathed and fomented with a hot decoction of the herb. The plant,
without doubt, is decidedly anti-epileptic, its remedial effects being
straightway followed by profuse and fetid perspirations. It is
similarly useful against the convulsions of children in teething. For
preventing disorders, as well as for curing rheumatism, the
Japanese, young and old, rich and poor, indiscriminately, are said to
be singed with a moxa made from the Mugwort. Its dried leaves
are rubbed in the hands until the downy part becomes separated, and
can be moulded into little cones. One of these having been placed
over the site of the disease, is ignited and burnt down to the skin
surface, which it blackens and scorches in a dark circular patch.
This process is repeated until a small ulcer is formed when treating
chronic diseases of the joints, which sore is kept open by issue peas
retained within it so that they may constantly exercise a derivative
effect.

The flesh of geese is declared to be more savoury when [355]
stuffed with this herb, which contains absinthin as its active
principle, and other chemical constituents in common with
Wormwood; but the odour of Mugwort is not fragrant or aromatic,
because it does not possess a volatile essential oil like that of the
Artemisia absinthium (Wormwood).

This Wormwood is also a Composite plant of the same tribe and
character, but with an intensely bitter taste; and hence its name,
Absinthium, has been derived from the Greek privative, a, and
psinthos, delight, because the flavour is so bitterly distasteful.
It is a bushy plant, which abounds in our rural districts, having silky
stems and leaves, with small heads of dull yellow flowers, the whole
plant being amara et aromatica.

The Mugwort, as an allied Wormwood of the same genus, is taller
and more slender than the Absinthium, and is distinguished by being
scentless, its leaves being green above, and white below. The bitter
taste of the true Wormwood is also due to absinthin, and each
kind contains nitrate of potash, tannin, and resin, with succinic,
malic, and acetic acids.

Old Tusser says:--

Where chamber is swept, and wormwood is strown,
No flea for his life dare abide to be known.

And again:--

What savour is better, if physic be true,
For places infected, than wormwood and rue.

The infusion of Wormwood makes a useful fomentation for inflammatory
pains, and, combined with chamomile flowers and bay leaves,
it formed the anodyne fomentation of the earlier dispensatories.
This infusion, with a few drops of the essential oil of Wormwood,
will serve [356] as an astringent wash to prevent the hair
from falling off when it is weak and thin.

Both Mugwort and Wormwood have been highly esteemed for overcoming
epilepsy in persons of a feeble constitution, and of a sensitive
nervous temperament, especially in young females. Mugwort tea,
and a decoction of Wormwood, may be confidently given for the
purposes just named, also to correct female irregularities.

For promoting the monthly flow, Chinese women make a confection
of the leaves of Mugwort mixed with rice and sugar, which, when
needed to overcome arrested monthly fluxes, or hysteria, they
instar bellaria ingerunt, eat as a sweetmeat.

A drachm of the powdered leaves of the Mugwort, taken four times
a day, has cured chronic hysterical fits otherwise irrepressible. The
true Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) is used for preparing
absinthe, a seductive liqueur, which, when taken to excess, induces
epileptic attacks. Any habitual use of alcohol flavoured with this
herb singularly impairs the mental and physical powers.

An ointment, says Meyrick, made of the juice of Mugwort with
hogs' lard, disperses hard knots and kernels about the neck and
throat.





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