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Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris L.)

Synonyms

pharmaceuticalHerba Artemisiae
AlbanianPelin i zi, Pelini i rëndomtë
Arabicحبق الراعي
حَبَق الْرَّاعِي
Habaq ar-Rahi, Habaq al-Rahi
Aramaicܒܪܢܓܣܦ, ܦܠܢܓܣܦ
Barangasp, Palangasp
BelarusianПалын, Быліца, Чарнобыль
Palyn, Bylica, Čarnobyĺ
BretonHuelenn-wenn, Huelenn-c’hwerv (Artemisia absinthium)
CatalanArtemisa vulgar
Chinese
(Cantonese)
艾草 [ngaai chóu], 蒿屬 [hōu sohk], 野艾 [yéh ngaai]
Ngaai chou, Hou sohk, Yeh ngaai
Chinese
(Mandarin)
艾草 [ài cǎo], 蒿屬 [hāo shǔ], 野艾 [yě ài]
Ai cao, Hao shu, Ye ai
Copticⲡⲣⲓⲙⲙⲉⲙⲟⲩ, ϣⲏⲛⲙ̅ⲡ̅ⲣ̅ⲏ̅
Primmemou, Shenempre
CroatianCrni pelin, Obični pelin
CzechČernobýl, Pelyněk černobýl
DanishBynke, Gråbynke
Dhivehiފޮނިމާ
Fonimaa
DutchBijvoet
EsperantoArtemizio
EstonianHarilik puju
Farsiبرنجاسف
Berendjasef
FinnishPujo
FrenchArmoise, Ceinture de Saint-Jean
GaelicGròban, Liath lus
Georgianმამულა
Mamula
GermanBeifuß
GreekΑρτεμισία
Artemisia
Greek (Old)Ἀρτεμισία
Artemisia
Hebrewארטימיסיה
Artimisia
HungarianFekete üröm, Anyafű, Mátrafű, Taplóüröm
ItalianAmarella, Assenzio selvatico
Japanese, おうしゅう蓬, 餅草
よもぎ, おうしゅうよもぎ, もちぐさ
ヨモギ, オウシュウヨモギ, マグワート, モチグサ
Yomogi, Ōshū-yomogi, Oshu-yomogi, Maguwato; Mochigusa (Artemisia princeps)
KazakhЕрмен жусан
Ermen Jwsan
Korean머그워트, 머그위트,
Meoguweotu, Moguwotu, Meoguwitu, Suk, Ssuk
LaoNat
LatvianVībotne
MongolianШарилж
Sharilzh
Oriyaଦୟଣା
Dayana
PolishBylica pospolita
PortugueseArtemísia
RomanianPelinarițăPelinariţă, Pelin negru
RussianЧернобыльник, Полынь обыкновенная
Chernobylnik, Polyn obyknovennaya
SanskritNagadamani
SerbianЦрни пелен, Дивљи пелен, Врста дивљег пелина, Трломет
Crni pelen, Divlji pelen, Vrsta divljeg pelina, Trlomet
SlovakPalina obyčajná
SlovenianNavadni pelin
SpanishArtemisa
SwedishGråbo
Teluguమాచిపత్రి
Machipatri
Thaiโกฏจุฬาลำพา, โกฐจุฬาลัมพา
Kot chulaalampha
TurkishMisk otu, Çil baş, Adi pelin, Ayvadana, Sıtma otu, Yavşan otu
UkrainianЧорнобиль, Полин звичайний
Chornobyl, Polyn zvychajnyj
VietnameseNgải cứu, Thuốc cứu
Ngai cuu, Thuoc cuu
WelshBeidiog Lwyd
Yiddishגעװײנטלעך ביטערגראָז, פּאָלין, פּיאָלע
Geveynlikh bitergroz, Polin, Piole
Synonyms for Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium)

