Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) is an herbaceous plant that produces large, woolly, grayish-green leaves and bright yellow flowers in summer, followed by egg-shaped, pale brown fruits in fall. Although mullein is native to Asia and Europe, the plant has naturalized across the United States since it was introduced in the 1700s. The plant has been utilized throughout history for its herbal properties. The common name, mullein, comes from the German language. This means King’s candle because of its scepter-like, candle-straight growth. It is also known as cowboy toilet paper, big taper, velvet dock, flannel-leaf, lungwort or velvet plant.

Mullein is a soft (almost velvet-like) biennial that can grow very tall. This dicotyledonous plant produces a rosette of leaves in its first year of growth. The second-year plant normally produces a single unbranched stem. The tall pole-like stem ends at a dense spike of yellow flowers. It is a common wild edible plant that spreads by prolifically producing seeds but rarely becomes aggressively invasive since its seed requires an open ground to germinate.

In history, the herb is known for its medical purposes however, there are other species in Verbascum genus used for medical purposes. These species are showy mullein (Verbascum speciosum), dark mullein (Verbascum nigrum) and orange mullein (Verbascum phlomoides). These herbs are sometimes cultivated in gardens as ornamental plants.

The dark mullein is a biennial growing to a height of 1.2 meters. The plant has dark red stem branched at the top. Its blossoms are arranged in dense spikes. Corolla is yellow with red-brown patches on the bottom of it. Filaments are covered with violet hairs. The herb blooms starting from June till September. The plant can be found in brushwood, ditch slope, roadside, and fallow land.

Mullein Leaves, Blossoms & Roots to Make Tea

Mullein tea

You can collect the leaves and tops of the herb at the beginning of its fluorescence, and use them similarly to the blossoms. Infuse 4-8 grams of the herbs with a glass of boiling water. Let the infusion brew for sometimes and decant it. Mix the infusion at 10 percent concentration with honey and use the remedy as a sedative before going to bed. It is due to its ability to reduce irritation and brain activity. Blossoms are included in compound teas with diuretic and laxative properties.

Alternative medicine uses the root of the herb, as well. Infuse a tablespoon of the herbs with a glass of boiling water. Drink 125-225 milliliters of the decoction once a day to treat inflammation of upper airways, hoarseness, tracheitis, bronchitis, whooping cough, cold viruses, and grippe. Remedies made of the blossoms and leaves are intended for external use, as well.

Depending on the summer weather conditions, this wild edible may not produce a lot of flowers. All parts of this plant are covered with star-shaped trichomes. This covering is particularly thick on the leaves, giving them a silvery appearance. As its other name implies, mullein leaves were once used as toilet paper. Mullein in its second year is a tall, erect stem that can grow very high. It has soft leaves and yellow flowers at the top of the plant giving this wild edible a very unique appearance. Mullein herb plants, which can reach heights of 6 feet (2 m.) are considered noxious weeds by some people, while others consider them to be valuable herbs.

Leaves

First-year mullein leaves form a basal rosette, with large, velvety-like, long-oval, gray-green, leaves that can grow up to 50 cm long. The second year, the basal leaves precede a stout, erect flower stalk.

Height

Mullein can reach heights of just over 2 meters.

Habitat

Mullein can be found growing in open fields, waste places, disturbed areas, railway embankments, and similar dry sunny localities.

Edible parts

Leaves and flowers. Although the leaves and flowers are edible, enjoying a cup of tea made from these parts is generally preferable. Leaves and flowers can be used in a salad.

Flowers

The central stem of the mullein plant terminates in a dense spike of pale yellow flowers that generally measure anywhere from 5 to 60 cm (2″ to 2′) long. Each flower is about 2 cm (24″) across and consists of five pale petals, five hairy green sepals, five stamens, and a pistil.

The three upper stamens are covered with white or yellow hairs, while the two lower stamens are hairless. The blooming period usually occurs during the summer and lasts about six weeks. Only a few flowers are in bloom at any one given time. Each flower is replaced by a seed capsule with 2 cells, each cell containing numerous tiny seeds.

Mullein puts on a spectacular floral display, about chest height (girly chest) with downy large leaves with spikes of beautiful yellow flowers from about late June. It contains volatile oils (antibacterial), saponins and rutin. Laboratory tests have shown that it is anti-inflammatory, with antibiotic activity, and that it inhibits the tuberculosis bacillus. The American Indians smoked dried mullein and coltsfoot cigarettes for asthma and bronchitis.

Medicinal Benefits

mullein tea

These include earaches, middle ear infections coughs, bronchitis, asthma and other respiratory problems sore throat, sinus infection migraine, menstrual cramps, Arthritis, and rheumatism, urinary tract infection, urinary incontinence, bedwetting skin diseases, bruises, frostbite, toothache, ear infections (otitis media), wounds, hemorrhoids, colds, flu, diarrhea, migraines, gout, tuberculosis, pneumonia, croup, cough, inflammation of the airways (bronchitis), and other conditions.

