The Natural Way

Thursday, August 29, 2002

Mugwort is one of those strange sounding herbs that conjures up images of ugly people with skin tags hanging off of their noses. As ugly as the name is, this herb holds court with the most regal and princely. It has been in use for as long as we have evidence of people being around, which makes it one of the oldest. I don't know how the old ones named this herb other than "wort" is old English for plant. The Chinese use this herb extensively, especially along with acupuncture. They also thought it to be useful for female complaints, ulcers and burns. In China and Japan, leaves are ground with water and small cones are made which are later burned onto the skin of the patient (Moxibustion). Obviously, seeing a practitioner who has experience with this is a good thing. Other groups worldwide have used it for worm infestations, the stopping of persistent vomiting, to promote circulation and as a sedative. The actual usefulness has not been tested scientifically as far as I know, at least in the West. While no health hazards are known when used in the proper dose range, a recommendation to avoid it during pregnancy seems prudent. Science does know the liquid extract and the essential oils both show antimicrobial activity in laboratory tests. Mugwort has a pleasant tangy taste, sweet yet pungent, aromatic with an edge of bitter. The medicinal parts are the root and the above ground parts, especially the dried branch tips. Mugwort, while having a hard-to-get-to-like name, grows throughout much of the world. While science is poor on its use, the traditional use seems safe enough in small doses except for times of pregnancy. The herb is inexpensive and can be found in most health food stores. Just be sure to choose a practitioner wisely if you are going to Moxibust, or just have an extinguisher handy with burn salve . . . just kidding!

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