Mugwort, Artemisia vulgaris
Common Mugwort is a tall, fragrant, herbaceous perennial plant that is native to Europe, Asia, and Northern Africa. It is very common, growing mainly on uncultivated land, in waste places, and roadsides. Mugwort leaves are alternate and can grow up to 10cm long and 7cm wide. They become smaller in size and more narrow as they ascend the stem. The upperside surface of the leaves are green and hairless, while their undersides are white with fine hairs. The plant produces long racemes of small red to greenish-yellow flowers.
Mugwort has a rich and colourful history as a magical, medicinal and culinary herb all over the world, and has been used for a wide variety of purposes. As a culinary herb, Mugwort has an aroma not dissimilar to sage or rosemary, and is used as a flavouring herb for meat and fish. It's leaves can also be cooked to add fragrant notes to to other dishes. The leaves, flower buds and roots can also be used to make teas, washes, tinctures, tonics, and herbal tobacco, reputedly having anti-parasitic and digestive properties, among others.
In magical and spritual use, Mugwort is often used as incense to ward off evil spirits and negative energy, or smoked, ingested, or simply placed under the pillow to produce vivid and colourful lucid dreams. Mugwort is also used as an insect repellent, essential oil, tobacco substitute, and is an important herb in traditional Chinese and other East Asian herbal medicine.
Note: Like it's relative, Sage, Mugwort contains the compound Thujone, which some people believe to be a psychoactive toxin, although the science on this is not conclusive. Whilst I do let Arthur enjoy the occasional small Mugwort Hot Chocolate, and use the herb to flavour roast meats, as a family, we do tend to keep our consumption of this mysterious herb quite low, and have never experienced any ill-effects, magical or otherwise! If you'd like to explore Thujone further before making a decision to add mugwort to your list of wild edibles, please have a look here.
🚜 Hedgerows, including field edges.
🏡 Urban Green Spaces, especially scrubland.
🌞🍂 Jul - Sep
☘️ Pinnate (multi-divided) and directly attached to the stem, the leaves are green on the top side and slightly hairy on the underside.
🌷 The branching flower stems have small green to yellow to red flowers that are downy and very soft to the touch. They bloom from August to September.
🌱 Stems are erect (up to 1-2 meters tall), grooved and often have a red-purplish tinge. The stems are very woody and snap easily like twigs.
Aroma / Taste
👃 The whole plant smells pleasantly herbal, similar to sage or rosemary.
👅 The whole plant has a sage-like herbal flavour.
🟩 ID Difficulty - Beginner
👀 The multi-divided leaves and small flowers are key identifiers.
👃 The herbal sage-rosemary smell is a key identifier.
🤚 The soft flowers and hairy undersides of the leaves are a key identifier.
⛔️ Mugwort contains Thujone, which is a relatively under-researched chemical that is also found in sage. Only consume in small amounts (i.e. - as you would a flavouring herb). More information relating to Thujone can be found in the Description, above.
🌿 Herb - Can be used fresh or dried to add flavour, or as a pot-herb.
☕️ Beverage - Can be used to make teas or other drinks.
💊 Herbal Remedy - Is often used medicinally.