Botanical name: Artemesia argyi
Common name: Mugwort leaf, Artemesia
Family: Asteraceae, aster family
Part used in Chinese medicine: leaf
Major Chinese medicine actions:
Warms and disperses cold, stops pain due to cold,
stops bleeding, eliminates dampness, calms the fetus in pregnancy
Photo Credits: (top to bottom)
Photo 1: Artemesia argyi; 07/2008; author C. Micleu; permission Jade Institute
Photo 2: Artemesia argyi; 07/2008; author C. Micleu; permission Jade Institute
Photo 3: Artemesia argyi; 07/2008; author C. Micleu; permission Jade Institute
Artemisia vulgaris, also called mugwort or common wormwood, is one of several species in the genus Artemisia, native to temperate Europe, Asia, northern Africa, and North America. For centuries, it has been widely grown in China for medicinal purposes, and in North America by Native Americans for ritual and healing. It grows easily in nitrogenous soils such as found in uncultivated waste areas and roadsides, and is often considered a weed.
Mugwort is especially known for its use in moxabustion (called moxa), a technique in Chinese medicine using the heat produced by burning the dried herb on or near acupuncture points and needles to stimulate meridians and warm or tonify the qi and blood.
Artemisia vulgaris is a majestic herb growing up to 10 feet high in ideal conditions. The green leaves have whitish downy small hairs on their underside giving it a silvery cast (shown in lower photo). When crushed they have a fragrance much like that of sage mixed with a little mint.
Mugwort rice is a rural snack made in China from mugwort that grows along the edges of fields. The mugwort leaves are pounded to a paste and wrapped in rice flour dough. When cooked, the flavor of mugwort is sweet and savory and releases a particular fragrance as the pastry is chewed.
Growing and Propagation
The plant is a very vigorous grower and is considered somewhat invasive. It does best in full sun, usually growing about 3-4 feet high, but has been known to grow up to 10 feet. It will do well in almost any soil, is very drought tolerant and is adaptable to almost any condition. Mugwort flowers from July to September and is hardy to USDA zone 3.
Artemisia will self-propagate by seed or rhizome and in this way can become invasive. In order to control its spread by seed, the plant should be harvested before seeds ripen. A spreading root system is best controlled by digging deep trenches around the plants and keeping them free of rhizomes.
If planting by seed, they should be sown directly into the garden in early spring. Prior to planting, seeds need a cool period at about 45 degrees F or less. They can be kept in the refrigerator for two or more weeks to simulate this environment. Then, in order to germinate, seeds need to be planted in a bright, sunny, warm location. Plants are also easily propagated by division in the spring or autumn.
Harvesting and Preparation
Mugwort leaves should be harvested before the buds of the plant begin to bloom. For medicinal use, good quality leaves are soft, thick and very aromatic. The upper side of the leaves should be a dark green color, while the lower side is grayish white.