Artemisia vulgaris

Today we once again feature a photo from the album that Douglas Justice collected while traveling through China this past May. Douglas kindly provided us with the entry as well.

Artemisia vulgaris, or mugwort, is a common weedy species throughout much of the world. And although known for its toxic, nerve poisoning qualities, it was occasionally served as a side dish to our group—the delegates to the Second International Symposium on the Family Magnoliaceae (held in Guangzhou, Guangdong, China)—as an accompaniment to fatty meat dishes, such as goose and pork. When asked the identity of this intensively bitter accompaniment, our Chinese hosts identified it as "chrysanthemum." This is somewhat confusing, as Leucanthemum coronarium is a common constituent of dishes in Cantonese cuisine, whereas there is little mention of the culinary uses of mugwort. The two species were easily distinguished, however: whole, stir-fried stems of garland chrysanthemum were served, tasting of mildly bitter lettuce, while the wormwood was presented pickle-style, and had the overwhelming tang and excruciatingly long medicinal burn of sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata)—that is, to my western North American palate. My research tells me that in a number of cultures wormwood and its relatives are used for stimulating the appetite, correcting "bilious disorders" and expelling worms.

Artemisia vulgaris with Carabid

26 responses to “Artemisia vulgaris”

  1. phillip

    ah…my american friend..have another bowl of our nerve posioning toxic soup…it is good for us…er…i meen you…bug for dessert…?…ah…so…

  2. Dan Post

    I remember from 50 years ago, when my mother thought she was bringing wild mums into her garden, only to realize it was mugwort. She never got rid of it.

  3. CherriesWalks

    In the Alpes some people use it in their génépi recipes, although there are better artemisia varieties to be used. I love the taste of a leaf on the tongue when I am thirsty on a hike!

  4. Er.We

    I believe the beetle to be a member of the Chrysolidae tribe (leaf beetles), possibly an Oulema species.

  5. Mountain Laurel

    Huh – I’ve always thought of mugwort as a not-for-eating herb, but didn’t know it was actually toxic (much less eaten anyway!). I’ve always put it in pillow sachets with lavender & other “sleepy” herbs for good dreams, but I’m not sure of the source of that …

  6. Jennifer Frazer

    “Sagebrush is a very fair fuel, but as a vegetable it is a distinguished failure.” — Mark Twain
    Western palates, indeed.

  7. phillip

    …ok…i didn’t want to offend any of my asian friends…it was just a take off…
    i as sous chef at the haytt regency san francisco circa 1984…helped prepare the first meal for the very first chinese delegation to the united states…to open the doors for future negotations…this very first convey we fed a fantastic meal..we as the chefs…were only allowed to bring the meals ..under covers…to the big wooden doors of the conference room…a very exciting time…

  8. Marilyn Brown

    It’s a splendid beetle.

  9. annie morgan

    Wormwood is sold in most health stores as a most effective, non-chemical remedy for parasites.

  10. Connie

    But it has chemicals in it- neurotoxins!

  11. Cheryl Fromholzer

    The neurotoxic qualities (thujone) must be taken in context. Mugwort tea, used as a digestive aid, is not problematic. It’s a plant that’s been used historically for stimulating bile secretion to metabolize a fatty meal as well as an emmenagogue to bring on delayed menses. Put another way, if you take too much tylenol, you can die from liver poisoning. It’s all about moderation.

  12. Sue in Bremerton

    Thanks Cheryl. You explained it very well. The other posts were well worth reading as well. I hate bugs!

  13. Mary Ann, in Toronto

    Yes, it all depends on the quantity. You can die from drinking too much water.
    Everything is chemicals.

  14. Irma Palm

    In Sweden mugwort is used as a bitter before a meal or as a schnaps. You take stems with flowers just out and put it in a bottle with vodka. After a few days you have an extract to be used to flavour your schnaps

  15. megan

    And aren’t we all forgetting the delicious herb tarragon?

  16. Connie

    How about Absinth?

  17. MsWinterfinch

    I love the little beetle.

  18. Wendy Cutler

    Here’s the correct link to Leucanthemum coronarium. The original link picked up a few extra words.
    I loved the write-up, and the photo.

  19. elizabeth a airhart

    thank you the comments are interesting

  20. Christine DeCourt

    Regarding the mugwort/artemesia – a moroccan restaurant owner had fresh greens on the counter that someone had brought in for her personal use – she could only tell me that they were called “sheba”, not knowing the English translation,and that she used the leaves in her tea. I searched online, discovering that this was indeed wormwood, artemesia, and that it is used with tea, usually mint, in morocco and elsewhere for its digestive effect. Also poisonous in large amounts, especially I guess to the worms!

  21. Bear

    I have to say, as an herbalist, this is one of my favorite plants to have growing in my garden. It’s generally accepted the genus is named after Artemis, the greek moon goddess (flip mugworts leaves over and the silvery undersides will remind you!). As a digestive aid and emmenagogue it serves well but I love it’s effectiveness in moxibustion treatments. Moxibustion is an ancient Chinese technique of burning mugwort over acupuncture points or ailing area for therapeutic benefit. There’s a nice short article on it here: http://www.city.china.com.cn/english/health/196405.htm
    The Journal of AMA also published a study finding moxibustion 76% effective in correcting a breech position in pregnant women. You can read the abstract here:
    http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/280/18/1580
    I *heart* Artemisia!

  22. Karen Vaughan (RH)

    “If they would drink nettles in March
    and eat mugwort in May
    fewer young ladies
    would go to the grave”- in John Murrell, A Garden of Herbs, 1621
    Actually my son taught me to eat early mugwort leaves, before they get too resinous, when he was a child. He liked the smell, I vetted it for lack of poison and we enjoyed it in small quantities. It is one of those things that is tasty in small quantities, then you reach a point where you absolutely don’t want any more of it.

  23. Tammy

    Very interesting comments! Especially about moxibustion! As i had a breech child, it was of particular interest to me.
    I have always liked the way that mugwort (and most of the other artemesias) smell, but haven’t tried eating them. Unfortunately, i’m allergic to all of their blooms, especially sweet annie, so i try not to be around them much when they bloom.

  24. onlyheaven

    I am humbled by your collective knowledge & am thrilled I have the privilege of being part of this community. Learned so MANY interesting things in just this one posting 🙂

  25. james

    One of the 9 herbs from yhe Nine Herb Charm of Woden (10th Century Old English) against snake bite poisoning: Mugwort, Cockspur Grass (or Betony), Lamb’s Cress, Plantain, Chamomile (German), Nettle, Crab-apple, Thyme, and Fennel.
    A snake came crawling, it bit a man.
    Then Woden took nine glory-twigs,
    Smote the serpent so that it flew into nine parts.
    There apple brought this pass against poison,
    That she nevermore would enter her house.

  26. acupunture portland

    Mugwort is often said to derive from the word “mug” since it has been used in flavoring drinks at least since the early Iron Age.[2] However, this may be a folk etymology based on coincidental sounds. Other sources say Mugwort is derived from the old Norse muggi, meaning “marsh”, and Germanic “wuertz”, meaning “root”, which refers to its use since ancient times to repel insects, especially moths.

Leave a Reply to Mountain Laurel Click here to cancel reply.