Mugwort – proven benefits, uses


The scientific name of the mugwort is Artemisia vulgaris Linn. It is also known as Chinese honeysuckle, Motherwort, Maiden wort, Felon herb, St. John’s plant, Wegwood, Common wormwood, and Wild wormwood.

Other names include

CHINESE: Ye ai, Ye ai hao.
CROATIAN: Crni pelin, Obični pelin.
DANISH: Almindelig gråbynke, Bynke, Grå bynke, Uægte malurt, Vild malurt
DUTCH: Alsemsoort, Bijvoet, Gewone bijvoet
FRENCH: Armoise citronnelle, Armoise commune, Armoise vulgaire.
GERMAN: Beifuß, Echter Beifuß, Gemeiner Beifuß, Gewöhnlicher Beifuß
ITALIAN: Amarella, Artemisia, Assenzio selvatico.
JAPANESE: Arutemishia, Oushuu yomogi
POLISH: Bylica, Bylica pospolita.
PORTUGESE: Artemisia.
RUSSIAN: Polyn’ obyknovennaia.
SPANISH: Artemisia, Corona de San Juan, Hierba de San Juan, Sisim
VIETNAMESE: Cây ngải, Ngải cứu, Thuốc cứu.

Mugwort is an erect perennial herb, hairy, aromatic, rank smelling, often half-woody, growing to a height of 1 meter or less. Stems are leafy and branched. Leaves are pinnately lobed, 5 to 14 centimeters long, hairy, gray beneath, with nearly smooth above. Flowering heads are numerous, ovoid, 3 to 4 millimeters long, occurring in large numbers in spikelike, ascending, and branched inflorescences. Fruit, an achene, is minute.


– Plant yields a volatile oil consisting of cineol, thujone, paraffin and aldehyde.

– Roots contain inulin, tannin, resin and a volatile oil, 0.1 per cent.

– Study of crude extract yielded alkaloids, coumarins, flavonoids, saponins, sterols, tannins and terpenes.

– Essential oil from aerial parts yielded 14 compounds (93.34 % of the oil). The main constituents were Isobornyl isobutyrate (38.06%), β-pinene (30.13 %), dl-Limonene (6.23%), δ-3- Carene (4.80%), α-pinene (4%), δ-Terpinene (2.76%) and trans-Rose oxide (2.00%).

– Elemental analysis yielded average concentrations (ppm): Pb 25.800±1.95, Cu 13.600±0.46, Zn 31.700 0.70, Cr 05.375±0.41, Cd 0.500±0.79 , Mn 41.650±0.05, Fe 0393.130±0.67, Ni 00.000±0.14, Co 2.050±0.27, Na 1118.800±0.52, K 15325.00±0.67, Ca 7177.500±0.67, and Mg 0910.000±0.12.

– The major components of essential oil from stems were camphor, camphene, α-thujone, 1,8-cineole, γ-muurolene and β-caryophyllene.

Medicinal properties of mugwort

– Fragrant but bitter to taste.

– Emmenagogue, vulnerary.

– Plant considered a valuable stomachic, anthelmintic, emmenagogue, deobstruent, antispasmodic, tonic.

– Leaves and flowering tops considered tonic, stimulant, antispasmodic and emmenagogue.

– In China, considered hemostatic, antiseptic, carminative.

Parts utilized

Leaves and flowers.

Folkloric traditional remedies and uses of mugwort

– Decoction of fresh leaves and flowering tops, 50 g in a pint of water, 4-5 glasses daily as expectorant.

– Juice of leaves used as vulnerary, to heal wounds and cuts.

– As emmenagogue: A strong decoction of leaves, 6-7 glasses a day to induce menstruation; also, for post-partum abdominal cramps.

– Juice of leaves applied to head of young children during convulsions.

– For intestinal deworming, decoction of boiled leaves, followed by the juice of aloe or other purgative plants.

– Decoction of leaves used for abdominal colic pains.

– Leaf poultice for headache and skin diseases.

– Decoction of dried leaves used for asthma and dyspepsia.

– Juice used externally for scabies, eczema, herpes.

– With ginger: Pounded leaves, mixed with ginger are wrapped in banana leaves and heated over a fire, and applied to wounds and swollen and inflamed dermal afflictions.

– Stimulates appetite, young leaves used for anorexia.

– Infusion of aromatic leaves used to induce menstruation. Also, used as abortifacient, but considered too mild a uterine stimulant to be reliable for that purpose.

– Used as infusion and electuary for obstructed menses and hysteria.

– Externally, used as alterative as fomentations for skin diseases and foul ulcers.

– Expressed juice of plant applied to the head of children to prevent convulsions.