pharmaceuticalHerba Absinthii
AlbanianPelin
Arabicشيح
شِيح
Shih
Aramaicܐܦܣܝܢܬܝܢܘܢ, ܠܥܢܗ
Apsintinon, Lana
ArmenianԱփսինդ
Apsind
AzeriYovşan
Јовшан
BasqueAsentsio, Axinse, Xixari belarr
BelarusianПалын горкі
Palyn horki
BulgarianПелин
Pelin
CatalanDonzell
Chinese
(Cantonese)
洋艾 [yèuhng ngaai], 苦艾 [fú ngaai]
Yeuhng ngaai, Fu ngaai
Chinese
(Mandarin)
洋艾 [yáng ài], 苦艾 [kǔ ài]
Yang ai, Ku ai
Copticϩⲣⲓⲙ
Hrim
CroatianBijeli pelin, Gorski pelin
CzechPelyňek, Pelyňek pravý
DanishMalurt
DutchAbsintalsem
EnglishOld Woman
EsperantoAbsinto
EstonianKoirohi
Farsiافسنطین
Efsentin
FinnishKoiruoho
FrenchArmoise amère, Genépi, Aluine
GaelicBuramaide
GalicianAxenxo
Georgianაბზინდა
Abzinda
GermanWermut, Wurmkraut
GreekΑψέντι, Αψιθιά
Apsenti, Apsithia
Greek (Old)Ἄψινθος, Ἀψίνθιον
Apsinthos, Apsinthion
Hebrewהאבסינט, לענה
לַעֲנָה
Absint, La-ana, La'ana, Lana
HungarianÜröm, Fehér üröm
ItalianAssenzio (vero)
Japanese苦蓬, 苦艾
にがよもぎ
ニガヨモギ, ワームウッド
Niga-yomogi, Wamūddo, Wamuddo
LatvianVērmeles
LithuanianKartusis kietis, Pelynas
Korean웜우드
Weomudu, Womudu
Nepaliदमुरा
Damura
NorwegianEkte malurt
PolishBylica piołun
PortugueseAbsinto, Losna
RomanianPelin (alb)
RussianПолынь горькая
Polyn gorkaya
SerbianОсјенач, Пелен, Пелин
Osjenač, Pelen, Pelin
SlovakPalina pravá
SlovenianPravi pelin
SwedishMalört
SpanishAjenjo
TurkishAcı pelin, Pelinotu
UkrainianПолин гіркий
Polyn hirkyj
Urduافسنتین, دونا, ناگ دون
Afsentin, Duna, Nag dun
VietnameseNgải áp xanh
Ngai ap xanh
WelshWermod Lwyd
Jiddischביטערגראָז, ביטערער פּאָלין, װערעמקרױט
Bitergroz, Biterer polyn, Weremkroyt
Artemisia vulgaris: Mugwort leaves and flowers
Mugwort: Leaves front and back side, flowers
Used plant part

Leaves, best cut immediately before flowering.

Plant family

Asteraceae (sunflower family, also known as aster family), subfamily Asteroidae.

Sensory quality

Aromatic and bitter. See also zedoary on the topic of bitter spices.

Main constituents

The essential oil (0.03 to 0.3%) contains a wealth of different terpenes and terpene derivatives, e. g., 1,8 cineol, camphor, linalool, thujone, 4-terpineole, borneol, α-cardinol and further mono- and sesqui­terpenes. Quantitative and qualitative composition varies strongly with soil, climate, fertilizing, and harvest time.

