Other names: Aarons Rod, Great Mullein.
Habitat: Europe, including Britain, from Norway south and east to Spain, temperate Asia to China. Sunny positions in uncultivated fields and waste ground, especially on dry soils.
The leaves contain rotenone and coumarin, though the quantities are not given. Rotenone is used as an insecticide and coumarin can prevent the blood from clotting. Hairs on the leaves can act as an irritant.
Mullein is a commonly used medicinal herb, valued for its efficacy in the treatment of pectoral complaints. It acts by reducing the formation of mucus and stimulating the coughing up of phlegm, and is a specific treatment for tracheitis and bronchitis. The leaves and the flowers are anodyne, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, demulcent, diuretic, emollient, expectorant and vulnerary. An infusion is taken internally in the treatment of a wide range of chest complaints and also to treat diarrhoea. The plant combines well with other expectorants such as coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) and thyme (Thymus vulgaris). Externally, a poultice of the leaves is a good healer of wounds and is also applied to ulcers, tumours and piles. Any preparation made from the leaves needs to be carefully strained in order to remove the small hairs which can be an irritant. An infusion of the flowers in olive oil is used as earache drops, or as a local application in the treatment of piles and other mucous membrane inflammations. This infusion is also strongly bactericidal. A decoction of the roots is said to alleviate toothache and also relieve cramps and convulsions. The juice of the plant and powder made from the dried roots is said to quickly remove rough warts when rubbed on them. It is not thought to be so useful for smooth warts. The seeds are slightly narcotic and also contain saponins. A poultice made from the seeds and leaves is used to draw out splinters. A decoction of the seeds is used to soothe chilblains and chapped skin. A homeopathic remedy is made from the fresh leaves. It is used in the treatment of long-standing headaches accompanied with oppression of the ear.
Description of Mullein:
Verbascum thapsus, Mullein, is a BIENNIAL growing to 1.8 m (6ft).
It is hardy to zone 3 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from Jun to August, and the seeds ripen from Aug to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Flies, lepidoptera, self.The plant is self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils.
Needs full sun. It prefers dry or moist soil. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.
Cultivation of Mullein:
An easily grown plant, it succeeds in most well-drained soils, including dry ones, and prefers a sunny position. Dislikes shade and wet soils. Thrives on chalk. Prefers a light soil. Hybridizes with other members of this genus, though the progeny are usually sterile. A very ornamental plant, it often self-sows, especially on dry calcareous soils.
Propagation of Mullein:
Seed – sow late spring to early summer in a cold frame and only just cover the seed. Germination usually takes place within 2 – 3 weeks. When they are large enough to handle, prick out the seedlings into individual pots and plant them out in late summer. The seed has a long viability.
Collection: The leaves are collected in mid-summer before they turn brown, dry in the shade. The flowers are gathered between July & September during dry weather, & dried in shade or with heat no higher than 40 deg.C. The flowers turn brown with moisture & become in effective.
Culinary uses of Mullein:
Edible Uses: Tea.
An aromatic, slightly bitter tea can be made by infusing the dried leaves in boiling water for 5 – 10 minutes. A sweeter tea can be made by infusing the fresh or dried flowers.
Actions: Expectorant, demulcent, diuretic, anti-inflammatory, nervine, anti-spasmodic, vulnerary, alterative, astringent.
Part Used: Dried leaves and flowers.
Indications: Mullein is a very beneficial respiratory remedy useful in most conditions that affect this vital system. It is an ideal remedy for toning the mucous membranes of the respiratory system, reducing inflammation whilst stimulating fluid production and thus facilitating expectoration. It is considered a specific in bronchitis where there is a hard cough with soreness. Its anti-inflammatory and demulcent properties indicate its use in inflammation of the trachea and associated conditions. Externally an extract made in olive oil is excellent in soothing and healing any inflamed surface or easing ear problems.
Priest & Priest tell us that it is a “demulcent & alterative, soothing, relaxing and stimulating in pulmonary conditions. Influences mucous, serous and glandular structures.” They give the following specific indications: paroxysmal laryngeal cough, irritable chronic bronchitis, pleurisy with exudation, hay fever, asthma
Ellingwood recommends it for: earache, catarrhal deafness, ulcerations and otherdiseases of the ear, bronchitis, asthma, urinary inflammation, orchitis, balanitis.
To quote King’s at length: “Mullein is demulcent, diuretic, anodyne, and antispasmodic. It is likewise said to posses marked antiperiodic virtues. Besides, it is mildly nervine, controlling irritation, and favoring sleep. Upon the upper portion of the respiratory tract its influence is pronounced particularly where the larynx and trachea are involved. The infusion is useful in coughs, protracted colds, catarrh,hemoptysis, diarrhoea, dysentery, and piles. It is applicable to dry, hoarse coughs, which occur chiefly at night, as well as to cough associated with an abundant catarrhal discharge. Its diuretic properties are rather weak, yet it is very useful in allaying the acridity of urine, which is present in many diseases. A fomentation of the leaves also forms an excellent local application for inflamed piles, ulcers, andtumors. The leaves and pith of the stalk form a valuable cataplasm in white swellings, and when infused in hot vinegar or water it makes an excellent poultice to be applied to the throat in tonsilitis, malignant sore throat, & mumps. The seeds, it is said, will rapidly pass through the intestines, and have been successfully used in intestinal obstructions. They are narcotic, and have been used in asthma, infantile convulsions, and to poison fish. The infusion may be drank freely. The flowers, placed in a well-corked bottle, and exposed to the action of the sun, are said to yield an excellent relaxing oil. This oil is also valuable in some cases of deafness, used locally for its effect upon the membrana tympani, and upon the secretion of cerumen. The oil, in doses of 1 to 10 drops, is said to give excellent results in nocturnal enuresis and in vesical irritation, caused by alkaline urine; it is also reputed a good agent to control painful micturation, in lithaemia, chronic cystitis, and urinary calculus. The leaves, dried and smoked like tobacco, are often useful in asthma and laryngeal affections.
Preparations & Dosage:
Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1-2 teaspoonfuls of the dried leaves or flowers and let infuse for 10-15 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day.
Tincture: take 1-4ml of the tincture three times a day.
Combinations: In bronchitis it combines well with White Horehound, Coltsfoot and Lobelia. In painful coughing, Priest & Priest recommend combining with Elder and Red Clover, and for asthma with Gumweed.
Other uses of Mullein:
Dye, Insecticide, Insulation, Lighting, Tinder, Wick.
A yellow dye is obtained from the flowers by boiling them in water. When used with dilute sulphuric acid they produce a rather permanent green dye, this becomes brown with the addition of alkalis. An infusion of the flowers is sometimes used to dye the hair a golden colour. The flowering stems can be dipped in wax and used as torches. The down on the leaves and stems makes an excellent tinder when quite dry. It is also used as an insulation in shoes to keep the feet warm and to make wicks for candle. One report says that the leaves contain rotenone, though it does not say in what quantity. Rotenone is used as an insecticide.
Esoteric uses of Mullein:
Protection from nightmares & sorcery, courage, cursing, and invoking spirits. Place beneath pillow or use in dream pillow to guard against nightmares. Carry to instill courage and help attract love from the opposite sex. Use in place of graveyard dust in spells. Wear to keep wild animals at bay in unfamiliar areas. Burn to banish bad influences and bring an immediate halt to bad habits.
- flavonoids such as verbascoside and herperidin
- volatile oil