Mugwort Artemisia Vulgaris 

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Mugwort Artemisia vulgaris: The medicinal virtues of mugwort

These are the leaves, flowering tops and roots that are traditionally used in traditional herbalism.

In herbal tea, infuse 1 gram to 1.5 grams of dry plants for 250 ml of water, to drink about 30 minutes before the two meals to stimulate the digestive functions or between meals for the other desired effects.

According to doctor Jean Valnet, to treat amenorrhea, it is used during the 10 days preceding the theoretical arrival of the rules. It would be even more effective associated with pennyroyal. To treat period pain, it can also be consumed with German chamomile and lemon balm.

You can also consume Mugwort in the form of a tincture or powder of plants.

What are the characteristics of Mugwort ?

Latin name :

  • Artemisia vulgaris L.

Botanical family :

  • Asteraceae

Producing organs :

  • Flowering tops

A little history :

This herbaceous plant, native to temperate regions such as Europe, North America and Asia, has been known since Antiquity; the Gauls called her "ponema" but the name of the genus refers to Artemis , Greek goddess of nature and hunting, associated with women, and with feminine problems.
In Chinese medicine, it is used to make moxas: sticks of dried mugwort that are burned near meridian points to heat them. This principle is used in moxibustion.

Artemisia Vulgaris L. is also called " fire grass ". This name was probably given to it because artemisia was worn in rosaries (associated with verbena ) during the Feast of St. John in the Middle Ages. This was further attested until the 16th century in Germany. We looked through sprays / bouquets of larkspur while carrying this rosary the fire of Saint John. This was supposed to protect the eyes and general health for a whole year. As they left the party they threw the rosary into the fire saying "let all my bad luck burn with this".

The Great Albert indicates that the mugwort has all the virtues: "Whoever takes care to always have this herb with him does not fear evil spirits, nor poison, nor water, nor fire and nothing can. harm ”.
The Aztecs and other Indians of the Americas used mugwort for rituals and medicine. From ancient times in Europe the herb was used as a remedy against fatigue and to protect travelers from evil spirits and wild animals.

The Indians still use mugwort as "sage". They use the herb for spiritual cleansing, to drive away evil spirits and negative energies. Calamus leaf bundles with sagebrush are still used as a talisman during the dragon boat festival.

Mugwort is said to be useful for the induction of lucid dreams and astral travel. Smoking or consuming mugwort as a plant or as a solution before sleep might intensify dreams or their control and help remember them. In Mexico, the herb is often smoked as a substitute for marijuana.

Mugwort was mentioned in Greek ( Dioscorides , 1st century) and Arab-Persian ( Avicenna , 10th century) medicines against headaches , colds, coryza and to provoke or regulate menstruation. Ibn al Baytar (13th century) also reports its use in vertigo and as an anthelmintic. Several species of sagebrush probably correspond to the sagebrush of the ancient Arab pharmacopoeias such as Artemisia herba alba in North Africa or Artemisia cina in the Middle East.

The name of the herb-aux-cent-tastes comes from the 12th century. Indeed, it is Sainte Hildegarde who recommends cooking it as a vegetable; eaten in this way, "it heals sick intestines and warms a cold stomach (...)".

It would have been used since the Middle Ages to manufacture writing ink of bronze color by the addition of salts of alum and iron.

In the 18th century, in Normandy, it was used to dye wool, in "musk" and "olive" shades. The mugwort dyes are known to be solid. Apart from a few other uses in northern Europe, the plant did not attract the attention of dyers, as it contained too little coloring matter to be used to advantage.

Cazin (19th century) considers the aerial parts as stimulating, antispasmodic and recalls that the root has been deemed useful in hysteria and epilepsy since the 16th century. He advocates mugwort juice to bring on menstruation and fight against chlorosis. Fournier (20th century) adds action against fever and jaundice as well as stimulation of urine output in the kidneys.

No doubt it was necessary to be embarrassed by the person of Artemis to dare to suppose that we owed the wormwood to the widow and sister of Mausole , queen of Caria , Artémise , supposedly expert in gynecology (we will see, with the portrait that we will draw up from Artemis later , that the relation of the mugwort to the goddess goes beyond this simple framework).

