Artemisia vulgaris, or mugwort, was a key ingredient in unusual solutions including love potions and teas for growing beards.
• Artemisia vulgaris
• Used in folklore to attract lovers and repel evil.
Wishing Cupid’s arrow would shoot your direction this Valentine’s Day? Mugwort was once believed to make such amorous fantasies come true. The roots of the mugwort herb were once a common ingredient in many love potions.
But not everything about this plant’s history evokes tales of passion and true love. This tall, woody perennial has a rich history in ancient folklore. It is the most common member of a group of plants dedicated to the Greek goddess Artemis. According to legend, the mugwort herb was used as a charm to ward off evil spirits. When hung in the home, its claw-shaped leaves forced evil eyes to avert their gaze, kept villainous elves and demons away, and cured disease.
The plant’s versatility doesn’t end there—Englishmen yearning for handsome looks and virility wore mugwort sprigs in their buttonholes. Some men even bathed in mugwort tea for better-growing beards. Mugwort leaves could also be found in shoes to re-energize weary travelers or in bundles hung over beds to induce vivid dreams.
Mugwort is still considered an important herb in Chinese medicine—it is often used as a nervine and tonic stimulant, and is the herb used in moxibustion to warm acupuncture points and improve blood flow. Just as the chefs did in the Middle Ages, modern herbalists may recommend the mugwort herb to ease a sluggish digestive system. Farm animals also can benefit from mugwort—it can alleviate coughs in cattle and discourage worm infestation in horses and sheep.
In the Middle Ages, mugwort flavored a medicinal beer, which is still enjoyed in some parts of the world today.
Justine Patton is an editorial intern for The Herb Companion.