MUGWORT: Yields pale yellows, sage, beige
Source: Grows locally as a weed or in dried leaves
Its name can be linked to the English word for moth. In Ancient Greece, the botanist Dioscorides claimed it repelled insects in the garden, in particular moths. The scientific name Artemisia Vulgaris comes from the Greek Goddess of the moon, Artemis. Mugwort can also be linked to the Goddess Diana. It was used as a substitute for hops in ales and drank from mugs in the Iron Age. This possibly explains the word "mug" and the Old English "wyrt" for root.
Not much history exists as a source for dye. The plant leaves are infused to create shades of yellow and in recipes for greys and browns.
The plant originates in Europe and Asia. It is now found throughout the world including the West Coast of the U.S. and in Canada.
Mugwort has a history in culinary dishes, medicinal benefits and superstitions. Since the Middle Ages, it's been used to relieve fatigue and to repel insects. It's believed, in many cultures, to repel disease, evil spirits and misfortune. Mugwort beer was a popular drink for centuries. In traditional Chinese medicine and Asian cuisine, mugwort dates back to the 11th century. It helped with female irregularities and promoted a good monthly flow. It was used as a treatment for epilepsy, sensitive nervous systems and hysteria. It is found historically in German, Korean and Japanese cuisine in spice form and as an herbal tea.
North American Natives in California, parts of western Nevada, and southeast Oregon used mugwort in different applications and treatments. An infusion as a drink helped to relieve pain in women after giving birth. The leaves were used to keep ghosts away and avoid injury. A poultice was applied on the chest for colds and a wash on gonorrhea sores. It was also rubbed on navels of new born babies around the umbilical cord. In steam baths, the heated mugwort became a pulmonary aid. A poultice was also applied locally for rheumatism, on cuts and sore muscles.
Mugwort plays a part in British culture on Tynwald Day, the National Day on the Isle of Man. It is celebrated each July and dates back to the 10th century. Mugwort, also known as bollan bane ( white wort), is still worn on the lapel during local festivities today.
It should be noted that Mugwort and Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) are quite similar. Both are noted for their medicinal purposes and also as a dye source. They both contain Absinthe but very little of this ingredient is found in Mugwort. Both contain this active ingredient with its medicinal values among others. The big difference, Wormwood is known for its extraction of absinthe in creating the strong, green coloured liqueur associated with addictive psychoactive and hallucinatory properties.
However, Mugwort has nutritional benefits. Its leaves and roots along with the flowers can be infused for a delightful tea with a slight bitter taste. The leaves can also be eaten is salads or as cooked greens, especially the young Spring shoots.