Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Soft and Fuzzy Mullein

I love Mullein, partly because it is so easy to distinguish and partly because it is so soft to touch!  I was driving by an area near my house that had been cleared for office buildings that never occurred due to the sinking economy when out of the corner of my eye I saw a beautiful Mullein rosette growing.  This plant prefers to grow in disturbed, dry and sunny grounds.

It is not native to the United States.  Early European settlers brought the plant to the new world and introduced it to the native population which quickly took advantage of the many benefits.

Mullein is not used for food but is an important herb for medicine.  If you are interested in herbal remedies, this is a plant you should have in your garden.  It is primarily used for respiratory ailments.  It has been used as an effective treatment for asthma, whooping cough, bronchitis, hoarseness, pneumonia, earaches, colds, chills, flu, allergies, tonsillitis, and sore throat.  The herb produces an expectorant action which is attributed to the triterpenoid saponins present. Additionally, it contains tannins which help shrink inflamed and swollen respiratory passages, thus allowing for easier breathing.  Mullein also is rich in mucilaginous substances, called polysaccharides, which protect mucous membranes, preventing the membranes from absorbing toxins.  This produces a soothing and cooling effect to the lungs and throat.  It also has an antispasmodic effect, relaxing muscles and relieving chronic coughing.  It has even been an effective treatment for tuberculosis since it inhibits mycobacterium, the bacteria which causes the illness.  Indians smoked the dried leaves as a remedy for lung ailments.

Other uses for this plant include as a remedy for complications to Lyme disease, urinary incontinence, recurring bladder infections, interstitial cystitis and to treat spinal and muscle injuries. It also has a mild narcotic effect on some people and has been used as a sleep aid and to relieve abdominal cramping.

Stranger uses include as "wild" toilet paper or the placement or it inside of shoes to provide some comfort and warmth. However, small hairs can get stuck in your skin which is very uncomfortable. Native American tribes used it to make dyes and torches. It is highly flammable.

Mullein packs a powerhouse of vitamins and minerals. It is high in iron and is a good source of Vitamins A, B-complex, C, and D, as well as calcium, potassium, magnesium, silicon, manganese, and sulphur.

Mullein blooms from June to September.  It is a biennial plant meaning it takes at least two years before it flowers.  The first year it produces its rosette.  The rosette must be large enough to flower which is usually the following year but may rarely take up to four years.  It produces a prodigious amount of seeds (100,000 to 180,000).  The seeds generally fall near the parent plant as it has no dispersal system so you can find future plants near an old plant.  The skeletal remnants of an old plant are easy to distinguish.  Mullein seeds can last decades and still germinate.  Do not eat the seeds as they are considered toxic.  Native Americans would throw ground seeds in still water to paralyze the fish.  Really.  The seeds contain rotenone (not very toxic to humans) which is a fish poison that cause paralysis in fish and the fish will float to the surface of the water.  The blooms of the flowers do not occur all at once.  If you desire to pick the blooms for a recipe, you will have to make repeated trips to the plant to acquire enough blooms or find a very large patch of plants.

Here are some medicinal recipes:

Basic Mullein Tea


1 - 2 teaspoons dried mullein flowers and leaves
1 cup boiling water
honey to taste


Pour water over dried mullein flowers and leaves. Cover and steep for 10 - 15 minutes. Pour the liquid through a fine cloth or a coffee filter to strain out the plant's tiny hairs, which can irritate the throat. An alternative method is to place herbs in the center of a coffee filter and tie with plastic twist tie and then steep.  You can drink up to 3 cups of mullein tea daily. Sweeten the tea with honey, if desired.

Note:  You can use the basic tea without the honey as a steam to be breathed to improve lung function or in a nebulizer.

Cough Soothing Tea


2 teaspoons dried mullein leaves
1 teaspoon dried Calendula flowers
3/4 teaspoon dried marsh-mallow (the plant)
1/2 teaspoon dried licorice root
1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon honey


Cover herbs with one cup of boiling water and steep for 15 minutes. Strain tea with a fine cloth or a coffee filter, then add the juice of 1/2 lemon and 1 tablespoon honey. Drink two to three cups daily for cough relief.

Ear Ache Drops


1/4 cup mullein fresh flower
3 garlic cloves
olive oil
small jar with lid


Chop the garlic into small pieces. Place fresh dry flowers in a blender or crush in a mortar and pestle. Place the garlic and mullein flowers in a small glass jar with a lid. Cover the mullein flowers with olive oil and allow to set in the sun for two weeks shaking daily, or heat over very low heat for 4 hours.

Strain the oil through cheesecloth and store your oil in a small dropper bottle in the refrigerator.

To use, warm the oil to body temperature and drop 2-3 drops in affected ear.  If a perforated eardrum is suspected (oozing from the ear), do not use and seek medical attention.  Can be used two or three times per day.

Note: Dried flowers can be used as well.

Asthma Blend Tea


2 teaspoons dried mullein leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried sage leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried plantain leaves
1 cup boiling water


Pour water over herbs. Cover and steep for 15 minutes. Pour the liquid through a fine cloth or a coffee filter to strain. You can drink up to 3 cups daily. Sweeten the tea with honey, if desired.

Mullein Cough Drops


½ cup mullein leaves, packed
1 cup boiling water
1 1/3 cup brown sugar 


Cover leaves with boiling water and steep for one hour. Strain through a fine cloth or a coffee filter. Add brown sugar. Boil mixture until it reaches the soft candy stage and then pour onto a greased cookie sheet. With a knife, score out squares while the mixture is still soft. Cool completely and break into individual squares. Wrap each drop in waxed paper.

Notes: While the content of this blog has been tried/tested and the research diligently presented, I am not responsible for your use of it. Always try a little of the food first to test for allergies. Please do your own research. Discuss with your doctor before you use any herbal medications.