Health Benefits of Mugwort

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Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) is a perennial plant that grows in many parts of the world, including Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America. Other popular names for mugwort include St. John’s plant and sailor’s tobacco.

People have used mugwort as a medicinal herb for many purposes, including improving digestion, regulating periods, and reducing itching from raised scars. The plant is also thought to have antioxidant properties as well as antibacterial and antifungal effects.

Dietary supplements are minimally regulated by the FDA and may or may not be suitable for you. The effects of supplements vary from person to person and depend on many variables, including type, dosage, frequency of use, and interactions with current medications. Please speak with your healthcare provider or pharmacist before starting any supplements.

Benefits of Mugwort

There has been limited research on how mugwort can benefit human health. Only some uses of the plant are backed by evidence. 

May Improve Digestion

Mugwort may aid in treating some digestive issues. 

Some research suggests that when taken orally, mugwort can help relax the gastrointestinal tract and bile ducts. This allows for increased bile production, which can help break down food and help it move through the digestive system. 

Research also shows the smell and bitter taste of mugwort may promote the production of bile and other digestive juices, such as stomach acid. These can help break down food and aid in digestion as well. 

However, more research is needed on the use of mugwort as a digestive aid. Be sure to talk to a healthcare provider before taking mugwort orally.

May Offer Itch Relief

Some research has shown mugwort can relieve itchiness, particularly on scars. However, most studies have only reviewed mugwort for itch relief when combined with other ingredients. 

A small preliminary study tested a lotion containing mugwort and menthol on people with raised scars from severe burns. It found that the lotion reduced itch.  

May Provide Antioxidant Effects

There is some research to suggest that mugwort has antioxidant effects.

Antioxidants protect the body’s cells against free radicals. Free radicals are unstable particles that form when the body converts food into energy or when you exercise. Smoking, as well as being exposed to air pollution or the sun, can increase the number of free radicals in the body.

Free radicals cause oxidative stress, which can lead to inflammation, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

By consuming antioxidants, you can help protect against the damage free radicals cause.

May Lower High Blood Pressure

Mugwort might help in the treatment of high blood pressure, or hypertension, by lowering high blood pressure and increasing blood circulation.

This effect on blood pressure has been seen when mugwort is used in a therapy known as moxibustion. Moxibustion involves burning a roll of herbs that contains mugwort directly or indirectly on acupuncture points, which are defined areas on the body within ancient Chinese medicine. Moxibustion may be used alongside acupuncture, where thin needles are inserted into these points. 

However, there are certain limitations in the research on moxibustion’s impact on blood pressure. The studies included small sample sizes, and none of the studies looked at the long-term effects. 

May Help With Irregular or Painful Periods

Some people use mugwort as a way to manage irregular periods, since mugwort may be able to bring on menstruation.

Research has shown that the leaves, flowers, stems, and fruits of mugwort have been used in various ethnic herbal medicines to treat both irregular periods (amenorrhea) and painful periods (dysmenorrhea). These uses have been found in India, Italy, and Vietnam. 

Acts as an Antibacterial and Antifungal

Several studies have shown mugwort helps fight bacteria and fungi.

For example, one study showed that applying a mugwort essential oil can help get rid of candida, a common fungus that can cause infection in the mouth, throat, and esophagus as well as the vagina and bloodstream.

Another study showed that an essential oil from the aerial parts of the plant—the leaves and stem above the ground—attacked multiple bacteria and fungi, including Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Salmonella enteritidis. 

However, since the plant grows in many parts of the world, not every essential oil is identical. This means that two bottles of mugwort essential oils from different areas may have different properties.

How to Take Mugwort

Mugwort is available in many forms, including:

  • Extract
  • Tincture
  • Dried leaves
  • Essential oil
  • Powder
  • Tablets, capsules, and soft gels

The form in which you use mugwort may depend on the benefit you want. For instance, mugwort supplements may be taken orally for digestive issues. For a fungal infection, you may apply a mugwort essential oil topically to the infected area.

However, there are no indications of how or when it is best to take mugwort. As such, you should follow the product’s recommendations and consult with your healthcare provider.


There is limited research on how people should take mugwort and at what dosage. It is important to follow the nutritional label if you take mugwort as a supplement. If you take it in any other form, talk to a healthcare provider about a safe dose for you.

Is Mugwort Safe?

The primary risk of consuming mugwort is an allergic reaction to the plant. 

If you are pregnant, you should not take mugwort. Consuming it can trigger menstruation, which causes the uterus to contract. This could lead to miscarriage. 

There is no research on taking mugwort while breastfeeding. As a precaution, it is best if you don’t consume it during this time.

People with diabetes and those who want to control their insulin resistance should consult with a healthcare provider about taking mugwort, as mugwort can increase blood glucose levels.

People who have trouble breathing, such as those with asthma, should also consider avoiding mugwort. This is because the plant’s pollen can cause or increase breathing difficulties.

Mugwort also contains a compound called thujone which is toxic and can be fatal in large doses. To avoid this component, avoid taking mugwort orally or look for a supplement that is thujone-free. Be sure to consult with a healthcare provider before taking mugwort orally.

Potential Drug Interactions

Currently, no research shows whether mugwort interacts with any drugs. 

However, mugwort can promote blood circulation, potentially increasing the risk of bleeding. If you are taking any medications that also raise bleeding risk, it is best to avoid mugwort or talk to a healthcare provider before using it.

Medications that can increase bleeding risk include:

  • Anticoagulant medications, such as warfarin and heparin
  • Anti-platelet medications, such as Plavix (clopidogrel)
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Advil (ibuprofen), Aleve (naproxen), and Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid)

Where to Find Mugwort

In its original form, mugwort can be found in the wild. You can identify the plant from its leaves, which are green on top and white and hairy underneath. They also have pointed tips and hairy, purple stems. Mugwort has a strong aromatic smell, similar to rosemary and sage, and has red to yellow flowers.

But for ready-to-use health and wellness purposes, you can purchase mugwort both in brick-and-mortar shops and online. 

Before buying, check to see if the product is third-party tested. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not regulate dietary supplements. A third-party test can help ensure supplements are safe.

Can You Take Too Much Mugwort?

It is possible to take too much mugwort. While no studies define safe consumption limits, research shows that taking a lot of mugwort can lead to miscarriage, nausea, vomiting, and nervous system damage. Consult with your healthcare provider and read the product’s instructions before using mugwort.

Side Effects of Mugwort

The most common side effect of mugwort is an allergic reaction to the plant. You might experience such a reaction if you are allergic to:

  • Birch
  • Grasses
  • Cabbage
  • Honey
  • Hazelnuts
  • Pollen of the European olive and sweet pepper
  • Royal jelly
  • Sunflower
  • Certain fruits, including peach, kiwi, mango, and apple
  • Celery and carrots

Severe allergic reactions may lead to anaphylactic shock, an attack on the immune system. If you are having an allergic reaction, see a healthcare provider immediately. 

Other side effects of taking mugwort may include:

  • Asthma attack
  • Skin inflammation (dermatitis) and other skin reactions
  • Miscarriage
  • Nervous system damage
  • An increase in blood glucose levels
  • High blood pressure

A Quick Review

Mugwort is a plant that may provide multiple benefits, including for menstruation, scar itch, and bacterial infections. Risks of mugwort can be mild to severe. People who are pregnant, have diabetes, or are allergic to compounds in the plant should not use it. While there are some studies on mugwort, the overall research on the plant’s long-term benefits and risks is limited. Be sure to check with your healthcare provider before trying mugwort.

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