“An Article on Artemisia” was written by our very own Mary Ann Petersen, Eugene native and Licensed Acupuncturist at Absolute Wellness Center. It was originally published in 2016 by the Willamette Valley’s Take Root Magazine.
What can you eat, burn, and soak toward good health?
Artemisia has been popular for centuries across many continents. Its common name is mugwort and is used within Chinese herbal formulas. It can take many different forms depending on what it is used for. It can be leafy or a cotton-like mossy matter or a thick, compressed, charcoal-like stick.
A valuable herb with a range of health benefits, Artemisia’s name stems from Artemis, a Greek goddess. She protected and helped pregnant women, particularly around childbirth. Artemis is an appropriate namesake, as the herb is still largely known as a women’s health herb.
To break it down, mugwort has three methods of delivery: internally, within an herbal formula; externally, as a wash; and externally, when it is burned in a use called moxibustion or moxa for short. If compressed into a charcoal-like stick, it is called a moxa pole. Once on fire, a moxa pole becomes a very hot glowing ember.
In addition to aiding women’s health, mugwort can also address common pain syndromes. This plant is used to treat everything from arthritic joints and carpal tunnel syndrome to pain in the abdomen and lower back.
The moxa pole is used for all of these. It should be moved constantly around and near the painful areas. It is a soothing treatment, relaxing and comforting to the patient. The moxa needs to be close enough to gently but thoroughly warm the painful joints. Obviously, care and attention go into this application to protect from accidental burns.
Mugwort is also used externally for itchy, irritated skin. WebMD lists it as a treatment for itching due to scars and severe burns.
It can also be found in spas for preventative and supportive skin treatment. A pillow-sized net of mugwort floats in the cold rinse tub at the Beaverton Jade sauna, a traditional Korean women’s bathhouse located slightly west of Portland. It’s also found nesting in the dry sauna and steaming in the wet sauna. In fact, the whole place smells great, if you like herbal smells. The owners of the bathhouse say they include it because it is good for cleansing and detoxing the body and protecting the skin.
Specifically for women’s health, mugwort is used to reduce menses and painful menses, increase fertility, support recovery from childbirth and reverse breech positioning. A study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that 73 percent of 130 fetuses reversed their position after the mother was treated with moxa.
Moxa is also burned stationary over acupuncture points with a protective material for skin to avoid burning.
“When a patient comes in for fertility support, one of my diagnostics is to touch the woman’s abdomen,” says Portland acupuncturist Danielle Melanson. “If the belly-button area is cold to the touch with the back of my hand, this indicates a cold uterus. I will burn moxa direct on CV4 (lower abdomen).”
“It is usually described by the patient as an even warmth, a comforting feeling,” she adds. “The point of all this is to warm the uterus, known in traditional Chinese medicine as the ‘child’s palace.’ In this medicine, women are not thought of as being infertile, but rather the palace is not ready for the prince or princess to make their home there. The environment needs to be made ready for the baby.”
From a Chinese element perspective, mugwort is pure yang. It is aromatic and drying. It is the uplifting, yang and action part of life. Yin is the strength and reserves behind the yang. You could say you are strengthening the yang and nourishing the yin.
Western mugwort, Artemisia Ludoviciana, is native to Oregon. Native Americans used it as a vermifuge. A vermifuge is the term for something that kills parasites. It is also referred to as an anthelmintic, another unusual word. It is defined as an “agent destructive to parasitic worms.” The skill of this agent is keen; it expels internal parasites from the intestinal tract by either stunning or killing them, while not damaging the host.
Pagan’s liked mugwort’s festive side and used it to celebrate the summer solstice.
At one point in the history of beer, before hops became popular, it was used as flavoring.
Plants like Artemisia are living history lessons with centuries of stories packed into each one. They are relevant today, linking current time with ancient time.
Mary Ann Petersen, LAc practices at Absolute Wellness Center in Eugene, OR as part of a multi-disciplinary practice offering sports medicine, chiropractic medicine, naturopathic medicine, physical rehabilitation, acupuncture, and massage. To learn more, give us a call at 541-484-5777.