Verbascum thapsus. Family: Scrophularia

Originating from Europe and Western Asia, Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) has been introduced to America and Australia and has successfully naturalized across the globe. In Australia, this hardy biennial plant thrives in open, drier areas. Mullein exhibits versatility, flourishing in a variety of soil types and presenting as a robust and resilient botanical specimen. During the first year, it forms a basal rosette of large, soft leaves, followed by an upright flowering stem in the subsequent year.

Notably, in medieval Europe, the long stalks of Mullein dipped in suet, were utilized as torches during religious processions. In ancient Rome, Mullein earned the moniker ‘Jupiter’s Staff,’ reflecting its significance in the prevalent religious beliefs of that era.

Qualities: Mullein possesses yin tonic qualities with a subtle sweetness, astringency, blandness, and a cool, moist nature accompanied by a secondary drying effect. Its overall character is restoring, softening, and relaxing, making it particularly beneficial for the lungs, stomach, intestines, and bladder.

Meridians: This botanical marvel influences the lungs, stomach, and bladder, rendering it suitable for individuals of all biotypes and constitutions.

Active Constituents: Mullein harbors a diverse array of active constituents, including mucilage and gum, saponins, volatile oil, glycosides (including aucubin), bitter components, and flavonoids (such as hesperidin and rutin). Additionally, it boasts nutritional constituents like vitamins A, B complex, and D, along with minerals such as iron, magnesium, potassium, and sulfur.

Actions: The myriad actions attributed to Mullein encompass expectorant, diuretic, demulcent, emollient, vulnerary, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antimicrobial properties.

Medicinal Uses: Aqueous extracts of Mullein flowers exhibit activity against the influenza virus. Mullein has a rich history of medicinal usage, with all parts of the plant—leaves, flowers, and roots—being utilized, excluding the toxic seeds. When prepared as tea or poultice, the soft mucilaginous leaves offer soothing relief to the skin and mucosa, though caution is warranted with fresh leaves, which can be irritating to the skin.

Mullein finds application in addressing cranial nerve issues and alleviating pain in the zygomatic arch associated with ear problems. The flowers, containing mucilage, acid saponin, and a small amount of volatile oil, can be transformed into a soothing infused oil, ideal for managing earaches. Moreover, salves or creams derived from Mullein prove effective in treating inflammatory and irritable infectious conditions.

Renowned as an all-purpose lung remedy, Mullein has a longstanding tradition of use for respiratory problems, including lung tuberculosis, acute respiratory diseases, allergies, congestion, mucosal dryness, chronic coughs, asthma, and catarrhal conditions. Additionally, Mullein root has been recognized for its value as a bladder tonifying agent, particularly in the treatment of urinary incontinence. It strengthens and improves the tone of the trigone muscle, a triangular area at the base of the bladder, significantly enhancing bladder function (Reference: “The Energetics of Western Herbs Vol. 1” by Peter Holmes, “Materia Medica of Western Herbs for the Southern Hemisphere” by C. Fisher & G. Painter, and “Medicinal uses of mullein root” by Christa Sinadinos, Clinical Herbalist, Medical Herbalism (2009) Vol. 16, Number 2, p. 1-15). For further insights, it is recommended to refer to the provided link and explore the excerpts by herbalist Matthew Wood. Both herbalists’ perspectives will undoubtedly enrich your relationship with Mullein.

Article from Jim McDonald Herbalist Herbcraft – Mullein

Excerpted from: The Book of Herbal Wisdom, Using Plants as Medicines by Matthew Wood

“Mullein has a strong affinity for the nervous system and neuralgia. It has been used for pain relief since antiquity. Mullein flower oil is an old German folk remedy for earache. It is placed in the ear to soothe earache when there is pain and a sense of obstruction. It soothes the nerves, lubricates the passages, and helps to clean out deposits of material.

“Mullein is particularly well indicated when there are nerve pains in the zygomatic arch related to ear pains and problems. There may also be dryness in the larynx and bronchi. The temporal-mandibular joint is sometimes the focus of difficulty. My belief is that these symptoms occur after cold winds in fall and winter. They may also be related to some trauma to the nervous system. 

“The large, downy leaves of Mullein look somewhat like those of Comfrey and have been used in herbal medicine as an external wound-wort. They have been placed on burns, injuries, and broken bones to promote healing and soothe nerve-pain. I find that it is excellent for stubbed or broken fingers and toes. It is also good for setting the bone and may be used to ease pain after setting a joint.

“The leaves should be used when the condition involves the lungs and kidneys; the flowers are better for the nerves. I like to use the tea made from the leaves, the tincture of the leaves or flowers, and the oil of the flowers.”

Excerpted from: The Earthwise Herbal, A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants by Matthew Wood

“The infusion of Mullein Leaf releases a salty mucilage. Thus, it is used as an emollient to bring water into hardened, closed places. It draws water into dried-out tissues. This activity causes the release of secretions from the tissues, and this brings a favorable conclusion to the disease process. Hence, Mullein is indicated in conditions where the tissues are dry or where water is caught in isolated pockets. It is particularly useful for dry, irritable, tickly coughs – the tickle sensation is usually evidence of inflammation conjoined with water stuck in the mucosa or skin. It is indicated in old coughs where the velvety carpet of the lungs, the hairs, are inflamed or worn down. There may be tightness preventing full inspiration, tightness in the throat or voice box, or tightness in the sinuses. Mullein opens the lungs, reduces coughing and tightness, lubricates the mucosa, relaxes the larynx, opens the sinuses, and causes a more open feeling in the head. The movement of the plant is upward, from the lungs to the head – this is analogous to the way the herb rises sharply upward from the ground.

“Mullein has actions on the veins and lymphatics that pick up water and food. It promotes absorption in cellular dropsy, chronic abscesses, pleuritic effusions, swollen glands, and similar accumulations of fluid.

“Mullein improves the lubrication of the connective tissue in joints, hence improving the health of cartilage. It releases synovial fluid into the bursa and disperses internal fluids into the surrounding tissues, lubricating joints, muscles, bones, and ligaments. It is thus a remedy for complex fractures, where the bone needs to be lubricated to be returned to its place. It is also indicated in spinal dryness, inflexibility, and pain, and nerve pain along pinched or irritated nerve tracts. 

“Mullein also has an influence on the nerves and mind. Louise Tenney writes, ‘Mullein is called a natural wonder herb with narcotic properties, without being habit forming or poisonous. It is a great pain killer and helps induce sleep. It has a calming effect on all inflamed and irritated nerves. This is why it works so well in controlling coughs, cramps, and spasms. It has the ability to loosen mucus and move it out of the body. It is valuable for all lung problems because it nourishes as well as strengthens. The crushed fresh flowers have been used to remove warts. The tea has been used for dropsy, sinusitis, and swollen joints. The hot tea helps when applied to mumps, tumors, sore throat, and tonsillitis.’

“Mullein is for people who think too much and congest the mind. It gives such a person a feeling like the mind is opened up to breezes on a fresh spring day.”

The information provided is for educational purposes and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment. Consult your medical care provider before using herbal medicine, particularly if you have a known medical condition, are on any medication, and if you are pregnant or nursing.