Artemisia pontica: Pontic wormwood, the absinthe plant
Roman wormwood, Artemisia pontica

www.rz.uni-karlsruhe.de

Thujone, one of the oil’s main con­stituents, is a mono­terpenoid ketone also ap­pearing in sage, thuja and, ac­cording to some sources, in a close rela­tive of mug­wort, southern­wood. It is com­mon­ly hold re­spon­sible for the toxi­city of worm­wood-flavoured alco­holics, parti­cularly absinthe, the drug of the age in France a hundred years ago (Fin de siècle). Absinthe was a potent liqueur flavoured with anise, fennel, plenty of worm­wood and other plants; it was drunk together with water and sugar. The high alcohol content (often ex­ceeding 60%) and the thujone (typically, 50–100 ppm) both contributed to its psycho-active properties. Since chronic consume resulted in severe nerve damage, absinthe was banned in nearly all European countries, with the exception of Portugal and Spain. Liqueurs based solely on anise (Pernod, Pastis) could establish them­selves as alter­natives for absinthe.

Within the European Union, the ban was revoked in 1998, and absinthe has become legal again, although the thujone content is now restricted to max. 35 ppm. It is an open question whether the liquor will regain its former popularity.

As wormwood taste intensively bitter, it is almost impossible to incorporate quantities sufficient for thujone poisoning by accident. Even if the thujone is separated from the bitter absinthin by distillation, the resulting product is still too bitter to drink without sugar. Wormwood-flavoured wine (vermouth) contains only traces of thujone.

Origin

Temperate Europe and Asia.

Etymology

English mugwort contains an element mu- meaning fly, bug; cf. Greek myia [μυία], Russian mukha [муха] and German Mücke mosquito. The Proto-Indo–European stem, MU-, is obviously onomatopoetic in origin. Folk-etymologically, the first element in mugwort is often assumed to refer to the herb’s use in beer-brewing (mug of beer; see also gale for notes on brewing).

Artemisia vulgaris: Mugwort plants
Mugwort plant
Artemisia vulgaris: Mugwort
Mugwort (flower cluster)

The second ele­ment in mugwort is an old term for plant (Old English wyrt plant, root) found in many other Germanic languages: German Wurzel root (Old High German wurz also had the broader meaning plant), Swedish ört, and Gothic waúrts. Less closely related are Greek rhadamnos [ῥάδαμνος] branch, Latin radix root and Old Irish fren root, which all derive from a Proto-Indo–European root WRED. For further etymological connections, see horseradish.

Swedish malört moth plant for the closely related wormwood is a similar formation; allegedly, mugwort’s or wormwood’s smell drives away moths from clothes.

The Modern German name, Beifuß, goes back to Middle High German bībōʒ and Old High German pīpōʒ; it is usually derived from an Old High German verb bōʒen beat, but the connection is unclear; according to one theory some kind of squeezing the leaves for food preparation is indicated, according to another, the name refers to some apotropaeic quality of the plant (it beats or drives away evil powers).

Already in Middle High German, the plant name bībōʒ got modified towards Fuß foot by folk etymology, as can be inferred from the parallel form bīvuoʒ. This probably relates to an ancient belief, reported by Plinius, that mugwort leaves applied to the feet can make people run longer and faster.

The various Germanic names of the related plant wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) are not well understood. English wormwood appears to allude to the vermifuge properties of that plant, but this is just folk-etymology: The name can be traced back via Old English vermod to a Common Germanic root wermodaz, which also lies behind German Wermut (Old High German wermuota). Cf. also the name of a wormwood-flavoured wine, vermouth. French armoise amère bitter mugwort refers to the increased bitterness of wormwood compared to mugwort.

The botanic species name of wormwood, absinthium, is indeed the classical Latin name for that plant and derives from Greek apsinthion [ἀψίνθιον] (in the New Testament apsinthos [ἄψινθος]); the word still lives in some Romance tongues: Italian assenzio, Spanish ajenjo, Galician axenxo and Portuguese absinto. It has also spread to some unrelated languages, like Basque axinse and Hebrew absint [האבסינט].

