“Mother of herbs”: Mugwort’s phytochemical properties spark renewed scientific interest
28 Apr 2023 --- There have been many arguments for the benefits of mugwort, Artemisia Vulgaris L. (common mugwort) and even Artemisia scoparia (SCOPA), commonly known as virgate wormwood. However, negative connotations and references to allergic reactions persist, despite continued research into the health potential of this herbaceous plant and its extracts.
For centuries, mugwort, the best-known species of this genus, has been used to treat gynecological ailments and gastrointestinal diseases. Researchers have also identified antioxidant, hypolipidemic, hepatoprotective, antispasmolytic, analgesic, estrogenic, cytotoxic, antibacterial, antifungal, hypotensive and broncholytic effects in the species.
Recently, the species went viral on social media in the aftermath of the overturning of Roe V. Wade in the US. At present, A. vulgaris garners interest for its phytochemical and pharmacological properties. In addition, virgate wormwood is also being analyzed for its ability to stave off the effects of obesity and diabetes.
Scientific renewal of interest
Mugwort is a species with great importance in the history of medicine and was called the “mother of herbs” in the Middle Ages.
Currently, A. vulgaris is the subject of numerous phytochemical and pharmacological studies. Phytochemical studies have proved the rich composition of the aerial parts of this plant, which consists of sesquiterpenoid lactones, flavonoids and coumarins and an essential oil made of qualitatively variable components.
Due to the high variability in its chemical composition, this species is also subject to biotechnological research, where attempts are being made to genotypically multiply high-production plants using micropropagation methods.
A major part of this research is conducted by non-European research centers because the species is widely distributed in Europe, Asia, North America and South America – and there is a slightly greater interest in this species outside of Europe.
Homeopathic raw material
The European Pharmacopoeia has listed the species as a potential homeopathic raw material. The species has been used in traditional Chinese, Hindu and European medicine to regulate the functioning of the gastrointestinal system and treat various gynecological diseases.
In 2015, when the Nobel Prize for Medicine was awarded for the discovery of artemisinin – a compound of Artemisia Vulgaris L. – researchers were inspired to study the phytochemical and pharmacological properties of other species of the genus Artemisia.
More recently, the species has been taken under consideration to be active in combating COVID-19.
According to a study published in the Future Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, the plant possesses numerous curative practices and applications in gastrointestinal tracts issues.
The aerial parts of this plant are employed as antiseptic and in hepatitis and are traditionally used as antitumor activity. The plant is used as a palliative agent, combined with acupuncture therapy, while the roots are used as a tonic.
According to the researchers, extract standardization, phytopharmacology of diverse extracts, characterization and isolation of active phytopharmaceuticals are important in the creation of quality herbal medicine. Clarification of the isolated compound’s mechanism of action and clinical trials of the compounds are equally important in this.
A smorgasbord of active compounds
The chief compounds of the plant are camphor, camphene, 8-cineole, camphene, germacrene D, β-caryophyllene, β-thujone, α-thujone, borneol, germacrene D and α-zingiberene.
The aerial parts contain carbohydrates (40%), amino acids, phenolic compounds (9.8%), protein (2.9%), triterpenoids, steroids, glycosides, saponins and roughly 20 flavonoids. Derivatives of kaempferol and quercetin and coumarin compounds, such as esculin, umbelliferone and scopoletin are additional attributes of the plant.
Due to the high intraspecific diversity in the chemical composition of the mugwort species, it is difficult to indicate a clear complete phytochemical profile.
Mugwort occupies an important position in traditional medicine in Europe and Asian countries, mainly China and India.
Ethnomedicinally, it is used in traditional treatments to treat depression, epilepsy, irritability, insomnia and stress. In the Philippines and is used to alleviate hypertension. Additionally, it is used as a culinary herb in Western countries and is often used to flavor rice dishes and tea in Asia.
According to PubMed researchers, attempts are being made to make it more popular as a seasoning agent for, inter alia, mutton, liver, cabbage, spinach, mushroom dishes and soups.
Based on its activity profile, the European database of cosmetic raw materials, CosIng (Cosmetic Ingredients database), recommends using A. vulgaris in eight forms, including skincare agents, humectants, skin protectants and fragrances. Original forms used in cosmetics are filtrates obtained as a result of fermentation by bacteria (Bacillus sp., Lactobacillus sp.) or fungi (Saccharomyces sp.).
A study published in Frontiers in Endocrinology analyzes the properties and benefits of SCOPA, which is also traditionally used in folk medicine for various liver diseases and inflammatory conditions including infections, fever, pain, cancer and diabetes.
Artemisinin, first isolated from Artemisia annua, is the foundation for standard anti-malarial therapies. Modern in vivo and in vitro studies have now investigated its effects on these pathologies and its ability to mitigate hepatotoxicity, oxidative stress, obesity, diabetes and other disease states.
The researchers state that despite the successes of synthetic drug development, there is great value in investigating complex botanical extracts.
By Inga de Jong
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