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. The apex of the stem is covered by a barb of yellow colored flowers. The leaves as well as the flowers of this herb belonging to the Verbascum species have been used for medical purposes since ages. Incidentally the flowers of the common mullein are very popular in Europe and are acquired from Verbascum phlomoides or Verbascum thapsiforme - the species that are indigenous to the continent.
Naturalist Grieve described the common mullein as a tremendous valuable herb for treating an assortment of ailments. Grieve eulogized the herb to such an extent that he said that it could even put the latest ‘wonder medicine' appear to be ineffective in contrast. Physicians believe that the common mullein has demulcent (a calming substance), emollient (something soothing to the skin) and astringent (a substance that draws affected tissues closer) effects and hence it is beneficial in curing bleeding of the lungs or tuberculosis and also of the bowels. The common mullein also has sedative (tranquilizing) and narcotic (a drug that relieves pain and induces sleep) properties and is widely used for healing ailments such as asthma, coughs and hemorrhoids. The herb may also be applied externally to treat burns and erysipelas or streptococcus infections. At the same time, it is useful in treating bruises, frostbite, diarrhea, ear infections, microorganisms that cause most of the ailments as well as migraines. Interestingly, there are many who believe that the common mullein is also effective in getting rid of evil spirits. Most significantly, this ‘wonder medication' or common mullein may be taken internally, applied externally and even smoked to cure different ailments. The mullein has some very practical uses, but people seldom adopt them. For instance the yellow flowers of the herb may be used as a dye for blond hair and the fuzzy or hairy leaves of the herb may be put inside the stocking to keep the feet tepid during cold climes.
According to the French herbal medicine practitioner, Maurice Messegue, the common mullein may be used to treat heart palpitation, fast or irregular heart beat, angina (chest pains owing to lack of adequate blood in the heart) and several other coronary disorders. Syrup prepared from the leaves and yellow common mullein flowers is effective for treating such conditions. To prepare the syrup, boil two handfuls of roughly cut common mullein leaves and flowers in one and a half quart (one quart is equal to one fourth of a gallon) of water for an hour. Cover the container and boil the substance till it reduces to one pint. Next, filter the boiled liquid and add three tablespoons of blackstrap molasses and half teaspoon of glycerin to increase the shelf life of the syrup. For effective use, it is suggested that one should take one tablespoon of this syrup twice a day between the meals. Normally, it is advisable to take the syrup once in the morning and then in the evening. However, one may take more of it, if there is more pressure on the heart.
It may be noted here that the common mullein is one of the best herbs to treat most of the ailments associated with infancy or childhood. Hence, it is considered to be effective in healing tonsillitis (inflammation of the tonsils), chicken pox, measles and mumps. In the later case, the use of mullein is more beneficial when it is blended with another herb called catnip. Incidentally, the combination of mullein and catnip has been found to be effective in treating pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) also. A tea prepared from the dried or fresh leaves and flowers of mullein is comparatively delectable and hence easier for children to consume when they are sick and need the herb. To prepare the drink, take a handful of dried or fresh mullein leaves and flowers and some dried or freshly cut herb and simmer these in one quarter of water. Cover the container and heat the substance for about 35 minutes. Next, filter the solution twice - first through a superior sieve and then again through a piece of clean cloth. While the solution is still temperate, add two tablespoons of dark honey, one teaspoon of pure maple syrup and a few drops of unadulterated vanilla to add flavor to the drink. It is recommended that for effective use, children affected by the above-mentioned ailments may take half cup of the warm syrup every three to four hours. Here is a word of caution. The children affected by these ailments must not be given any dairy product, eggs, soft drinks, bread, greased foods, meat, candy and other similar food stuff while they are in the healing stage.
During these ailments, along with the mullein syrup, children may be given a small enema (insertion of fluid into the rectum) prepared with mullein leaves and flowers at least once every day till the inflammation of the glands sink and the fever vanishes. To prepare the enema, steep one-fourth handful of dried or freshly chopped mullein leaves, one-fourth handful of dried or freshly cut catnip herb and one peeled and finely sliced garlic clove in one pint of boiling water. Cover the container and heat the substance for about 40 minutes or till the liquid is lukewarm. Next administer the enema to the ailing child through the rectum strictly following the instructions of the physician. It is important to advise the child to try and hold as much of the solution inside the bowels for as much time before asking for reprieve on the toilet. Always remember to administer the enema in very small jets to enable the child to hold on to the solution inside the bowels for a couple minutes or a little longer.
