Latin Name: Verbascum thapsus (spp.)
Description: Mullein is a biennial plant that grows up to 7 feet in the second year. In the first year, the plant forms a woolly rosette. If you can find the second year 7 foot plant, the wooly rosettes will be in the same area. The second year stalk is covered with small, yellow flowers. Mullein grows anywhere, and it is a prolific self-sowing plant. Leave the stalks up over the winter; they will be full of insects that attract birds through the winter months.
Parts Used: Flowers, leaves, roots. It is best to harvest the leaves during the first year. In the second year, the plant’s energy moves up the stalk to produce flowers.
Plant Properties: Antispasmodic, expectorant, demulcent, diuretic, sedative, relaxant, vulnerary
Uses: Mullein leaves are used primarily as a remedy for dry, hacking coughs, bronchial congestion, chest colds, asthma, allergies, pneumonia, emphysema, and other ailments of the respiratory system. Mullein has the ability to expel trapped mucus while soothing inflamed soft tissue membranes.
Mullein flowers can also be used for hyperthyroidism, mumps, and chronically swollen lymph glands. The mullein flower infused oil is a favorite remedy for earaches and TMJ pain. The flowers contain pain-killing, antiseptic and infection-fighting properties. The first year leaves infused in oil can be used topically to relieve swollen and painful joints and muscles, including back pain.
Mullein root is valuable as a treatment for urinary incontinence. It strengthens and tones bladder muscles and significantly enhances bladder function. It has soothing diuretic properties, increasing the volume of urination, while decreasing the frequency of urination. Mullein root also has mild astringent properties which reduce inflammation of the bladder. It does not irritate or over stimulate bladder or kidney function. Mullein root can be used as a long term tonic for individuals with urinary incontinence and recurring bladder infections. It is safe to use with children over age four for treatment of bed-wetting. For men, mullein root can be used to reduce prostate swelling and inflammation and can be very useful for the treatment of benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) (enlargement of the prostate gland.) The root decreases dribbling and reduces the sensation of a dull ache in the prostate gland.
Hot Mullein Flower Oil Infusion: Cover wilted mullein flowers with enough olive oil to cover all plant material in a double boiler over a low flame. Heat the mixture slowly for about three hours. Allow to cool and then strain using cheesecloth to remove all plant parts. Pour the strained oil into dark glass bottles and seal tightly. The flower infusion can be used effectively to treat a moderate ear infection. It should NOT be used to treat “swimmer’s ear” or if there is a possibility of eardrum perforation.
Cold Mullein Flower Oil Infusion: A cold mullein oil infusion can be made by covering mullein flowers with olive oil in a glass container with a lid, set the container on a sunny windowsill to steep for 7 to 10 days, strain and store in dark glass bottles. It is best to allow the flowers to wilt for a day after picking before beginning the oil infusion.
Cold Mullein Leaf Oil Infusion: A cold mullein oil infusion can be made by covering dried, crumbled mullein leaves with olive oil in a glass container with olive oil. Make sure the plant material is fully covered. Allow to infuse for 30 days in a warm area. Strain before using. This oil will be very effective on sore muscles.
Tea – For sore throats, coughs, and other upper respiratory issues, place 1-2 teaspoons of dried mullein leaves in a cup, cover with 1 cup of boiled water. Let the mixture steep for 10-15 minutes. Strain before drinking. Drink until symptoms improve.
Poultice – To reduce swelling and relieve pain, a mullein leaf poultice can be applied externally to sprains, bruises, and rheumatic pains. A leaf well soaked in warm water can be applied to swollen glands. A poultice of dried leaves will reduce pain and inflammation in cases of ulcers, hemorrhoids, and diaper rashes.
To make a poultice, mash or grate the fresh herbs. With both dry and fresh herbs, add just enough boiling water to form a paste or pulp. Apply this paste directly to the skin (or folded into a piece of cotton fabric). Cover with a towel. You can keep in the heat by placing a hot-water bottle, or heating pad, over the poultice. But, be careful, this may be a bit sloppy. Leave the poultice on up to an hour. Repeat as necessary.
Smoke – Smoking mullein is used by some for respiratory issues. It can be mildly relaxing and fight against anxiety. Dried mullein can be placed in a pipe or rolled in cigarette paper and smoked to treat congestion in your lungs. This should never be done for a prolonged length of time. If you’re a smoker and having lung congestion then smoking mullein rather than tobacco can be helpful.
Contraindication – Mullein is a gentle herb that is safe for children and the elderly. The only caution about using mullein is that the leaves are quite hairy. So, when making a tea with mullein leaves, the tea should be strained through a coffee filter to avoid ingesting the irritating hairs from the leaves.