Posted: May 20th, 2011


Mullein is a biennial originally from Europe but naturalized in the United States. The first year it grows a fairly large rosette consisting of large, light green, soft, flannel-like leaves. The second year it grows a long straight stalk that is usually four to six feet tall with small yellow flowers towards its top.

Mullein can be grown from its tiny ripe seeds. Sew it in the fall. It likes dry, rocky waste soil and is drought tolerant. It is considered an invasive weed in some areas, so be cautious where you plant it. Mullein leaves are best harvested in the summer of the second year as the plant is growing its stalk. Bundle and hang the leaves upside down to dry. Harvest the buds and flowers when in bloom (Usually between July and September) and use them fresh or dried. Roots can be gathered before the stalk grows, sliced and dried.

Mullein is basically free of toxicity (as long as it is gathered from a clean location) and can be used in large doses. To make a tea, use one ounce of the herb per pint of water. Be sure to strain the tea well as the hairs can be irritating. Drink up to three cups per day. As a tincture, take 20-60 drops up to three times a day.

Mullein root is a diuretic and urinary tract astringent. It is useful for bed-wetting and incontinence–drink 1/2 teaspoon in 1/4-cup water before bed. The flowers are anti-spasmodic and pain reducing. Externally, they are used for frostbite, bruises, and eczema. The flowers are specific for the ears and can be used with Garlic and Calendula for earaches, infections or ear mites to reduce pain, inflammation and ear discharge. Use equal parts Mullein flowers and olive oil to make Mullein flower oil. Use five to ten drops of Mullein flower oil in the ear every hour until the pain is gone. If pain persists, see your health care provider.

Mullein is best known as a respiratory tonic. The leaves and flowers activate lymph circulation in the neck and chest and can be useful for mumps, glandular swellings and earaches. Mullein tones and soothes the mucous membranes, reduces inflammation and encourages healthy fluid production in the lungs. By encouraging mucus production, Mullein protects the membranes from absorbing allergens and encourages expectoration. It is anti-spasmodic and antibiotic. Use it for hay fever, emphysema, colds, flu, hoarseness, bronchitis, whooping cough and asthma. Mullein leaves can be used with Uva Ursi and a little Licorice as a smoking mixture to relax spasmodic coughing during chest infections and asthma. I prefer to use smoking mixtures only for smokers.

Mullein has vulnerary, emollient and demulcent properties making it good for the skin. Apply Mullein locally to hemorrhoids, toothache, bruises, wounds and inflammations. Mullein’s astringent properties make it good for diarrhea and hemorrhoids and irritated lungs. The leaves have been used as wild toilet paper and for wicks in lamps. I know of no contraindications for using this helpful and plentiful herb.

© 2013 Elaine Sheff, Clinical Herbalist
Green Path Herb School


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