Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Herbs: Mugwort


scientific name: Artemisia vulgaris

other common names: Ajenjo, carline thistle (a related herb, Artemisia absinthium, is known in Mexican culture as ajenjo and also commonly known in English as wormwood, and is considered a more dangerous herb)

growing areas: Native to North America and China

physical description: It is an ornamental plant with lobed leaves, which grow in sets of two on the stem.

traditional uses: Anglo-Saxons considered it a sacred herb, and it is said by historians to have been used by Roman soldiers, who placed sprigs of the plant in their shoes to prevent foot problems during long marches. It is used in modern times as a treatment for dysmenorrhea, colic, diarrhea, constipation, and cramps. It is also considered an anthelmintic (a substance that 'destroys or causes the body to expel intestinal worms) and an emmenagogue. Russians reportedly have used it as an abortifacient and for bladder stones, and there are additional reports that it is useful for depression and neuroses.

availability and dosage: It is available as a dried leaf or root, as well as in a fluid extract and tincture. Herbalists recommend varying dosages, including up to 5 grams in a decoction for menstrual pain. Some experts recommend an infusion of up to 15 grams of the dried plant for such pain.

contraindications: Because it can cause uterine contractions, it should not be used by pregnant women. Breast-feeding women should not use it.

special precautions: Consult your physician before beginning any use of an ethnobotanical substance for medicinal purposes.

Mugwort is believed to cause uterine contractions and may cause contact dermatitis, according to some experts. Avila and Fetrow caution that patients taking anticoagulants or with bleeding problems should not take mugwort. Duke reports that in large doses mugwort can be toxic and that a constituent element, thujone, can cause epileptic seizures. It may also cause dermatitis and allergic reaction in some people.

medical research: None noted.

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