Artemisia Vulgaris

I recently underwent a few sessions of acupuncture, for the first time, for a sprained finger. In a nutshell, it worked like magic and was more painful and nerve wracking than I thought it would be. It was four sessions over 10 days, one component of which was the application of moxibustion, a lit herb cigar circled over the needles applied to my afflicted finger to further heat and heighten their effect.

This was one of the more pleasant aspects of the process beginning when the acupuncturist's assistant lit the moxa and its soothing aroma filled my cubicle. Although a little anxious during the first treatment when I had no real idea of how close that lit end was supposed to be to my skin, I soon learned to trust the assistant's judgement and enjoy it's marker as the midpoint in the treatment process. Suitably heated, I would then be left to allow the needles to do their work, the light switched off, the curtain to my cubicle drawn.

The Moxa I discovered is dried Artemisia Vulgaris, a common weed in the New York area, described here in nycgarden's excellent local weed atlas. Not only common but also pervasive, I regularly used to pull tons of Mugwort out of the beds in Mamaroneck every year. It's also one of the 12 weeds selected by ethnobotanist Ina Vanderbroek for the Quadra Medicinale installation imagining and demonstrating the possibilites of urban foraged medicine. NYC herbalist Karen Vaughan has more ideas on how to use this weed/herb including dream pillows and mochi. Ethnobotanist Nat Bletter shows how to collect and identify it here.

Herbarium image from Arizona State University, Woodblock image from a medieval herbal.

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