The cultivation of annual mugwort: one of the oldest agricultural practices

The cultivation ofmugwort yearly it is linked to magical and mysterious practices, thanks also to the fact that during the Middle Ages it was considered the most important among herbs.

This plant has also been used to cure dermatitis and the malaria, but not only; among its many medicinal properties there are also antiseptic, febrifugal and digestive properties.

Mugwort is also an excellent gift idea; in fact, giving someone a mugwort plant means showing him gratitude. In short, it is always better to be able to count on the presence of some of these plants in your garden. In this article, we'll tell you how to make them grow best.

Let's go!

Artemisia annua: general characteristics

Belonging to the family of Asteraceae, annual mugwort can reach a height of one and a half meters (although some varieties found in the United States can reach three meters). Originally from China, it has been known since ancient times: its beneficial and curative properties were in fact known even to the ancient Egyptians.

From the Egyptians to today: annual mugwort lasts for millennia

It is a plant that remains basically hairless and latex-free, but that emanates a very strong aromatic smell. Its roots are secondary, while the stem is branchy and erect, tending to a reddish color near the inflorescence.

The leaves are bright green, with the lamina that can be triangular or oval, while the inflorescence is formed by numerous flower heads (that is, many small flowers that seem to form a single flower, generally white or pink). The fruits are equally small, oblong and light brown; inside them, there are the seeds which you can of course use to grow new mugwort plants.

Artemisia annua is the most cultivated and used variety of mugwort. Nevertheless, there are four others quite present here in Italy too:

  • Artemisia vulgaris, known for its digestive properties
  • Artemisia absinthium, from which absinthe is obtained
  • Artemisia lactiflora, the most elegant-looking variety
  • Artemisia glacialis which grows in alpine areas

But let's go back to annual mugwort and find out more about how to grow it.

Artemisia annua: soil and climate

For what concern ground and the climate more favorable to the cultivation of mugwort, you are lucky: this plant does not have complex needs.

If in nature the artemisia has a discontinuous distribution (in Italy you can easily find it in Campania and northern Italy, while in other regions it is considered a rare plant), its cultivation does not require a soil with particular characteristics: its natural habitat foresees uncultivated soils is gravelly, but mugwort can also grow on calcareous, siliceous soils with a neutral and humid pH.

The right soil for its needs: this is the key to growing annual mugwort

In short, what we recommend is to make sure that your garden or vegetable garden has land draining and a good presence of organic substance. Artemisia prefers sun exposure, so be careful when planting it in a well-lit spot.

As for the timing of cultivation, keep in mind that flowering occurs in the late summer period, therefore:

  • if the weather is mild, plants mugwort duringAutumn
  • if the weather is stiff, plant mugwort during spring

Artemisia annua: sowing and repotting

There sowing of mugwort usually occurs within a seedbed, that is the seed nursery that is always good to have in your garden: in your seedbed, in fact, you can develop all the seeds of your plants and, unlike a greenhouse, it is heated directly by sunlight.

As for mugwort, buy seeds in a specialized nursery or use those present in the fruits of an already adult plant and proceed with sowing through burial. As soon as the plant has reached a height of 10cm and has at least three or four leaflets, you can proceed to arrange it in a pot or move it to another part of the ground.

Here's how to sow the annual mugwort

The repotting, of course, it affects the mugwort seedlings that you are already growing in a pot and not on the ground. The roots, forced into a container that is too small, could be affected: take care, during growth, to move the mugwort into an increasingly large pot.

Remember: if by any chance you find yourself growing the variety of artemisia absinthium, that is, the one from which absinthe is obtained, repot the plant only and exclusively when you see the roots emerge from the drainage holes and not before.

Artemisia annua: pruning, multiplication and harvesting

Even these three stages of mugwort cultivation, pruning, multiplication and harvesting, are not complicated to manage.

Let's start with pruning:

  • it must be carried out in the period spring
  • consists in eliminating the weakest twigs damaged by the cold of winter
  • begins to carry out this operation from the moment the mugwort exceeds a height of 15cm
  • once the flowers have faded, remember to remove them

Pruning mugwort: a small gesture to ensure healthy and luxuriant growth

If you want instead multiply your mugwort plants, you can do this in two ways:

  • through theburial of seeds, to be done in spring
  • through semi-woody cuttings, to be planted in the summer: together with the portions of the branch belonging to a young mugwort plant, remember to prepare a soil consisting of 50% sand and the other 50% peat. The soil must remain moist throughout the rooting process

Finally, the collection: we have seen how mugwort has remarkable healing properties, so you must try to collect mugwort at the moment of greatest concentration of the mugwortartemisinin, its most important active ingredient. This moment usually coincides with the early flowering period, when you will have to perform these simple gestures:

  • mow the plant
  • cut the stems reaching the woody part
  • create bunches that you can use as you like

Artemisia annua: diseases and parasites

Artemisia annua also comes to meet you with regard to diseases, parasites and in general anything you need to pay attention to to keep it healthy: it is in fact a very resistant plant, not subject to too many parasitic attacks.