You can add them to bath water to treat skin inflammation, rachitis and scrofula or use these remedies as compress to deal with boil, sore and purulent wound.

In order to treat eczema, burn, hemorrhoids and boil, you should boil the leaves in milk. Cracked skin might be treated by strewing the powder made of the blossoms on it.

Dark mullein is used in folk medicine, as well. Infuse 2 teaspoons of the blossoms and leaves of the herb with a glass of boiling water. Leave the infusion to brew for some time and use the infusion to treat diarrhea and epilepsy. In addition, it is a great remedy to prevent nervous system disorders and edema. You should drink half a glass of the infusion made of dark mullein root 3 times a day in case of gout.

Mullein tea

Ingredients

  • 1-2 tsps. of dried mullein leaves and/or flowers
  • 1 cup boiling water

Steps

  • Pour a cup of boiling water over a small number of dried mullein flowers or leaves.
  • Allow the tea to steep for five to 10 minutes.
  • Sweeten the tea with honey if you don’t like the bitter flavor.
  • Make a poultice by grinding dried flowers and/or leaves to a fine powder.
  • Mix the powder with water to make a thick paste. Spread the poultice evenly on the affected area, then cover it with gauze or muslin.
  • To avoid making a mess, cover the poultice with plastic wrap (Native Americans simply heated mullein leaves and applied them directly to the skin.)
  • Create a simple infusion by filling a glass jar with dried mullein leaves.
  • Cover the leaves with oil (such as olive or sunflower oil) and place the jar in a cool place
  • for three to six weeks.
  • Strain the oil through a cloth-lined strainer and store it at room temperature.

Pour 1 cup of boiling water over the dried mullein flowers and leaves. Steep for 10 – 15 minutes. Pour the liquid through a cheesecloth or a coffee filter to strain out the plant’s tiny hairs as they may irritate the throat.

Note:

There are several effective ways to make an herbal infusion. Before using or ingesting any herb or plant for medicinal purposes or otherwise, please consult a physician or a medical herbalist for advice. Mullein leaf tea has a soothing effect on the urinary tract and facilitates urination. It also eases a nervous, irritable bladder and incontinence. Prepare mullein tea as directed above (minus the mullein flowers) and drink 3 – 4 cups daily. (Be sure to ask your health practitioner first if this is suitable for your condition.)

Some people take mullein by mouth for breathing conditions such as cough or asthma, pneumonia, colds, and sore throat. But there is limited scientific research to support these and other uses. In manufacturing, mullein is used as a flavoring ingredient in alcoholic beverages. More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of mullein for these uses.

Mullein is great for making Cough Syrup, particularly for dry coughs. It possesses a soothing demulcent for the respiratory system. ‘Demulcent’ means a herb rich in mucilage that is soothing and in this case is also delicious. When you feel the leaves of Mullein they feel wonderfully soft and silky which is a sure sign that the leaves contain mucilage. Mucilage, although it sounds disgusting, is great stuff as it coats and protects mucous membranes lining the gut and respiratory system.

How to Make Mullein Cough Medicine

Mullein tea
  • Wash, dry and sterilize a jam jar. The best way to do this is to put the clean jam jar into a cold oven and turn the oven on to 200°C and leave it in there for about 15 minutes until the oven is hot. Turn the oven off and leave the jar in there until it is cold. (Don’t try and take it out and burn your fingers and don’t pour cold liquid in there otherwise it will crack).
  • Pick as many mullein flowers as you can. Sprinkle onto a tray and leave for a few hours to allow any insects to leave. They seem to sense what is happening and will fly away leaving the clean flowers behind. Layer these in the by now, COLD jam jar with granulated sugar, about 3 cms at a time. Store it with the lid on, on a sunny window ledge.
  • As this compresses down over the next few days you can keep topping up the jar, but pick fresh flowers every time.
  • When the jar is full just leave it in sunlight for at least three weeks. At the end of this time, you will have some very sorry looking flowers but a beautiful deep yellow/brown syrup. Strain the syrup through a piece of clean cloth into another clean jam jar and keep it somewhere dark (cupboard) and cool until you need it in the winter for a cough.

One teaspoon three or four times a day will soothe the cough.

Don’t forget if the cough is persistent, to go and see your doctor. If you are on any other medications or suffer from allergies please do not self-medicate, but go and see a qualified herbal practitioner or your doctor.

Side effects and safety

Children

Mullein is possibly safe when applied directly to the ear, short-term. A specific product that contains mullein, garlic, calendula, and St. John’s wort has been used in the ear for up to 3 days.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding

There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking mullein if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Other Benefits of Mullein Tea

Mullein tea is also an astringent and demulcent. It’s good for diarrhea, and it’s been used in compresses for hemorrhoids since it was recommended by Dioscorides centuries ago. It is also supposed to help other herbs get absorbed through the skin. Pliny the Elder of ancient Rome, Gerard in sixteenth-century England and country folk around the world, have used the heated leaves in poultices for arthritis.