Great Lakes Permaculture

Is mullein, a roadside weed or a medical marvel?

The common mullein or Verbascum thapsus L. found in the United States is a biennial (thriving for two years) plant. The herb is woolly in appearance and belongs to the Scrophulariaceae family of plants. During the first year of its existence, the large and hairy leaves of the common mullein form a rosette or a rose-shaped decoration just above the ground. In the spring of the second year, the plant gives rise to a tall stem from the leaves and it grows to a height of approximately four feet, but can grow as high as seven feet.

The first year plant is not very noticeable along the roadside, the second year the plant leaps toward the sun with a yellow flower spike at the top of a single stem. Incidentally the flower stem could be straight indicating sufficient soil nutrition, while a curved flower stem would indicate a soil deficient in one or several nutrients. Many feel the common mullein is not an attractive plant to have in your home garden, there are several variants which would enhance any garden with their colorful flowers of yellow, red, purple, and salmon, sometimes on the same plant such as the Verbascum ‘Caribbean Crush’.

Depending on the area of the country that you reside in, mullein may have many names such as adam’s flannel, beggar’s blanket, bullock’s lungwort, bonhomme, jupiter’s staff, molene, pano, sigirkuyrugu, velvet dock and velvet plant. The leaves and stem makes excellent tinder when quite dry, readily igniting on the slightest spark, and was, before the introduction of cotton, used for lamp wicks, hence it is also known as the Candlewick Plant.

The German Commission E which is the German equivalent of our Food and Drug Administration, has approved mullein flower as an expectorant and pain reliever. It combines well with other expectorants such as coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) and Thyme (Thymus vulgaris). The dried leaves are sometimes smoked in an ordinary tobacco pipe to relieve the irritation of the respiratory mucus membranes, and will completely control, it is said, the hacking cough of consumption. Tea made from the flowers is a strong and soothing sedative. The flowers are used medicinally in the treatment of migraines and as a local antibiotic and bactericide. A poultice of the leaves is a good healer of wounds and is also applied to ulcers, tumors and piles. The juice of the plant and powder made from the dried roots removes rough warts when rubbed on them. An infusion of the flowers in olive oil is used as earache drops.

Garlic Mullein Oil

1 bulb finely chopped fresh garlic
1 ounce mullein flowers
1 pint sesame oil

Infuse in the sun for one week or you may also simmer the ingredients over the lowest flame in a double boiler for 30 minutes if you are in a hurry. Strain well through a fine wire mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth. Store the oil in a tightly covered glass jar in the refrigerator until needed.

When you are ready to use, warm the oil up a little bit before use, placing three or four drops into the ear. Massage the outer ear and around the base of the ear after applying the oil. You may also place cotton into the ear to prevent the oil from running out. Administer the warm herbal oil every 30 minutes or as often as needed until you obtain relief.

When planning your medicine chest of herbal remedies, this herb should definitely be on your list. Find a common roadside weed, or obtain of the colorful varieties to meet your needs.

With personal and professional regards – Vince

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