After that, it is said that Artemis would have discovered and made known this plant to the centaur Chiron , who named it after the name of the goddess, is only a detail of little importance. These few preliminary accessories make it possible to locate more or less the beginnings (known for a long time) of a history common to human beings and to mugwort, even if new elements, ignored a century ago, upset the representations. .

This is how the German anthropologist Christian Rätsch reported abundant traces of sagebrush near the Lascaux site. This information in fact sets back the collaboration between man and this plant not far from 20,000 years old (if, of course, this mugwort found in a fragmentary state, is indeed contemporary with the period of occupation of the site and of the cave paintings and engravings which form the ornamentation, and whose dating is estimated between 18,000 and 17,000 years BC).

If one is satisfied to consider only the last three millennia, it is clear that the career of the sagebrush begins rather timidly: for example, it is little cited by the authors of the collection of Hippocratic treatises who nevertheless grant it a attention to the subject of some affections of the womb with which she intervenes, Hippocrates even risking to grant her the power to expel the afterbirth. What is the afterlife? Excellent question: in current terms, this is called the placenta. And the pater being to the homeland what the mater is to the womb, we can witness, before our astonished eyes, the birth of the greatest reason to use mugwort in therapy: it is a plant of the woman (and partly from the mother, but not only), that is why it is a great gynecological remedy (from the Greek gunế , "woman").

It is true that when one takes note of what Dioscorides and Pliny say "of mugwort, which the Greeks, Latins and Italians call artemisia", the plant actually leans towards the side of the woman, lower abdomen section. Let us listen to Pliny on this point: “Pounded artemisia introduced into a pessary made with iris oil, a fig or myrrh, is a good remedy for the womb; its root, in drink, empties it so much that it expels dead fetuses from it. The decoction of its twigs, used as a sitz bath, brings on menstruation and brings out the afterbirth; a drachma of its leaves in a potion works in the same way. These are also good for these uses, applied to the lower abdomen with barley flour "in order to prepare the parturient and to induce, when necessary, the contractions necessary for a good childbirth.

After that, when Dioscorides adds to what has already been said that mugwort is lithontriptic and diuretic, that Galen , who must have lost something on the way, says it is moderately effective for inflammation of the matrix, only the late Aetius, Paul of Aegina and Alexander of Tralles who cuckoo clocks, repeating word for word the words of their predecessors. Clearly, they are not adding anything new, but the mugwort will not have too much to suffer from this lack of imagination in its place.

Placed under the patronage of Apollo's sister , mugwort is undoubtedly a plant of Woman, because, as it was still said in the twentieth century in the Alpes de Haute-Provence, "if you know the virtues artemisia, wear it in your shirt ”(night). Yes, why deprive yourself of it?

We do not deprive ourselves of it so much that we could still read in the Dictionary of Trévoux , which dates all the same from the 18th century, that “mugwort is recommended for the diseases of women”. But between the ancient Dioscorides, Pliny and others , and the Age of Light, history is interspersed with examples which show that the mugwort plant did not have to be ashamed of the validity of the hopes that were placed in it early on and that she should know how to find a place for herself, becoming a teacher at the school for women.

In the 9th century, the poet monk Walahfrid Strabo called mugwort " mother of plants ", followed, in the same terms, by Odon de Meung two centuries later. If the latter starts his De viribus herbarum with this plant, it is certainly voluntary on his part. Here are her first words: "At the beginning of a poem in which I propose to describe the virtues of herbs, that which is commonly called mother of plants , and which received from the Greeks the name of mugwort, naturally offers itself to my songs ”. Commonly , he says. This means, therefore, that around the year 1000, mugwort had lost none of its ancient prestige in Western Europe, and that it is still, indeed, a plant intended for the diseases of women. .

This is how he begins his presentation: it strengthens the female genitals, promotes menstruation, regulates periods, while relieving pain and abundance. In addition, it finds its place during childbirth, which it helps to facilitate. But among the mass of all this information, one thing, which we had hitherto kept in silence, emerges little by little, even though Pliny was already referring to it: we evoke the abortive power of mugwort, this which aligns it on the same plane as the foul rue, the sabine juniper and the officinal sage.