Artemisia absinthium: Absinth inflorescence
Wormwood flowers
Artemisia absinthium: Sterile wormwood shoot
Sterile wormwood shoot

The etymology of Greek apsin­thion is not clearly ex­plained; a theory derives it from a- (nega­tion) + psinthos [ψίνθος], an obscure ad­jective meaning enjoy­able cf. also Sanskrit ashiva [अशिव] unpleasant, pernicious. The meaning of the com­pound, un­pleasant, would seem fit for a bitter herb, but may well be the product of folk etymology. A better guess is that the name actually stems from some Middle Eastern language: In Middle Persian, the name aspand is recorded for a bitter plant (perhaps Syrian rue, Peganum harmala); modern Farsi has afsentin [افسنطین] wormwood and espand [اسپند] Syrian rue. This plant is not related to the herb commonly called rue.

Most Slavonic tongues have similar names for mugwort and its relatives: Polish piołun, Belarusian palyn [палын], Slovak palina, Czech pelyňek, Slovenian and Croatian pelin and also Bulgarian pelin [пелин] (see below for Russian and Ukrainian cognates). Related names are also found in other geographically close languages, e. g., Albanian, Romanian and Turkish pelin, and Lithuanian pelynas. These names are derived from a Common Slavonic root PAL burn, bright, clear, which itself derives from Proto-Indo–European PEL gray; cf. English pale (of Romance origin) and the native Germanic fallow, and examples from classical languages Latin pallidus and Sanskrit pandu [पांडु] pale. The semantic connection is not clear: It has been suggested to relate the name either to the light gray foliage of wormwood or to its burning bitter taste. See below for another possible explanation of these names.

Explanation of the pelin-type names if further complicated by the fact that, although phonetically very similar, these names have in part deviating denotation: Some of them refer primarily to wormwood (or the related Pontic or Roman wormwood, Artemisia pontica) and others to mugwort; yet most have a broader meaning extending to several members of the genus Artemisia. Even within a language, usage may differ regionally depending on what species is most abundant locally. To denote a single species unambiguously, qualifying adjectives are commonly used, e. g., in Russian: Mugwort polyn obyknovennaya [полынь обыкновенная] common polyn, tarragon polyn estragonnaya [полынь эстрагонная] tarragon-polyn, southernwood polyn lechebnaya [полынь лечебная] healing polyn and wormwood polyn gorkaya [полынь горькая] bitter polyn.

Artemisia vulgaris: Mugwort plant
Mugwort with flowers. Note the black stalks.

In some Sla­vonic lan­guages (of the West­ern and Eastern branches), mugwort has another, unrelated name which is said to mean black stalk or dark grass, e. g., Czech černobýl, Ukrainian chornobyl [чорно­биль], and Russian chernobyl [черно­быль]; the latter, however, is less commonly used than polyn discussed above. See nigella for an explanation of the black part. In both Russian and in Ukrainian, the same names apply to a city in Northern Ukraine which became famous due to a disastrous accident in a nuclear power plant in 1986. This has often been linked to a verse of the biblical Revelation about the Third Trumpet, when the angel cast a star into the waters, making them bitter and deadly: kai to onoma tou asteros legetai ho Apsinthos [καὶ τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ ἀστέρος λέγεται ὁ Ἄψινθος] and the name of the star is called wormwood. Taking the bitter waters as a metaphor for radioactive pollution, and identifying wormwood with mugwort, one might then interpret the reactor accident as predicted by the Bible.

Actually, wormwood and mugwort, though closely related, are not identical. Rather correctly, Russian and Ukrainian Bible translations render the Greek plant name apsinthos not as chernobyl or chornobyl, but as polyn (Russian imya sej zvezde polyn [имя сей звезде полынь], Ukrainian a jmennya sori tij polyn [а ймення зорі тій полин]). Confused by the inherent ambiguity of that word, some Western journalist have tried to make a case that the herb mentioned in the Bible is indeed the same that is called chernobyl, which actually may be true (for a Russian or Ukrainian Bible translation), because polyn and chernobyl have indeed overlapping denotation. This is, however, a good example of a question that cannot reasonably be answered using a translated text; fortunately, the Greek original uses an unambiguous term apsinthos that applies only to wormwood (and maybe other pale-leaved, highly bitter relatives like Pontic wormwood), but never to mugwort. Yet chernobyl means mugwort, nothing else.

