Mullein Benefits

Mullein
Latin Name

Verbascum

Also Known As

Beggar's Blanket, Blanket Herb, Blanket Leaf, Bouillon Blanc, Candleflower, Candlewick, Clot-Bur, Clown's Lungwort, Cuddy's Lungs, Duffle, Feltwort, Flannelflower

Origin

Europe, Africa and Asia

Parts Used

Leaves and Flowers

Traditional Use and Health Benefits

Native to Europe, northern Africa and Asia and established in the United States in the early 18th century, Mullein is a common biennial plant with furry leaves and small yellow flowers that smell like honey. Growing up to 8 feet tall, Mullein plants love the light, and easily spread through hearty seed production.

This versatile herb has a long history of traditional use for a wide range of respiratory disorders, to speed up wound healing, to ease rheumatic pain and for haemorrhoids. It is thought that Mullein was introduced to the Native Americans by the early settlers where it was quickly incorporated into their healing tradition. The Navajo were known to smoke the leaves to treat asthma and to clear lung congestion.

In Ireland, Mullein leaves were boiled in milk to make a decoction that was used as a remedy for tuberculosis.

Mullein Benefits

Respiratory Health

With demulcent, expectorant and astringent properties, Mullein leaves and flowers are rich in saponins which are thought to be responsible for the potent respiratory benefits of this herb. They also contain mucilage which coats and soothes irritated mucus membranes, whilst their expectorant qualities help to expel congestion from the lungs.

According to research, Mullein is a cross between the demulcents and saponin-bearing expectorants, which makes it effective in alleviating conditions such as bronchitis with a persistent cough, dry hacking coughs, whooping cough, colds, flu and sinusitis. The saponins contained in Mullein also exhibit anti-viral properties, further adding to its effectiveness against flu and other complaints caused by viruses.

Mullein can be used to help to detoxify the lungs after quitting smoking. Breathing in steam from its leaves or consuming the tea can help to break up and clear out the tar that has accumulated in the lungs. It can also help to cleanse and soothe the bronchial tubes and strengthen the lungs.

Anti-Inflammatory

With both anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, Mullein contains a compound called verbascoside which has a proven anti-inflammatory action and is particularly helpful in easing joint and muscle pain.

Oxidative stress is a well known cause of inflammation, and verbascoside has been shown in clinical research to reduce the production of oxygen free radicals. Mullein specifically reduces the expression of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) and extra-cellular O2, reducing the production of superoxide radicals, which are greatly increased during the inflammatory process caused by oxidative stress.

Antibacterial

Studies show that Mullein possesses potent antibacterial qualities, with researchers at Clemson University in South Carolina showing that it is effective against; Klebsiella pneumoniae, Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus epidermidis and Escherichia coli - otherwise known as E coli.

This makes it helpful for disinfecting wounds, soothing burns and treating haemorrhoids. Whilst pneumonia is a serious disease that should always be treated by qualified health professionals, using Mullein during respiratory flu can help to help to keep the lungs clear and may prevent pneumonia from setting in.

Earache / Ear Infections

One of the most popular herbal remedies for earache and ear infections, Mullein flowers are normally infused in olive oil and garlic to treat this uncomfortable affliction. The astringent, antibacterial and anti-fungal activity of Mullein combined with garlic can help to get rid of outer and middle ear infections.

In 2001, “The Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine” published a study concluding that Mullein eardrops were equally effective as anaesthetic eardrops.

Another study of 171 children conducted in 2003 found that those who used eardrops containing Mullein had a statistically significant improvement in ear pain over the course of three days. It was also noted that the children who were given the eardrops alone had a better response than those treated with the eardrops together with penicillin.

Digestive Health

The mucus busting benefits of Mullein don’t stop at clearing mucus from the lungs, it can also be used to remove the mucoid layer from the small intestine. Too much mucus in the small intestine can interfere with nutrient uptake and compromise the body’s ability to deliver nutrients into the bloodstream.

Mullein replaces the “bad” mucus with a healing mucilage that coats and soothes the gut wall and provides lubrication that enables an easier and smoother bowel movement.

Typical Use

Mullein Flowers Tincture

Can be added to water or fruit juice and taken when required.

Traditionally Taken: 2-3ml taken 2-3 times per day, or as directed by a Herbal Practitioner.

Folklore and History

The use of Mullein as a food and medicine stretches far back into antiquity, with many of the ancient physicians recommending its use for various complaints. Dioscorides (64 AD) recorded it as useful for constipation, ruptures, convulsions, old coughs, toothaches, inflammations of the eyes, wounds and scorpion-stings.

In ancient Rome the large stalks were used as ceremonial torches, stripped of its leaves and dipped in tallow, the cylindrical spike could hold a flame when carried aloft from place to place. 

During the 1849 Californian gold rush it was known as "miner's candle" as the mine shafts were aglow with Mullein torches carried by the prospectors. The leaves were also used as tinder to start fires, or as a smudge which was burned over the embers of Native American campfires.

Mullein also enjoyed a magical reputation as a protector against witches and their spells. It was planted in monastery gardens to ward off evil spirits and as protection from the devil. 

Mullein
Constituents

Mullein leaves are rich in biologically active compounds, such as iridoids, saponins, flavonoids, phenylethanoids, and neolignan glycosides. Other compounds include; verbascose, verbascoside, verbasterol, rotenone, mucilage, heptaose, coumarin, aucubin, and ascorbic acid, in addition to the minerals, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, and selenium.

Precautions

Not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women.

Isolated incidents of contact dermatitis - always do a patch test before using on the skin.

Do not use Mullein if you are taking anti-diabetic or diuretic medication.