It is in these terms that this property is denominated by the school of Salerno : "By her, abortion quickly takes place. As a pessary, as a drink, produces the same boom ”. The pessary allows the local application, here genital, of a drug. One crosses this term in the oath of Hippocrates : "I will not give to any woman an abortifacient pessary" (that is to say a pessary diverted from its initial function). Obviously, in the Middle Ages, a vast period, we did not use mugwort for these reasons alone, its gynecological qualities not being able to obscure all the other properties which knew, somehow, to make their way such as, for example, its diuretic, lithontriptic (against gravel, more precisely) and anti-icteric (which we always recognize, but which in no way form the bulk of its therapeutic panoply).

More rarely, it is said to be cordial and stomachic, in particular with Hildegarde de Bingen , where the one she calls Biboz is called upon to calm sick intestines and pain after meals, and to warm cold and torpid stomachs. Likewise, it can be applied profitably to ulcers, infected and inflamed wounds. Hildegarde does not say more about it, nor does it address what, until now, has been the subject of much ink on the part of the therapists, that is to say its function of iron. gynecological lance. It is not because Hildegarde does not mention the emmenagogue properties of mugwort that they should be called into question, since as Cazin mentioned in the 19th century, they "were recommended by the doctors of antiquity. and observed since by all practitioners ”, namely Jean Fernel, Zacutus Lusitanus, Simon Paulli, Diego de Torres, Nicolas Lémery and many others, unlike a tiny minority who refused to consider its action on the genital sphere.

This is what will please the goddess Artemis , "goddess of wild lands, and who also presides over material and symbolic passages", a tasty definition that it is important to analyze well in order to better understand what Artemis represents, beyond the appearances. most commonly accepted.

Artemis "is the ancient mistress of wild beasts - the potnea Theron of the Iliad ; it hunts them, but also protects them from men, as well as all the wild nature which it preserves intact, as it intends to remain so ”. Her bow and arrows, her hunting activities, were not, on the whole, typically feminine during the time of classical Greek antiquity. All this brings her somewhat closer to the Amazon, but with which she cannot be confused. The word "intact" is important, since it reflects the meaning of artemisia which, in Greek, means "integrity" (and by extension "good health" as Jacques Brosse explains to us).

But what is this artemisia which ensures the “intactness” of women? Well, it is the mugwort which places, in fact, Artemis in opposition to Aphrodite on the symbolic level. The latter kindly welcomes the love of men, which the former rejects, being animated, as an upright female avatar, by a visceral hatred of man (of the male, one must understand) and of the love that 'it is likely to carry to such and such. Moreover, as Aphrodite has a tendency to scoff at young girls who neglect her worship, who lock themselves in virginity, we understand when she is bent on those whom Artemis takes under her protection (we imagine then the future of a young girl in the grip of these two opposing forces…).

Artemis thus takes under his wing the children, and more precisely the pre-pubescent girls, the young virgin girls and women, as well as the older women freed from the “calamities of menstruation”. Artemis is therefore located at the beginning of a woman's life and at the end, two periods concerning puberty and menopause. Between the two, one might think that she does not intervene, leaving the field open to Aphrodite . Not exactly. If Artemis is peaceful and benevolent with girls and postmenopausal women, she can nonetheless show severity and cruelty towards those who disrespect her. Because she is lunar, Artemis is necessarily skittish.

It is also said that it is sometimes worn at the bedside of the parturient: it is true, and it is not for nothing that the mugwort facilitates the work of women in childbirth, whose delivery it can hasten, which " seems, a priori, little in conformity with the nature of the chaste goddess, and this is probably only a secondary function ”. Those, neither impubes, nor having passed the age of maturity beyond which procreation is no longer possible, Artemis is still helpful to them, since, being also a divinity of the Moon who governs the female cycles , it has all the same a little effect on this point (etymologically, one observes a great similarity between the Latin mensis , "month" and the Greek mene which indicates the lunar star).

Thus, Artemis is not a midwife, but knew how to incarnate this role, in particular when with her name one associates the epiclesis of Ilithyie . Daughter of Zeus and Hera , equivalent of the Roman Lucine , Ilithyie , divine maïeuticienne, presides over the deliveries during which she can intervene to slow down the course or, on the contrary, to accelerate it if need be. The legendary ancient Greek even claims that it was she who gave birth to Artemis !