The only situation in which you may find yourself in difficulty is in the event of iodine, also known by the name of bad white: to prevent it, avoid watering the mugwort often (which, moreover, does not require special water treatments) and make sure that the soil is always drained and no stagnation forms.

The cultivation of annual mugwort is therefore a simple and intuitive practice that has been going on for millennia: what are you waiting for to make your contribution to history?

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The cultivation of annual mugwort: one of the oldest agricultural practices - garden

The fact is that 80% of the world population uses folk medicine out of necessity, tradition or poverty.

In Western societies, the percentage of people using alternative medicine and dietary supplements is increasing dramatically. Today there is also a need for a category of substances that cannot be classified either among drugs or among everyday foods: the so-called "nutraceuticals" which are food substances (generally exotic fruit) very rich in vitamins, microelements and antioxidant compounds and, due to their composition, they have a protective and antitoxic activity on the human organism.

It should be noted that alternative medicines - among which it is necessary to distinguish very well - lack or almost no experimental verification carried out with a scientific method, therefore not accepted by official medicine as useless, ineffective or harmful to health.

However, in an increasingly globalized world, alternative medicines, supplements and nutraceuticals are a great deal for many companies but also for large pharmaceutical multinationals.

But not all is good and not all is bad
It would be unfair and economically unacceptable to ban phytotherapeutic preparations or supplements because their composition also includes some synthetic components.
It is important to know exactly the formulation of the product in order to avoid confusion for consumers who very often like to do self-treatment.

The very distinction between food, drug and supplement (subject of debate in the scientific-political world) is subtle and very difficult to establish. See the EU Directive 2002/46 on plant extracts and supplements in general, arguing that the therapeutic effect and toxicity are a function of the dose puts the political world delegated to legislate on the subject in agreement with the scientific world.

The Earth prepares almost everything for the survival and health of the individual, including poisons and antitodes required to maintain the balance of SIX. (individual energy state).

Illness is nothing but a losing battle due to lack of energy resources, therefore the only therapeutic way must necessarily start from the strengthening of the SIX.

The aforementioned considerations should be kept in mind in the phases of study, research and production of phytotherapeutic products, also enhancing the "energy value" of the phytocomplex and not only the allopathic power of the single active ingredient.
Plants could also be seen by the scientific world as trains loaded with vital and restorative energy, therefore used in a "sweet" but profound medicine, capable of healing as it is able to get to the root of diseases (understood as energy imbalances).

It is certainly our right to demand that the substances intended to be absorbed by the cells are not contaminated by pesticides, heavy metals, radioactive elements or are themselves derived from GMOs and that the presence of any synthetic products is clearly declared.

Nature and progress are not in antithesis but can find themselves in synergy to analyze, evaluate and quantify the various phytotherapeutic principles with ever more precise and innovative methods.

It would be desirable that in order to the maintenance of absolute energy values the entire biological cycle of the plant was monitored until it was transformed into a phytotherapeutic product full of curative energy.

We hope that the scientific commitment of avant-garde companies in the study, production and transformation of officinal herbs can help achieve this goal.

like late spring. The site has changed its dress. We hope it will be more comfortable.
Here are studied and described 592 plants used in the practice of phytotherapy or in those therapies in which preparations derived from plants are used, also and above all for preventive purposes, as adjuvants, purifying-draining, resolving and as "sweet medicine" or therapy capable of promoting the normal functions of the body without altering the delicate balance of our health.

Call for a moratorium on Aniba rosaeodora

Carryover paro paro da the aromaconnection this good news concerning two aromatic forest species, Aniba rosaeodora is Bulnesia sarmientoi. The inclusion of the two species in the list of marketable species only if they come from CITES certified plantations is a small step, but I continue to invite everyone to a total moratorium on the use of rosewood derivatives and, while we're at it, sandalwood!

But here is the news from CITES:

L' Environment News Service announces that on March 19, 2010 two South American trees, unsustainably exploited by producers / traders of essential oils for the perfume and cosmetic industry, will be included in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade (Convention in International Trade - CITES), decision taken by CITES in Doha, Qatar. Trade controls (international trade only permitted on the basis of official permits) will be applied within 90 days of Aniba rosaedora (Brazilian rosewood), which was proposed for Appendix II by Brazil, and for Bulnesia sarmientoi (Palo Santo - from which guaiac oil, guaiac acetylated oil and guaile acetate are obtained) from the Gran Chaco region in Central America, proposed by Argentina.

