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What exactly is mugwort? Well, outside of sounding like it should be in the pages of the “Harry Potter” series, it’s a root-based perennial plant that goes by many different names. Most importantly, it’s been shown to help fight serious diseases and maladies, from cancer to joint pain.

You may often hear mugwort referred to by other names, such as felonherb, green ginger or common (wild) wormwood. It is sometimes confused forSt. John’s wort (because of the name) or chrysanthemum weed (because of its appearance). You can find varieties of mugwort growing natively in Asia, Northern Europe and parts of North America — it’s so common that it may even be growing on the outskirts of your yard right now, and you didn’t even know it!

The Origin of Mugwort and Its Uses

The plant’s technical title, Artemisia vulgaris, comes from “Artemis,” the name of a Greek moon goddess and considered to be a patron of women. Meanwhile, “vulgaris” ties back to the first of many of mugwort’s uses that we’ll be talking about: Historically, it was used as a herbal inhibitor for women’s menstrual cycles and helped provide menopause relief.

In some cases, mugwort was successful in a method called moxibustion, which used most notably for reversing the breach position of fetuses before birth and alleviating joint pain. The leaves of one species of the plant,A. douglasiana, has been used as a preventative method before being exposed to poison oak, plus it’s been used as a natural bug repellant

The plant contains high levels of antioxidants, which help to alleviate digestive and intestinal issues like ulcers, vomiting, nausea and constipation. It’s even been known to elicit intense and vivid dreams.  Components of mugwort are also being tested and studied as a possible alternative treatment for some cancers. Let’s dive into more details and history behind all of the benefits of mugwort.

4 Major Benefits of Mugwort

1. Reversing Breech Birth Position

In most cases, when a baby is just a few weeks shy of entering the world, the head of the baby will naturally begin moving toward the birth canal to prepare for delivery. But in approximately 1 out of every 25 full-term births, that does not happen. This is called a breech birth. 

Ancient Chinese medicine starting using a method called moxibustion as a natural solution to this dangerous situation. So what is moxibustion? The leaves of the mugwort plant are formed into a short stick or cone and burned over the points of acupuncture, which inhibits the release of energy and circulates blood by creating a warming effect on the acupuncture site.

When moxibustion is being used to reverse a fetus in breech, the procedure stimulates a specific acupuncture point, BL67, located near the toenail of the fifth toe, creating blood circulation and energy that result in an increase in fetal movements. According to a study by the Journal of the American Medical Association, 75 percent of 130 fetuses reversed positions after the mother was treated with moxibustion. 

2. Soothing and Treating Joint Pain

Mugwort in conjunction with the moxibustion technique not only succeeds with stimulating fetal movement inside the womb — it’s also a successful therapy for certain forms of arthritis.

In one study, the same ancient Chinese technique was blind-tested on participants with osteoarthritis. Out of 110 patients, half were given the real-deal moxibustion treatment, and the other half were given the placebo version three times a week for six weeks. Neither the patients, not the practitioners knew which patient was receiving which treatment.

The results? At the end of the treatment, there was a 53 percent reduction in pain for participants in the moxibustion group and only a 24 percent reduction in pain within the group who received the placebo. Knee function also improved 51 percent in the moxibustion group and only increased 13 percent in the placebo group. The effects of the therapy were not necessarily permanent, but the results are certainly promising.