But she was no less tough, since "she punished the lack of chastity by increasing the pains of childbirth, and for this reason she was feared by young girls. The too frequent births also displeased him ”. It is perhaps because of these excessive births that we invited mugwort (which is supposed to intervene only before and after the pregnancy, but never during), since, as we said above mugwort is one of the abortives.

During its medical history, some doubted this possibility, even though it went so far as to nickname it felon herb in English, where the word felon takes the meaning of "criminal". By its emmenagogic qualities, we consider mugwort as a plant capable of expelling impurities out of the body. At the same time, its vermifuge virtue makes it suitable for purifying the organism of the foreign bodies which it shelters. However, it should be known that "the fetus is considered as a parasite which lives to the detriment of the maternal organism". Thus, thanks to the abortive mugwort, Artemis “still allows the woman to deliver herself; Admittedly, such a mercy may surprise on the part of such an intransigent goddess, but does it not thus free the woman from the impregnation of the hated male ”, purifying her, making her almost regain her original state?

There is, in the Louvre, a statue of almost two meters high representing Artemis (aka Diane de Versailles ). With her left hand (which now only holds a fragment of a bow) she controls a leaping deer much smaller than herself, and with her right hand, where her gaze is directed, extracting from her quiver one of her arrows with a sure gesture, in the same way that mugwort is supposed to eradicate a worm from the intestine or a fetus from the uterus. So here is how Artemis is a shady divinity.

Already, among the ancient Greeks, one had granted to artemisia a crucial therapeutic value on the insensitivity of the nerves, the paralysis, the contraction of the muscles, in short on what "immobilizes", on the diseases of the nerves. in general, epilepsy in particular. Now, we are told, “the properties of artemisia are related to the planet Ares . It will be recalled first of all that this was associated with war, violence, screaming, excess and that it caused feverish eruptions and paralysis. As many ailments as the plant has the power to heal. As for epilepsy and the nervous disorders against which the plant is believed to be effective, their seizures, which strike suddenly, suddenly and dramatically, twisting and shaking the body, are not they generally signaled by their violence ? ".

Like its emmenagogue properties, the capacity of mugwort to hinder epilepsy has not been abandoned along the way, since very many have been practitioners ( Jérôme Bock, Matthiole, Simon Paulli, Fernel, Schröder, Hufeland, Ettmüller , Joel, Lœvenhœck , etc.), in particular between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, to extol the benefits of the vulgar sagebrush root against what was called the high evil, a reputation that was not confined to 'to doctors only, but which has spread to the countryside where "the people believe badly that one finds under the root of the sagebrush a charcoal [note: in reality, fragments of old blackened roots], which 'you have to look for it there the night before Saint-Jean-Baptiste and that this charcoal is a sovereign remedy against epilepsy ”.

Thus stormed the Dictionary of Trévoux in the eighteenth century. Having been written by religious, one can understand what these unchristian and impious practices could have of revolting for certain men of the church. At this stage, we should concede that we are bathing here more in magic than in medicine, but when the latter is lacking, and what is more in the countryside, why not rely on these alternatives? Especially since we united a plant known to be anti-epileptic to a ritual taking place in specific circumstances and involving a saint, John the Baptist, patron of epileptics! We will therefore not be surprised at the large magical use that has been made of mugwort.

Known as one of the seven (so-called) plants of Midsummer's Day, mugwort was preferably picked around the time of the summer solstice, preferably at dawn, before the sun's rays had reached. could touch the Earth, in the sign of Virgo (is this a probable reference to Artemis?).

Regarding a so-called red mugwort, Paul Sédir advised picking it "after the full moon which ends the scorching days", that is to say all the same far from the summer solstice or the summer solstice. Saint-Jean (June 24). For Sédir , this mugwort had a prevalence over common mugwort (not red, therefore). This mugwort does not seem to be a species in its own right, nor a variety: undoubtedly it is these mugwort whose strongest stems turn red at their foot (and even above), which could have been perceived as a sign of the emmenagogue properties of the plant, but above all as "that of the 'domination' that the planet Ares exerted over it".

We will not elaborate further on the relation to red and the blood of mugwort, but nevertheless point out to readers avid anecdotes, that "the watery infusion of the recent herb is reddish" and that "its juice. blushes the blue paper ”.

