What Is Mugwort?

Mugwort Benefits, Side Effects, and How to Use It

Mugwort capsules, tea bags, and dried leaves

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

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Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) is a flowering plant native to northern Europe, Asia, and parts of North America. The sage-colored plant is commonly used for beer-making but is also thought to prevent or treat health conditions like anxiety, digestion problems, and irregular periods, among others.

The roots, leaves, stems, and blossoms of the mugwort plant are all used in folk medicine to make tinctures, extracts, tonics, teas, powders, and essential oils.

This article describes the medical uses of mugwort, the possible risks and side effects, plus how to select and safely use mugwort.

Commonly Known As

  • Artemisia
  • Hierba de San Juan
  • Armoise
  • Vulgaris herba
  • Felon herb
  • St. John's herb
  • Chrysanthemum weed
  • Herbe royale
2:02

Click Play to Learn More About Mugwort Tea

This video has been medically reviewed by Meredith Bull, ND.

Mugwort Benefits

Many people consider mugwort a common weed. It spreads aggressively and can take over large parts of a garden. Because it's related to ragweed, people who are allergic to ragweed may be allergic to mugwort, as well.

So, some people destroy mugwort when it turns up in their garden. But in certain parts of the world, it's purposely grown to make herbal medicine. 

Purported mugwort benefits include:

  • Relieving stress
  • Boosting energy
  • Improving sleep
  • Promoting blood circulation
  • Relieving headaches
  • Supporting liver health
  • Relieving an itch
  • Increasing urine output
  • Easing digestion problem
  • Repelling insects
  • Relieving muscle aches
  • Normalizing menstrual cycles

Historic Mugwort Uses

Roman soldiers used to put mugwort in their shoes to relieve foot pain from marching. 

St. John the Baptist was said to wear a girdle of mugwort to relieve stomach pain.

Active Components

The parts of the mugwort plant that grow above the ground are used to make essential oil. Compounds in the oil—including camphor, pinene, and cineole—are said to have potent antioxidant, antibacterial, and antifungal effects.

A chemical called artemisinin is found in the root, stem, leaves, and blossoms of the mugwort plant. When eaten, artemisinin is said to cause gentle contractions of the uterus, which promote regular periods. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), it's sometimes used to induce labor.

Artemisinin is thought to have anti-cancer properties, though this has yet to be proven.

Conditions Treated

To date, there is little scientific evidence that mugwort can prevent or treat any medical condition. Even so, it is regularly used for:

  • Amenorrhea (irregular or absent periods)
  • Anxiety
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Colic
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Eczema
  • Diarrhea
  • Epilepsy
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea or vomiting

In TCM, mugwort is used in the practice of moxibustion. This involves rolling mugwort into sticks or cones, igniting them, and waving it over the part of the body being treated. This is thought to enhance the effects of acupuncture.

A 2012 review suggests moxibustion can reduce the need for cesarean sections by aiding in the delivery of breech babies. Further research is needed.

Possible Side Effects

Mugwort is considered safe for most people. However, you shouldn't use it if you're pregnant because the uterine contractions it causes can lead to miscarriage. Due to the lack of safety research, you also shouldn't give it to children or use it while breastfeeding.

Mugwort Allergy

People with a ragweed allergy should use mugwort with caution due to an increased risk of an allergic reaction.

Mild allergic symptoms to mugwort include:

  • Hives or rash
  • Itching
  • Mouth tingling
  • Swollen lips
  • Headaches
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea or vomiting

Severe allergic symptoms to mugwort include:

  • Sudden, severe hives or rash
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeats
  • Swelling of the face, throat, or neck
  • Lightheadedness or fainting

Severe allergic symptoms are signs of a whole-body reaction called anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency that can lead to shock and death if not treated immediately.

People allergic to celery, birch, or carrot should be cautious with mugwort because it's linked to “celery-carrot-mugwort-spice syndrome." This is typically a milder allergy but in rare cases, it can cause anaphylaxis.

A 2008 study from the Netherlands found that 87% of people allergic to celery were also allergic to mugwort, while 52% of those allergic to birch and 26% of those allergic to caraway also had mugwort allergies.

Dried mugwort leaves
Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Dosage and Preparation

Mugwort is used in cooking to flavor foods and beverages, including fish, meat, desserts, pancakes, soups, salads, and more. Mugwort was used in Europe to flavor beer long before hops were discovered.

You can buy mugwort online and in drugstores, natural food stores, and herbalist shops. It comes in many forms, including:

  • Extracts
  • Tinctures
  • Dried whole leaves
  • Powders
  • Essential oil
  • Supplements (including tablets, capsules, and soft gels)

There is no recommended dose of mugwort in any form. With that said, mugwort supplements may be safest as the dose is more controlled. As a rule, do not exceed the dose on the product label.

