One afternoon last year, my mom developed a serious skin allergy while gardening in the backyard. To this day, we haven’t determined whether it was poison ivy or something else, but it lasted several days – with no relief from select ointments. She went to see a doctor who prescribed her with some anti-allergic drugs, to be taken regularly, in 24-hour intervals. The doctor said it looked like poison ivy and would last as long as six to eight weeks.
The first time my mom took the prescribed medication, the itchiness abated for 20 hours; the second time she took it, the pill lasted for 12 hours. After that, my mom – who prefers a natural fix over a pill any day – recalled the healing properties of a certain Artemisia vulgaris, or Mugwort.
Years ago, an older family friend had bouts of bad allergic skin reactions – with a wide stretch of rash in the same place from his waist to his thigh – whenever he came upon obscure grasses and plant growth in his yard. My parents brought him some mugwort, which, soon after, relieved him of all symptoms. He further strengthened his immune system with mugwort so that he was and is no longer super-allergic to various plant growth.
So my mom decided to try a mugwort bath that evening. By this time, she had had rashes over her back for several days, and it was exacerbated by her inability to sleep peacefully. Boiling a big pot of mugwort, she added this to a small bathing tub of water and soaked in the tub for less than half an hour, then dried off and went to bed. By morning, the itchiness and redness was gone, although remnants of the rashes were still visible upon her skin. As mentioned before, my mom is big believer of teas – so she decided to make mugwort tea the next evening, after doing some research on the side effects from intake. Boiling a pot of fresh mugwort, she poured out a cup to drink and used the rest to mix into her bath water. After just two to three days of drinking the tea and bathing in mugwort-steeped water, her allergic symptoms were all gone, and her skin was on its way to healing. Thanks to the mugwort, my mom didn’t have to try her patience and pop pills for five to six more weeks.
To make Mugwort tea and bath (in that order, please!): Bring a pot of water with five tiny sprigs of mugworts to boil. Let it boil for 15 more minutes, with the lid on or off. Turn off heat and keep lid on for another 15 minutes. Pour the liquid into a cup and drink. Use remaining liquid to make bath: Using a strainer, pour remaining tea or liquid into a bath tub – the smaller, the better – and add lukewarm-to-hot water. Scalding water usually exacerbates rashes and itches, no matter how good it feels at the time! Soak in tub for as long as you can stand it – at least 15 to 20 minutes.
Where to find it: In the United States, mugwort grows as a weed almost everywhere, among waste and alongside roadways. It is probably due to the fact that the plant is commonly found along roadways that the mugwort was/is believed throughout history to protect the traveler from evil spirits and/or hungry animals in the wild. Chances are, you can encounter mugwort in your yard or while driving more easily than you can find it in a grocery store – so that’s my suggestion. Consult photos here and here before you make any herbal expeditions and come back with more skin rashes than remedy.
What else: The mugwort is also used as a digestive bitter and for treatment of liver disorders. Unlike chrysanthemum and perilla tea, mugwort should not be taken internally for extended periods of time due to its high thujone (a toxin) levels. Though thujone reportedly stimulates the immune system, too much of it can interfere with the brain and nervous system functions. In addition, pregnant women should avoid taking too much mugwort due to its affect on menstruation maintenance and other reproductive system functions.
Who’s done the research:
- In traditional medicine, Artemisia vulgaris (mugwort) is widely used for the treatment of diabetes, and extracts of the whole plant are used for epilepsy and in combination for psychoneurosis, depression, irritability, insomnia, anxiety, and stress. – Walter HL, et al. Medical Botany, 2nd ed., p.345. John Wiley and Sons, New Jersey (2003)
- Infusion of mugwort leaves is given as a vermifuge, and it is also commonly used in traditional European medicine as a choleretic and for amenorrhea and dysmenorrhea. – Teixeira da Silva, J.A., et al. Mining the essential oils of the Anthemideae. Afr. J. Biotechnol. 3:706-720, 2004
- In herbal medicine, aerial parts of the mugwort are being used as an anthelminthic, an antiseptic, an antispasmodic, and a tonic for vital organs and for various disorders including hepatosis. – Duke, J.A., et al. Handbook of medicinal herbs, 2nd ed. CRC Press, Washington, D.C. (2002)
- In various studies, the mugwort showed antibacterial activity. – Cardini, F. and Weixin, H. Moxibustion for correction of breech presentation: a randomized controlled trial. J. Am. Med. Assoc. 280:1580-84, 1998
- The mugwort’s crude extract has been used as an antimalarial agent for thousands of years, and it was found that artemisinin extracted from the plant had antitumor activity. – Sun, W.C., et al. Antitumor activites of 4 derivatives of artemisic acid and artemisinin B in vitro. Acta. Pharmacol. Sin. 13: 541-43, 1992
- A paste or powder of the leaves is applied over skin diseases. – Teixeira da Silva JA. Mining the essential oils of the Anthemideae. Afr. J. Biotechnol. 3:706-720, 2004