There are many other rituals using mugwort than that of throwing it into the fire of Saint John in order to prevent or cure epilepsy, when that was not simply the dance of Saint Vitus. . Some rituals were valid for the entire year, whether it was complete immunity to all kinds of illnesses or banishing evil influences which take many different forms. I have collected a lot of information on the ritual and magical powers of mugwort: here is a non-exhaustive summary.

  • The home is protected by mugwort: a bouquet of mugwort kept at home and regularly renewed, repels evil spirits, demons, hidden devils, frightening ghosts, charms and bad enchantments, the evil eye, bad luck, dangers of water, fire and infected air. Whether attached to the lintel of houses as integral protection, in the form of bouquets or small figurines made from mugwort sprigs that are then hung on the doors and windows of homes, barns and other outbuildings, to protect , that is to say to prevent and to purify, in other words to cure if not cure, there was not a problem that the mugwort could not solve.
  • The mugwort was fumigated like incense; they made, as in Sicily, crosses kept from one year to the next (placed in the stables, their virtue of calming the indomitable cattle) and in a bag carried on one to untie the aiguillette (which is very curious), to protect oneself from poisons, venoms (by keeping poisonous animals such as frogs and tree frogs), bites from ferocious animals, etc.
  • To finish, let us evoke three essential points through which the mugwort played a sometimes very astonishing role:
    “A plant associated with the god of Storms can only take part in magical practices linked to time. Long after the appearance of Christianity, the peasants harvested mugwort and garnished their doors with it in order to ward off lightning ”, and sometimes also hail and thunder.

A divinatory plant, mugwort provided prophetic visions. So that a woman could see the face of her future fiancé in a dream, she passed a branch of mugwort in the flames of the fire of Saint John, which she then hastened to place under her pillow on the evening of the solstice. summer. The mugwort infusion also made it possible to purify the crystal balls and "it is also said that by coating a steel mirror with mugwort juice and fumigating it, we saw the evoked spirits there".

It seems that the Roman legionary slipped mugwort in his caligæ in order to ameliorate his feet from the efforts of the march. This is no less than what we find in the work of Pseudo- Apuleius or in that of the anonymous author of Carmen de viribus herbarum : mugwort consoles the thighs and feet of the pains and fatigue experienced during a long trip. This ancient reputation was transposed in the Grand and Petit Albert . Here is what the first said: “When you want to undertake a journey easily and without tiring yourself, you will carry the grass called mugwort in your hand, and you will make a belt of it while walking; then cook this herb and wash your feet with it, you will never get tired of it ”. It is now the turn of Little Albert to reveal the Secret of the Garter for Travelers , which is summarized here: you have to "band your legs with thongs cut from the skin of a young hare, in which we will have sewn mugwort dried in the shade, to travel on foot faster and longer than on horseback ”. The choice of the hare, a nimble and vigorous animal, is undoubtedly not innocent: it allows to underline the tonic and stimulating virtues of the mugwort. That said, the hare, as the fable has shown, is not a very enduring animal ...

Angelo de Gubernatis , who has eluded a lot of tales, myths and legends from Europe, provides us with the fragments of a pretty story that takes place in a Russian district, on the border with Ukraine, Starodubskij. A young girl, who has come to the forest to pick mushrooms, meets a large number of snakes, and, like Alice, dives into a hole in the earth and stays there from autumn to spring. following. “When spring came, the snakes intertwined so as to form a staircase, on which the young girl climbed out of the hole. But by taking leave […], she received as a gift the ability to understand the language of herbs, and to know their medicinal properties, on the condition of never naming mugwort […]; if she says this word, she will forget everything she has just learned. The young girl understood, in fact, all the words that the herbs said to each other; however, she was caught by a man who asked her by surprise: 'What is the grass that grows among the fields on the little paths?' Mugwort, she wrote to herself, and instantly forgot everything she knew; since that time, it is said, we call mugwort Zabutko, that is to say the herb of oblivion ”.

The initiating serpents - Asclepius and Hygieia do not seem very far away - teach this young girl (emulator of Artemis?) The secrets of the simple, which she cannot help but forget under the pressure of a man who has emerged from nothing. hand, threatening as the words "caught" and "by surprise" seem to suggest.

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