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


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