Cropwatch has long pointed out the decline in the ecological status of Rosewood (download the Cropwatch files here), and many users of essential oils have independently and voluntarily decided to stop buying the essential oil. Unfortunately, there is always an unethical element in the market that will continue to use aromatic species in danger of extinction, to the point of doing so even when it is illegal. The status of Palo Santo (Guaiaco wood) in the Gran Chaco National Park, which extends through western Paraguay, northern and eastern Argentina, and southern Bolivia had recently been analyzed by Cropwatch in its Updated List of Threatened Aromatic Plants Used in the Aroma & Cosmetic Industries v1.19 (download the pdf here). Guaiac wood essential oil is actually a brownish paste that melts at 45ºC, and its acetylated derivatives have occupied a very important place in the aromatic perfumery range.

Will the inclusion of the two species in Appendix II make a difference? Certainly the inclusion in CITES Appendix I would have been more effective, especially in the case of Rosewood, whose future is more than other trees in the hands of illegal traders. Aniba rosaeodora essential oil from clandestine distilleries deep in the forest continues to arrive in our markets, although some batches are distinguished by a peculiar chemical composition that prompts us to ask questions about its botanical origin (see the related bibliography here). One wonders if Guaiac oil will continue to be legally available, if only that of Argentine origin will be banned. While this will only be seen in the future, these CITES II listings are certainly a step in the right direction.

A Curry with Andrea Pieroni

Silphion: So, dear Andrea, I would start our remote dialogue / interview with this.

I'd like to start with a comment you made during a discussion. If I'm not mistaken we were talking about the role and status of ethnobotany, and how, in your opinion, nowadays it should be thought of as a discipline that must be accompanied by others to have meaning, not to be reduced to an academic exercise. and sterile: then ethnobotany and health policies, and environmental policies, and conservation and so on.

Andrea Pieroni:
Yes, in my opinion ethnobotany research could (should) have these possible outputs:
1. Agro-bio diversity, typical products, rural development
2. Ecotourism and eco-museums, cultural heritage (tangible and intangible)
3. Phytotherapy, herbal medicine, use and management of TM (traditional medicines)
4. Ethnopharmacology
5. Public health (especially for the ethnobotany of migrants in Western societies, but not only)

S.: This comment made me think of some topics, for example the role in communication between cultures and the experience of Albania and Balkans Peace Park Project ( BPPP). But now I would like to focus on another reflection.
This discussion had in fact interested me as a phytotherapist and therefore a “user” of ethnobotanical and historical data. Generally it had stimulated a reflection on the status of ethnobotanical and historical knowledge, “weak” knowledge for which we speak of beliefs rather than knowledge. In short, the problem of translatability / commensurability, of rationality, or in general the problem of relativism, which has also marked the history of ethnobotany in an important way.

Here is a passage from Alsdair MacIntyre on the philosophies of the past that it seemed to me could extend to "other" cultures: "It is all too easy to close oneself within this dilemma: if one has to read the philosophies of the past in order to make them relevant to our contemporary problems and projects, transmuting them as much as possible into what they would have been if they had been part of the present philosophy, and minimizing or ignoring or even sometimes distorting what resists this transmutation because it is inextricably linked to what in the past is radically different from the present philosophy or with great caution read them in their own terms, carefully preserving their idiosyncratic and specific character, so that they cannot emerge in the present except as a set of museum pieces ”.

AP: In my opinion, the philosophical problem of popular / indigenous knowledge rather than of "other cultures" concerns above all the very close historical relationship of science and medicine with the upper classes.
The knowledge of the lower classes (I like to use this term, precisely in the sense "Demartinian" and of the great school of Italian Marxist Foklorists) have never had dignity, also because this would have undermined many dogmas of science and would have forced it perhaps to become self-critical and plural.
The problem of the translatability of popular knowledge into "high" knowledge / science is all to be done. In my humble opinion, it is crucial in this to find first of all common platforms of exchange, respectful, equal, and intellectually honest.

S.: To give an example, when I talk about the use of the term "hot" or "heat" in cultured Galenic medicine or even in popular traditions, on the one hand I recognize in this term a generalizability: it is common to many traditions all over the world and of all epochs, and conforms in part to modern, biomedical descriptions and also to common intuitions. Hot plants are often plants that actually elicit this sensation, are circulatory stimulants, etc. On the other hand, I am aware of the fact that in the medieval world, heat, as a cosmological principle, does not clearly coincide with the experience of common sense or even with the concepts of contemporary science. The "warming" is a central transformation model in digestion theory, in the transformation from "natural" to "vital" that is central to humoral theory.

