When it comes to supporting the respiratory system, few herbs are as gentle and effective as mullein. Both the flowers and the leaves are a valuable part of the herbal home remedy cabinet!
When I first learned about mullein, I was fascinated by the fact that it is a wonderfully gentle and effective remedy for respiratory complaints while also being a common and carefree plant that grows about anywhere.
Soon, I started spotting mullein along roadsides, in meadows, and joy of joys, springing up in my own yard! I planted it one year to be certain I had the right plant and have been delighted to find it returning. Once you know what mullein looks like, it becomes very easy to identify.
What really endeared this herb to me was witnessing how effective it truly is in easing coughs and other respiratory complaints. A cup of mullein tea (often combined with elder flower) has done wonders many times when someone in our family was dealing with a cough!
This gentle herb is one I never like to be without. Both its flowers and leaves are very useful!
Verbascum thapsus is the most commonly used species of mullein, though there are other varieties.
Mullein is a biennial plant, meaning that it lives two years. In the first year, it grows into a large rosette of oblong, thick, and fuzzy green-gray leaves. Outer leaves can be quite large while inner leaves are half the size, growing close to the ground. During its second year, it sends up a very tall, slender stalk that will randomly be dotted with small yellow flowers as the plant blooms. This stalk may be branched and typically grows to be about 6 feet high.
Dried leaves and flowers
Actions in the Body
- Mullein is an excellent expectorant, helping the body expel excess mucus from the respiratory system.
- It is a demulcent, soothing irritated tissues, especially those of the throat and lungs.
- With anti-inflammatory actions, it is able to further soothe tissues.
- As an anti-spasmodic, it can help calm coughing spells during respiratory illness.
Dried mullein leaf is most frequently brewed as an herbal infusion to promote respiratory health. Two teaspoons of the herb can be infused in 1 cup of freshly boiled water, then steeped for about 15 minutes. Mullein leaf is covered in very fine hairs, so it is important to strain the infusion through cloth or an unbleached coffee filter to avoid further irritating the throat with the hairs.
Mullein flowers are a well-established remedy for earaches, easing the pain and inflammation in the inner ear. Dried flowers may be infused in warm olive oil for about 3 hours, then strained out of the oil. The oil can then be placed in the ears during an earache or ear infection, so long as the ear drum has not ruptured.
Mullein flowers may also be brewed into an herbal infusion in the same manner as mullein leaf, or the two may be used together for the infusion.
Mullein is safe for children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and the elderly. It is a very gentle yet effective herb, making it an excellent remedy to consider.
How would you use mullein in your own home?
Fritchey, Philip. Practical Herbalism. Whitman Publications, Warsaw, Indiana. 2004. (found here).
Hawkins, Jessie. Botanical Medicine in the Home. Vintage Remedies, Franklin, Tennessee. 2013. (found here).
Hoffman, David. Medicinal Herbalism. Healing Arts Press, Rochester, Vermont. 2003. (found here).