Although you may know mugwort as an invasive garden pest, it’s an incredibly versatile ingredient with a long list of uses.

Not only can it be an effective insect repellent, but it’s also used in supplements, skin care products, and seasonings.

This article takes an in-depth look at mugwort, including what it is, how to use it, and how it can affect your health.

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Also known as Artemisia vulgaris, mugwort is a flowering plant native to Asia and Europe. It produces yellow or reddish flowers and dark green leaves with silver fuzz.

Although it’s classified as a weed and typically removed from gardens and lawns, it has a long history as a medicinal herb. For example, it was once believed to protect against evil spirits and even used by Roman soldiers to fight fatigue while marching.

In recent years, it has been used as a spice, insect repellent, and popular ingredient in many skin care products.

It’s also used for moxibustion, a type of heat therapy used in traditional Chinese medicine that involves burning a stick with mugwort leaves near certain areas of the skin.

What’s more, it has been studied for its potential health benefits and antioxidant, antimicrobial, and cancer-fighting properties (1).

summary

Mugwort is a flowering plant with many medicinal properties. It’s added to certain skin care products and used as a spice or insect repellent.

Mugwort has been linked to several possible health benefits.

Could slow cancer cell growth

Several test-tube studies show that mugwort could have powerful cancer-fighting properties.

For example, in one test-tube study, mugwort extract killed and prevented the spread of colon cancer cells (2).

Another test-tube study found that mugwort essential oils induced cell death in leukemia cancer cells (3).

However, one older test-tube study found that extract from the plant not only killed breast cancer cells but also harmed healthy cells (4).

Ultimately, more research is needed to determine how mugwort could affect cancer growth in humans, especially when used as a spice, tea, or supplement.

May improve heart health

Although more studies are needed in humans, some research suggests that mugwort could improve some risk factors for heart disease.

In one animal study, mugwort extract improved cholesterol levels and reduced markers of inflammation in rats on a high fat diet (5).

Similarly, another animal study showed that administering mugwort extract to rats reduced levels of total cholesterol and triglycerides while increasing levels of HDL (good) cholesterol (6).

Moxibustion, a common practice in traditional Chinese medicine that uses mugwort, has also been shown to reduce blood pressure levels (7).

Possesses antimicrobial properties

Some studies have found that mugwort could fight certain types of harmful bacteria and fungi.

For instance, one test-tube study showed that mugwort essential oils were effective against Candida albicans, a type of yeast that can cause fungal infections (8).

Another test-tube study similarly reported that the essential oil blocked the growth of Staphylococcus aureus, a strain of bacteria that can cause infections in humans (9).

What’s more, a test-tube study found that the essential oil was effective against nearly 21% of 616 strains of microbial species (10).

However, additional studies are needed to understand how mugwort may affect these strains of bacteria and fungi in humans.

summary

Mugwort may help slow cancer growth, improve heart health, and block the growth of certain strains of fungi and bacteria. However, more research in humans is needed.

Although mugwort has been associated with several health benefits, there are a few downsides to consider.

First, those who are pregnant should not use mugwort, as it can cause the uterus to contract or initiate menstruation. It should also be avoided by those who are breastfeeding, as there’s little research available on its safety (11).

Additionally, the plant could cause an allergic reaction in some people.

In particular, proceed with caution if you have an allergy to ragweed or other plants in the same family, including chicory, artichokes, thistle, and sunflowers (12, 13).

People with allergies to celery, carrots, and birch may also be more susceptible to an allergic reaction when using mugwort, as it has been linked to a condition called celery-mugwort-birch-spice syndrome (14).

If you experience any adverse effects after consuming or topically applying mugwort, discontinue use immediately and talk with your doctor.

summary

Those who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not use mugwort. It may also cause an allergic reaction in some people.

Mugwort is widely available in various forms and can be purchased from online retailers and natural health stores.

The dried leaves, in particular, are often steeped in hot water to make tea. The leaves are also smoked as an alternative to tobacco.

You can also find it in supplement form, including as a capsule or liquid extract. Although there’s no official recommended dose, most products contain 500–1,000 mg per serving.

Thanks to its unique flavor and aroma, it’s also used as a spice. In fact, it’s often found in Asian recipes and works especially well in meat and fish dishes.

summary

Mugwort can be steeped in hot water to make tea or used as an alternative to tobacco. It’s also available in supplement form and used as a spice in many dishes.

Mugwort is a type of plant — you may recognize it as a weed from your garden — known for its medicinal properties.

Some studies suggest that it could improve heart health, fight cancer cells, and block the growth of harmful microbes, including certain types of yeast and bacteria. However, as most studies have been conducted in test tubes or animals, more research in humans is needed.

It’s incredibly versatile and can be used as a supplement, spice, or herbal tea.