Mugwort: A Medicinal Herb With A Beer History

Mugwort is native to Europe and Asia and used as both a medicine and a culinary herb on both continents. This herb is especially common throughout the United Kingdom.

Mugwort was known in Ancient Rome and Roman soldiers are said to have put it in their sandals to give stamina to their feet. The herb was mentioned in Chinese songs and poems in 3 BCE. Dioscorides praised mugwort; in his time, the herb was used as a repellent for moths. Other names for mugwort include wild wormwood and St John’s Plant. It was given the name St John’s Plant in the Middle Ages because legend has it that John the Baptist wore a girdle made of mugwort while living in the wilderness. During this period, a large number of benefits were attributed to the plant as it was believed to provide protection from fatigue as well as from wild beasts.

Mugwort was a predecessor to hops as a beer additive. Hops would not be widely used in beer until the end of the 15th century; before that mugwort was used. One of the legends surrounding mugwort stated that the herb’s name comes from the drinking vessel in which beer was consumed.


California mugwort has a history of use by several Native American tribes as a ceremonial herb that provides medicinal benefits. Its use in this respect may result from the fact that it is said to induce vivid dreams.

Because of shortages during World War II, mugwort was used as a substitute for tea in parts of England.

Mugwort flavor profile

Mugwort’s flavor is primarily savory and herbaceous in a way that can be likened to celery. In the background, there is a resinous pungency similar to what you might get from eucalyptus along with mild astringency. Chrysanthemum leaves are said to have a similar flavor profile.

Health benefits of mugwort

Mugwort’s long-standing reputation as a medicine stems from the fact that it contains a variety of nutrients like:

  • Vitamins: Mugwort is a good source of vitamins A, E, and K along with several B vitamins.
  • Minerals: Mugwort is loaded with various minerals. Calcium and iron are two of the more notable ones.
  • Cineole: Cineole is a terpene found in mugwort that has numerous medicinal benefits.

You can use mugwort as a supplement to treat or prevent the following health issues:

  • Mood problems: The treatment of anxiety and depression is one of the oldest uses of mugwort.
  • Poor digestion: You can use mugwort to treat flatulence and improve bile production in order to aid digestion.
  • Menstrual problems: Pain from menstrual cramps and irregular periods are two of the problems that mugwort is reputed to solve. The benefits for treating menstrual problems may result from cineole and other anti-inflammatory compounds.
  • Rheumatism: The down from mugwort leaves is used in a traditional Japanese cure for rheumatism called moxas.

Common Uses

When it is used medicinally, mugwort is usually made into a tea. As a culinary herb, it is often dried and used as a seasoning for meats — especially, fatty meats. The raw leaves can be used in salads or cooked. In Japanese cooking, mugwort is ground into a powder and used in the dough for noodles and dumplings. Korean cooks use it in various pancakes as well as in soups.