How Do I Make Mugwort (Lucid Dream) Tea?

To make mugwort tea:

  • Boil one cup of water
  • Add one and a half teaspoons of dried mugwort
  • Steep for 10 minutes

This is sometimes referred to as "lucid dream tea."

What to Look For

Herbal remedies and supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

To ensure safety, select products certified by:

  • U.S. Pharmacopeia (USF)
  • NSF International
  • ConsumerLab 

These independent bodies evaluate the purity and safety of natural or herbal supplements like mugwort.

When foraging for mugwort to make essential oil, be sure to harvest the plant when it's just starting to bloom. This is when the flower contains the most potent oil content.

Summary

Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris L.) is a plant related to ragweed that's used to flavor food and as an herbal medicine. It is thought to boost energy, calm nerves, support digestion, relieve itching and pain, and promote regular periods, among other things. Evidence supporting these claims is lacking.

Mugwort is available as a dietary supplement, tincture, extract, essential oil, powder, or whole dried leaves. It is generally safe for use, although it may cause an allergic reaction in people with ragweed allergies as well as allergies to celery, carrot, or birch. There is no recommended dose.

Mugwort should not be used in children or people who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Check Laws Before Growing

Mugwort is considered an invasive species in some areas. It grows so fast that it's illegal to grow it in some states. To avoid potentially heavy fines, check local and state regulations before cultivating mugwort.

A Word From Verywell

Herbal remedies are often considered safe because they're "natural." Keep in mind that even natural products come with potential risks, side effects, and drug interactions. They're not safe for everyone and you can overdose if you take too much.

Your healthcare provider and pharmacist can give you valuable guidance about herbal products like mugwort. Be sure to talk to them before starting anything medicinal.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does mugwort make you hallucinate?

    Mugwort is a mild psychoactive herb that can alter your senses, Some types of psychoactive herbs may cause hallucinations, but it's unlikely with mugwort. You'd have to take in an extreme amount of mugwort to alter your senses enough to hallucinate.

  • Is it safe to smoke mugwort?

    Actually, it could be very dangerous, but more research on the risks is needed. For thousands of years, traditional medicine has used mugwort smoke to treat ailments. It may be smoked like tobacco or burned near the skin. In both forms, the smoke contains chemicals that are cancerous and harmful.

  • Is mugwort the same as wormwood?

    The names wormwood and mugwort are often used interchangeably, but they're not the same. Both plants are part of the Artemisia genus. However, they're separate species with different medicinal effects.

  • What do I need to know about mugwort identification?

    Mugwort has leaves between two and four inches long with soft, gray or white hairs on the undersides. The deeply lobed leaves look similar to those of chrysanthmums (a common garden flower) and ragweed seedlings. However, mugwort has a distinctive sage-like smell the others lack.

  • Does mugwort have benefits for dreams?

    People involved in dreamwork and lucid dreaming (being conscious of and in control of your dreams) tout mugwort as able to:

    • Intensify or enhance the dream experience
    • Help you remember dreams better
    • Introduce color to people who dream in black and white
    • Help you become more aware of your dream state so you can attempt lucid dreaming

    Mugwort-based "lucid dream tea" is often used for this purpose. These purported mugwort benefits are unproven.

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Preedy VR. Essential Oils in Food Preservation, Flavor and Safety. Academic Press; 2015.

  2. Coyle ME, Smith CA, Peat B. Cephalic version by moxibustion for breech presentationCochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012;(5):CD003928. Published 2012 May 16. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD003928.pub3

  3. SŁowianek M, Majak I, LeszczyŃska J, et al. New allergens from spices in the Apiaceae family: anise Pimpinella anisum L. and caraway Carum carvi LCent Eur J Immunol. 2020;45(3):241-247. doi:10.5114/ceji.2020.101236

  4. Plants for a Future. Artemisia vulgaris - L.

  5. Dettling A, Grass H, Schuff A, Skopp G, Strohbeck-Kuehner P, Haffner HT. Absinthe: attention performance and mood under the influence of thujone. J Stud Alcohol. 2004;65(5):573-581. doi:10.15288/jsa.2004.65.573

  6. Ekiert H, Pajor J, Klin P, Rzepiela A, Ślesak H, Szopa A. Significance of artemisia vulgaris l. (Common mugwort)In the history of medicine and its possible contemporary applications substantiated by phytochemical and pharmacological studies. Molecules. 2020;25(19):4415. doi:10.3390%2Fmolecules25194415

  7. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Mugwort.

  8. University of Missouri, Division of Plant Sciences. Weed ID guide: Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris).

Additional Reading

By Sherry Christiansen
Sherry Christiansen is a medical writer with a healthcare background. She has worked in the hospital setting and collaborated on Alzheimer's research.