AP: I am generally a bit chilly on the concept of "hot / cold", as I consider it (after years of experience and ethnobotanical studies) a very "high" and not very "popular" category, certainly penetrated into knowledge
indigenous / popular species in Europe, the Mediterranean and Asia through those osmosis - which specifically in the medical field, as opposed to many other fields of knowledge - have occurred over the centuries.
But I really think it's very overrated.
The popular knowledge of the Mediterranean has also reasoned on many other tracks, than on "hot / cold".

S.: This is not a purely academic problem. When as a phytotherapist I begin to think about the bases of knowledge and the history of my practice I ask myself the problem of the hierarchy of knowledge, of their status, that is, I ask myself the problem of the meaning of my history and of the non-Western traditions to which in some way I draw. And in doing this I have to understand their modern relevance, juggle the risk of reducing them to pure "museum pieces", interesting as long as you want but excluded from a restrictive definition of science and rationality (and therefore ultimately relevance), and the temptation (common in my opinion in many circles of alternative and complementary medicines) to decontextualize them in order to find in them an "original" (in the case of the past) or "truer" (in the case of non-Western traditions) source of a meaning lost by modernity, to be found, as Galimberti says, "retracing history back to find down there, in tightly closed caskets, of which only some hold the keys, those treasures that illuminate the meaning of our history and our life".

AP: In phytotherapy as in any other medical practice, I think that asking the problem of the cultural / social and therefore historical background is essential, in this avoiding the perception of medicine as a religion, which instead I think I can reasonably say seems to permeate many at the moment
experiences of use and management of CAMs in the western world.
For example, the popular medicines that I have studied have always given me the impression of being much more pragmatic than is often believed.

S.: I take the ball, with regard to "high" medicine vs folk medicine, first of all by asking if you want to talk about these other "tracks" in the Mediterranean.

Certain mechanisms of inclusion / exclusion, to continue the discourse of the lower classes and hegemony, are really transversal. In some ways this is what has happened with the UK phytotherapists professionalization process over the past 15 years. As a category we have gone through a transformation with degree courses, the hypothesis of a state register, and the “normalization” of knowledge.
This transformation, and the transformation of the methods of transmission of traditional knowledge, the transformation of places of practice, etc. has gradually led to a canonization, and crystallization, of the so-called tradition, which, in order to deal with the biomedical field, has chosen what to bring with it and what to leave behind. And coincidentally, what was chosen from the past was precisely the cultured humoral galenic model, or the Chinese and Ayurvedic ones, while what could not easily enter into this "philosophy" was abandoned or recovered in a folk sense. At the time I was reminded of the radical reorganization of Chinese medicine knowledge after World War II, when everything that could not easily be described as rational (demonology, magic, popular empirical practices) was drastically eliminated from the textbooks, which they have often been rewritten to make them more in keeping with a Western model.

I'd also like to take as ideas your work on plants at the border between food and medicine, and that beautiful topic of medicinal plants as a "natural object" / "cultural object", but maybe we'll get there later.

Can you tell me a little about Albania instead? How did your work in the area start? And returning to your initial description of ethnobotanical outputs, what are the ones you imagine for the area?

TOP.: In the Mediterranean, folk medicine has in my opinion also followed sensory perceptions (bitter taste, smells / aromas) and not (only) abstract concepts of hot / cold. The signature theory then cemented these
cognitive musters (that is, perhaps it was not the origin, but it allowed the transmission of ethnobotanical knowledge, as also recently postulated by Brad Bennett) (download from here).

I believe that the Anglo-Saxon system has taken as a model the cultured humoralist Galenic system, or the Chinese and Ayurvedic ones, as in this country there has never been a school (Marxist or not) that has knowingly given dignity to popular knowledge. Folklore in England remained folklore and the peasant world that of the "peasants".

For this reason, even today in England, when it comes to European ethnology or demology, De Martino is studied, Cirese, Lombardi-Satriani (and here ...) ...

Albania was an "obligatory" stop after the study on the Lucanian Arbereshe. But it was also my dream as a child and adolescent, never realized (I don't know why, I guess because of that I don't know what "exotic" that Albania has always created in the Western European imagination ...).

But it was above all the bet to see if ethnobotany beyond the registration data of endangered knowledge, could possibly have something to say - concretely, strictly - for the eco-development of a region and its people. .
At the moment I do not see a point of arrival, but certainly the fascinating journey of a social and human process that has begun, but certainly not governable by "foreigners" (in this my approach is much less euro-centric and "missionary" than Antonia, which in fact is English).
Mountain Albanians will have to build their future in their mountains (or even deny it), and they are certainly masters of their history, but I would like to be there in this process.
Specifically, ethnobotanical knowledge could be re-evaluated there in the form of small transformations (dry plants) to be sold to tourists and small-scale in Shkodra, and certainly to reinvigorate a local use in medicine that has never stopped (and indeed - now that health care in the mountains no longer exists - has grown up ...)

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