– In Uruguay, plant used as vermifuge.

– In China, used as hemostatic, antiseptic, and carminative; used as decoction for hemoptysis, dysentery, menorrhagia, postpartum hemorrhages, as a wash for wounds and ulcers, and to relieve gripping pains of indigestion, diarrhea, or dysentery.

– Juice of plant used for tapeworm.

– A tincture, made up in native spirits, used as nerve sedative e in abdominal pain and in labor.

– In Persia, Afghanistan and throughout India, strong decoction used as vermifuge; a weak decoction used in children for measles.

– In Malaya leaves used as carminative and hemostatic.

– Leaves, dried and cut in small fragments, used to cauterize wounds.

– In Anman leaves used for hemorrhage, epistaxis, hematemesis and hematuria.

– Used as vermicide; used in eczema, herpes and purulent scabies.

Other uses

– Flowering tops of mugwort used by modern dyers in the production of green dye.

– Before tobacco, leaves used by old people for smoking.

– Young and tender leaves used as pot herb.

– Fresh or dried plant repels insects.


– Fresh leaves are picked in the spring and sun-dried, then ground to a fine powder (moxa wool). The wool is kneaded into cones that are burned on the skin. Sometimes, the Moxa wool is prepared in combination with the powder of other herbals.

• The burning of moxa herb sticks (compressed dried leaves) is a treatment modality of the acupuncturist. It is placed above the skin, along meridians or specific acupuncture points, mean to restore good health, energy balancing, release of Qi – a process called Moxibustion.

• The moxibustion of mugwort has been used in correcting breech presentation of fetuses into cephalic orientation. Also used to cause abortion.

Scientific proven health benefits of mugwort

Phytochemicals / Sesquiterpene:

Study of dichlormethane extract of dried-leaves of Av yielded a new sesquiterpene 1, caryophyllene oxide, phytyl fatty esters, squalene, stigmasterol and sitosterol.

Estrogenic Flavonoids from Artemisia vulgaris L. :

A study isolated twenty known flavonoids, the most abundant were eriodictyol and luteolin. Two flavonoids, eriodictyol and apigenin, induced the transcription of the estrogen receptor gene in transgenic yeast.

Hepatoprotective/ protects liver:

Hepatoprotective activity of aqueous-methanol extract of Artemisia vulgaris: Pre-treatment of mice reduced the toxin-induced rise in ALT and AST in induced-hepatitis. The study scientifically validates the traditional use of A. vulgaris for various liver disorders.

In vivo Microvascular Action / Anti-inflammatory:

In vivo microvascular actions of Artemisia vulgaris L. in a model of ischemia-reperfusion injury in the rat intestinal mesentery: Study showed the extracts significantly reduced leukocyte adherence and transendothelial leakage while improving flow in the ischemia-reperfused organ. The extract contained yomogin, previously shown to inhibit iNOS activity, and may explain the anti-inflammatory property of the plant.

Moxa Burning–Health Hazard? –

UK tested the potential toxicity of smoke produced by the burning of Moxa in traditional Chinese medicine. Sidestream smoke from cigar-shaped “sticks” or “rolls” of Moxa was tested showed levels of only two volatiles equivalent or greater than the safe exposure levels, as well as carbon monoxide levels. Study gives no immediate concerns from continued use of moxa as a therapeutic modality. However, it suggests further testing for ventilation, cleansing of room environs and use of moxa on broken skin.


Trichinellosis can cause diarrhea, fever, periorbital edema and myositis in humans. This study on the methanol extracts of aerial parts of Av showed reduction of larval rate with significantly reduced antibody response during the enteral and parenteral phases. Results suggest Av can be an alternative drug against trichinellosis.


Study suggests that the aqueous and chloroform extracts of leaves of Av have anti-hypertensive actions with not significant effects on cardiovascular hemodynamics.


Study of extract of Av yielded flavonoidal and flavonol contents and exhibited nitric oxide scavenging activity, significant increases in glutathione level, superoxide dismutase activity and serum ascorbic acid levels. Results indicate Av is a potential source of natural antioxidants.

Anticonvulsant / Leaves and Stems:

In a study of the aqueous extracts of leaves and stems of seven medicinal plants on Picrotoxin-induced seizures in mice, Artemisia vulgaris was one of four extracts to delay the onset of seizures and decrease the mortality rate.

Radical Scavenging Activity / Essential Oil:

Study revealed the essential oil of Artemisia vulgaris possessed remarkable radical scavenging activity and might be effective against diseases caused by over production of free radicals.

Antispasmodic / Bronchodilator:

Study showed A. vulgaris exhibits a combination of anticholinergic and Ca+ antagonist mechanisms, providing pharmacologic basis for its folkloric use in hyperactive gut and airway disorders, such as abdominal coli, diarrhea and asthma.