The common mullein can also be used applied externally for dressing skin ulcers, wounds, sunburns, common burns as well as hemorrhoids. To prepare medicated oil with the common mullein, drench two handfuls of cut dehydrated or fresh mullein flowers and leaves in two cups of olive oil or sweet almond for eight days at a stretch. Then filter the liquid and store it in bottle for later use. It is important to store the liquid in a cool and dry place to retain its properties. This oil is beneficial for dressing different skin conditions. Faintly warm a few drops of this medicated oil and place it inside the ear canal to alleviate ear ache. Remember to cover the ear with a warm cloth after applying the oil. There is another version of this oil which may be prepared by blending St. John's wort oil and mullein oil. Put a couple of drops of each oil in a teaspoon and heat the mixture over a cigarette lighter or gas stove for just 45 seconds or till it is lukewarm. Next, use an eye dropper to extract the liquid from the teaspoon and put in the external ear canal. Once the liquid has been placed in the ear canal, stuff the ear with small sterilized cotton lobes. For more effective healing, you may place a hot water bottle or a half cut oven-roasted Bermuda onion over the cotton lobes. This will help to keep the ear warm. However, in both the cases, before applying the oil in the ear canal it is necessary to ensure that the ear drums are not perforated or punctured. It may be mentioned here that excruciating pain and the risk of the ear drum being in danger of being split, applying these herbal medications are not only cheaper, but also more sensible than depending on antibiotics.
Mullein has several medicinal properties important for treating various ailments, especially coughs and congestion. Mullein is particularly effective in treating disorders of the respiratory track such as tracheitis and bronchitis. The leaves and flowers of the herb are widely used as an infusion to diminish the production of mucus as well as arouse the coughing up of phlegm or thick mucus. It may be mentioned here that mullein blends well with other expectorants (medicines for cough) like coltsfoot and thyme. When applied externally as an emollient (a substance that smoothes the irritating skin), mullein proves to effectively heal dermis disorders. In Germany, herbal medicine practitioners soak the mullein flowers in olive oil and the resultant substance is used to treat ear infections as well as hemorrhoids.
Other medical uses
Habitat and cultivation
Mullein is indigenous to central and southern regions of Europe as well as western parts of Asia. However, now mullein has acclimatized itself to all other temperate climatic regions of the world. Normally, mullein grows and thrives in open fallow land and also beside the pavements. The leaves and flowers of the plant that have rich medicinal worth are harvested during summer months.
A tea prepared with dehydrated mullein flowers or leaves is medicinally useful and widely recommended for treating coughs and bronchial exasperations. To prepare this tea add one to two teaspoons of dehydrated mullein leaves or flowers to 250 ml or one cup of boiling water and allow it to soak for 10 to 15 minutes. Normally, it is recommended to take the tea three to four times daily. But if you prefer the tincture prepared with the dry mullein leaves or flowers, take one to four ml of it three to four times daily. Even the dried flowers and leaves may be taken in proportion of one to two grams three times every day. Normally, mullein is blended with other demulcent (a substance that relieve inflamed skin or mucous membranes) or expectorant herbs as a remedy for coughs and bronchial pain.
Side effects and cautions
Studies as well as experience have shown that mullein is a safe herb and does not have any adverse side affects. Although, there have been infrequent reports of skin irritation after the use of mullein; mullein is believed to be safe to use during pregnancy or lactation.
Mullein has several applications and its flowers and leaves may be consumed as infusion, tincture as well as syrup to treat numerous disorders. The flowers of the herb may be used as a gargle too.
German bactericidal oil
Quickly crush the flowers in a mortar. Combine all the ingredients and macerate in a green jar near a fire or in a window for 21 days. Strain using a fine cotton cloth. Place in the ear in case of otitis or an infected pinna, or apply in the case of eczema, ringworm or mycosis.