Yet there is another connection between mugwort and burning which might account for the Slavonic names derived from the root PAL: The Shamanistic moxa practice (also spelt moksha), which originated in Central Asia, but is today also part of East Asian medicine. In that ritual, a Shaman combusts dried herbs for healing purposes. In Chinese medicine, the method is often employed as following: A thin slice of ginger is placed on a suitable acupuncture point, a small portion of the dried herb is layered on top and slowly combusted. Both the heat and the constituents of the herb are supposed to contribute to the healing power. The Japanese term yomogi [, よもぎ] represents mugwort and related Artemisia species; it can also be written , but the latter kanji more often means the moxa method proper (Japanese mogusa [, もぐさ]). Specific names for particular artemisias are usually formed with the former kanji logograph, e. g., niga-yomogi [苦蓬, にがよもぎ] bitter yomogi (wormwood) or oo-yomogi [大蓬, おおよもぎ] large yomogi (A. montana). Mugwort also has the more specific name ōshū-yomogi [おうしゅうよもぎ] European yomogi.

For the derivation of the botanical genus name Artemisia, see southernwood.

Selected Links

Alles over Bijvoet (natuurlijkerwijs.com) About the city Chernobyl (en.wikipedia.org) Poisonous Plants of North Carolina: Wormwood Recipe: Japanese Rice Cake (yomogi mochi [蓬餅, よもぎもち]) (the.honoluluadvertiser.com) More mochi (rice cake) recipes (geocities.com) Recipe and cultural notes: Bratgans, Weihnachtsgans (German stuffed christmas goose) (ottawa.diplo.de) Rezept: Gefüllte Weihnachtsgans (helmut.friedrichs-essen.de)


Artemisia vulgaris: Mugwort branch
Sterile mugwort plant
Like the closely related southern­wood, mugwort is only oc­casio­nally used as a spice. In Central Euro­pean cuisines, its slight­ly bit­ter taste is con­sidered use­ful for fat fish or meat (it is some­times sug­gested for goose or mutton); very oc­casio­nally, young mugwort leaves are eaten raw as a salad.

The most im­por­tant ap­pli­ca­tion for mug­wort, how­ever, seems to be roast goose, which is a tradi­tional Christmas food in Germany (Weih­nachts­gans). In the simplest case, a few sprigs of mug­wort are placed in the bird’s cavity before baking; if the goose is to be stuffed, the stuf­fing is often fla­voured with mug­wort. The most popular stuf­fings for this festive dish are such based on apples and chest­nuts, which go well with Medi­terra­nean spices (thyme, rosemary, bay leaf).

Outside of Europe, mugwort is not much used as a spice; however, there is a Japanese sweet recipe that makes use of mugwort (or a closely related herb, Artemisia princeps): Mochi [, もち] are steamed cakes prepared from a dough of glutinous rice flour, sugar and flavouring, which can also be stuffed (e. g., with sweet bean paste). The variant called kusa mochi [草餅, くさもち] (herbal mochi) or yomogi mochi [蓬餅, よもぎもち] (mugwort-mochi) is flavoured with ground dried mugwort leaves, which contribute a characteristic flavour and also a pale green colour (see also annatto). Due to the popularity of that sweetmeat, mugwort is also called mochi-gusa [餅草, もちぐさ] herb for mochi.

Similar rice cakes also exist in China, where they are known as nian gao [粘糕 or 年糕]; they are often equipped with sweet or savoury stuffings. The main difference is that precooked glutinous rice is used instead of rice flour. In Korea, rice cakes are called chapssalttŏk [찹쌀떡] or simply ttŏk []. In both countries, the rice cakes are a traditional New Year’s food. Yet, I dow not know of any recipes from these countries using mugwort.



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