Sesquiterpene Lactones / Muscle Relaxant / Antiasthma / Histamine H1 Antagonism:

Study isolated yomogin, a sesquiterpene lactone, which exhibited a novel histamine H1 receptor antagonism in the ileum. The presence of competitive histamine receptor antagonist and smooth muscle relaxant effects on the ileum and trachea explains its traditional use in asthma and the hyperactive gut.

Antimicrobial Activity:

Study of extracts was done for antimicrobial activity using E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus. Results showed the leaf plant extracts to possess antimicrobial activity against various test organisms used (E. coli, Staph aureus). The aqueous and alcohol extracts were more effective than traditional antibiotics used.

Antimalarial Activity:

Study of antimalarial activity of a leaf extract in a Plasmodium yoelii rodent malaria model. Results showed inhibition of parasitaemia. Antinociceptive activity was also seen in the hot plate test indication a central, supra-spinally mediated mechanism for relieving pain. Results showed oral activity, non-toxicity, and a weed with a potential for a cheap source of plant-based antimalarial.

Antimicrobial / Leaves:

Study evaluated the antimicrobial activity of various extracts of leaves of Artemisia vulgaris against selected bacterial and fungal strains. Results showed aqueous, chloroform and ethyl acetate extracts showed significant antimicrobial activity when compared to standard.

Benefit of Stimulation of Acupoint KI 1 for Treatment of Essential Hypertension:

Study evaluated the effectiveness of stimulation of acupoint KI 1 by A. vulgaris to lower blood pressure compared to antihypertensive drugs. Meta-analysis showed superior effects of moxibustion plus antihypertensive drugs on systolic blood pressure with no superior effects on diastolic BP. The systematic review of literature showed a beneficial effect on moxibustion interventions to lower BP.


Study evaluated aqueous extracts of Artemisia vulgaris, Cichorium intybus, Smilax glabra, Solanum nigrum and Swertia chirayta against various human cancer cell lines. Results showed A. vulgaris exerted an inhibitory effect on cell growth and colony formation of prostate, breast, and colorectal cells.


Study evaluated an alcoholic extract of aerial parts of A. vulgaris on estrous cycle and implantation in female albino rats. Results suggest an antifertility effect with induction of irregular estrous cycle and increase in number of metestrus phase, 80% anti-implantation activity. There was no observed toxicity at high dose of 3000 mg/k p.o.


Study evaluated an aqueous root extract of A. vulgaris for hypolipidemic activity in cholesterol diet induced hyperlipidemic rats. Results showed significant serum lipid lowering effects with decrease in TC, TG, LDL, VLDL, with increased level of HDL and atherogenic index (AI). The hypolipidemic activity was comparable to rosuvastatin.

Larvicidal Against Culex quinquefasciatus / Leaves:

Study evaluated the larvicidal activity of methanol extracts of roots, stem and leaves of A. vulgaris against 3rd and 4th instars larvae of Culex quinquefasciatus. Leaves extract showed significantly higher mortality compared to root and stem extracts. Results suggest a potential for the methanol extract of leaves for mosquito control.

In Vitro Effect on Labeling of RBC and Plasma Proteins with Technetium-99m:

Study showed A. vulgaris extracts could have substances that may interfere with the transport of stannous through the erythrocyte membrane altering the labeling of blood cells with 99mTc.

Larvicidal Against Aedes aegypti / Stem Essential Oil:

Stems analyzed for essential oil yielded major components viz., camphor, camphene, α-thujone, 1,8-cineole, γ-muurolene and β-caryophyllene. Mosquito larvicidal assay against 3rd instar larvae of Aedes aegypti showed 100% larval mortality with 500 ppm oil solution exposed for 8 hours. Results suggest a potential source of natural insecticides.

Cytotoxicity / Apoptosis in HL-60 Leukemic Cell Line:

Study evaluated the toxicity of Artemisa vulgaris extracted oil from buds (AVO-b) and leaves (AVO-l) against human HL-60 promyelocytic leukemia and other cancer cell lines. Results showed EO-induced apoptosis in HL-60 cell mediated by caspase dependent pathways. AVO-b and AVO-l are more efficient in inducing apoptosis in different cancer cell lines rather than noncancerous cells.

Growth Inhibition / Leaves:

Study showed leaves of A. vulgaris can inhibit growth of rats. The effect was attributed to blockade in energy generation process and interference in pentose pathway for production of NADPH and pentose sugar for synthesis of nucleic acid. The study sends a message for restricted use of leaves in treatment of various ailments.

Pregnancy: Should not be used by pregnant women.



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