Scientific Name(s): Artemisia argyi Levl. et Vant.
Common Name(s): Chinese mugwort
The genus Artemisia contains approximately 500 species. A. argyi is an herbaceous perennial plant that typically grows 30 to 50 cm in height and has a main or single taproot system. Chinese mugwort is grayish in color with ovate leaves 5 to 7 cm long and 3 to 5 cm wide. The flowers are pale yellow, and the whole plant is strongly aromatic. The plant is native to China and Japan, prefers dry soil, and has a growth cycle from March to October.1, 2, 3
Since ancient times, Chinese mugwort has been used in several applications. The plant is edible and can be used to make pastries, breads, dumplings, and cakes, and can be mixed with rice or processed into tea or wine. It has also been used as an air purifier and a mosquito repellent.4
In traditional Chinese medicine, the leaf has been used to treat asthma, malaria, hepatitis, and inflammation, as well as fungal, bacterial, and viral infections.5 The leaves have been used to treat tuberculosis, menstrual symptoms, and eczema, and are chewed to relieve cough.6, 7 Chinese mugwort is used in the traditional Chinese medicine therapy moxibustion to help heat the area being treated in acupuncture.4, 8
Eupatilin is a pharmacologically active flavone from Chinese mugwort.9 A synthetic analog of eupatilin is being evaluated in various phase 1 and 2 trials for treating dry eye and gastritis.
Extensive chemical studies of Artemisia species, including Chinese mugwort, document many compounds, including monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, triterpenes, and flavones.10, 11, 12, 13, 14 Phytochemical databases of Chinese herbal constituents document approximately 106 bioactive compounds in Chinese mugwort.11 The lactone artemisolide, isolated from the aerial parts of the plant, exhibits antitumor activity.10 Artemisolides B, C, and D have been isolated and also exhibit similar antitumor activity.12
Chemical analysis of the plant's flowers revealed 53 volatile constituents, as well as 36 essential oil components in the leaves.5, 13, 14 Four of the essential oil compounds have antiasthmatic activity in rats. Analysis of chemical seasonality showed October as the best time to collect Chinese mugwort leaves.
Uses and Pharmacology
Anticancer activity of flavones isolated from Chinese mugwort has been found against several cancer cell lines in numerous in vitro and animal studies.
A swimming test in mice administered essential oil for 30 days resulted in reduced lactic acid in the blood and increased elimination of lactic acid. Decreased consumption of glycogen and increased levels of urea nitrogen in serum were also found.27
The essential oil extracted from Chinese mugwort exhibited antifungal activity against 2 common storage pathogens of fruits and vegetables, Botrytis cinerea and Alternaria alternata.28
In vitro and animal studies
Growth inhibitory activity is documented for leaf aqueous extracts against a variety of human cancer cell lines, including those in breast, lung, pancreas, and prostate tissues.15 Apoptotic death of mouse thymocytes was suppressed by a polysaccharide leaf extract that may modulate gene expression.16 A leaf extract exhibited some inhibitory activity against a neuroblastoma cell line.17
Arteminolides, isolated from the aerial parts of Chinese mugwort, inhibited tumor cell growth in a dose-dependent manner on human colon adenocarcinoma cells and human lung cells, with no loss in body weight in mice.18 An ethyl acetate leaf extract containing the coumarin flavones scopoletin and isoscopoletin inhibited leukemia cell growth in a cell proliferation assay.19, 20 Additionally, the 2 substances also inhibited growth of a multidrug resistant leukemia cell subline.19
Jaceosidin, a flavone in several Artemisia species, induced apoptosis in a human ovary adenocarcinoma cell line by activating the mitochondrial pathway.21 Apoptosis was also induced in human breast epithelial cells by generating free radicals or reactive oxygen species.22 Jaceosidin inhibited cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) and matrix metalloproteinases in cultured human mammary epithelial cells; elevated levels of COX-2 and matrix metalloproteinases are found in numerous cancerous and transformed cells.23 Interactions between E6 and E7 oncoproteins of the human papillomavirus and tumor suppressors (p53 and pRb), as well as growth of human papillomavirus-harboring cervical cancer cells, were also inhibited by jaceosidin.16, 24 This inhibitory activity may be associated with the recovery of p53 and pRb tumor suppressors. Additional studies document similar anticancer activity of other isolated flavones. Some of the inhibition of the flavones is associated with farnesyl protein transferase interference. Oncogenic activity is abolished if farnesyl protein transferase activity is blocked.25, 26
Although study details are limited, 2 chemical constituents of Chinese mugwort inhibited platelet aggregation.31 A systematic review and meta-analysis of 4 trials (N=250) found a statistically significant improvement in systolic blood pressure (WMD, −4.91; P=0.0003) when A. vulgaris moxibustion was used in combination with antihypertensive medications compared to drug therapy alone. No adverse events were observed.37
Jaceosidin inhibited T-cell–mediated contact dermatitis in mice by blocking activation of T lymphocytes leading to reduced swelling and inflammation.32
Version of fetal breech position
A randomized parallel trial (n=200) found no benefit in using A. vulgaris for moxibustion (heat generated by a burning stick containing the mugwort) to treat fetal breech position. After an average of 16 days, conversion to the cephalic position was found to be highly dependent on parity and independent of moxibustion.36
Chinese mugwort is available commercially in the United States and Europe, but dosing information is limited. Most products are available in powder and oil doseforms and are used for promoting cardiovascular health as well as for treating asthma or cough. Other products contain herbal mixtures that include Chinese mugwort.
Pregnancy / Lactation
Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.
The flavones eupatilin and jaceosidin may potently inhibit drugs metabolized by CYP1A2 (eg, several antidepressants and antipsychotics, some antibiotic medications) and CYP2C9 (numerous analgesic, antipyretic, anti-inflammatory, antiepileptic, statin, antidiabetic, anticoagulant, anticancer, antifungal, and antibacterial medications).33
Limited information is available in the medical literature. One study suggests that the proteins in Chinese mugwort may cause severe allergies in hypersensitive individuals.34
Information is limited. No toxicity was documented on development of forelimb buds and skeletal structure of embryonic mice administered the volatile oil from Chinese mugwort in utero.35
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