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Herbal Monograph

Herb:   MULLEIN     (Verbascum thaspus; Scrophulariaceae)

Other Names:    torch weed, Aaron’s rod, blanket-leaf, candlewick plant, flannelflower, feltwort, hedge-taper, Jacob’s staff, shepherd’s club, velvet plant, shepherd’s staff, torches, our lady’s flannel, blanket herb, woollen, ragpaper, wild ice leaf, clown’s lungwort, golden rod, adam’s flannel, beggar’s blanket, clot-bur, cuddy’s lungs, duffle, feltwort, fluffweed, hare’s heard, hag’s taper (2); Blanket herb (57)

Other species commonly used include V. phlomoides and V. densiflorum or thapsiforme, which also occur in North America.    (61)

Character/Energetics:  bitter, astringent, cool (6); slightly sweet, cool, moist    (15)                        

Meridians/Organs/Body Parts affected:      lungs, stomach    (6)    lungs, glands, and lymph.    (14)

Part(s) used:    leaf, flower, root (6);   dried leaves and flowers (8)                                                                                                           

Identification & Harvesting:    A biennial up to 2 m high, with erect stem, lightly branched above, thickly hairy, leaves also;  leaves are alternate, turned downwards and finely crenate.  Lower leaves are lanceolate or oblong-lanceolate;  upper ones, ovate.  Large yellow flowers 3-4 cm in diameter, in spike-like rows, with a honey-like fragrance and an almond taste.  Widespread in temperate northern zones.    (2)

Harvest flowers individually.   

Collect leaves in mid summer before they turn brown.  Dry in shade.  Gather flowers between July and September during dry weather.  Dry in shade or with artificial heat not higher than 105 F.  Flowers turn brown in the presence of moisture and become ineffective.    (8)

                       Harvest (leaves) before flowering in the second year.    (15)

The basal leaves are lanceolate oblong, the upper more ovate and decurrent.  Stem leaves are about 6-8 inch long and 2 to 2-1/2 inch broad, densely coated with woolly hairs, which are stellately branched.  The corolla, which is the part used, is yellow, cup-shaped, about 1 inch across with five unequal rounded lobes.  The dried corollas turn brownish unless very carefully dried.    (57)

A member of the figwort family, native to Eurasia, naturalized throughout North America.  Commercially harvested in Europe and US.    (61)

Active Constituents:    mucilage 3% incl. arabino galactans, xyloglucans;  triterpene saponins, chiefly verbascosaponine;  iridoide monoterpenes incl. aucubin, 6-beta-xylosylaucubin, catalpol;  caffeic acid derivatives, in particular verbascoside (acteoside);  flavonoids .5-4% incl. apigenin-7-O-glucosides, kaempferol-7-O-glucosides, rutin, digiprolactone;  invert sugar 11%. (2)

saponins, mucilage, two flavonoids (hesperidin and verbaside), aucubin, traces of essential oil  (6)

Mucilage and gum; saponins; volatile oils;  flavonoids incl. hesperidin and verbascoside;  glycosides incl. aucubin.  (8)

…volatile oil, flavonoids, bitter glycosides (inc. aucubin).   (15)

Mucilage, various iridoids, saponins and flavonoids, all of which could have biological activity.    (61)

Actions: demulcent, expectorant.    (2)

expectorant, demulcent, antispasmodic, antitussive, astringent, anodyne,                                  vulnerary    (6)

expectorant, demulcent, mild diuretic, mild sedative, vulnerary.  A very beneficial respiratory remedy, toning the mucous membranes of the respiratory system, reducing inflammation while stimulating fluid production and thus facilitating expectoration.    (8)

Primarily demulcent, expectorant;  also antispasmodic, astringent, diuretic, vulnerary.    (14)

 …mild diuretic, sedative, heals wounds,…anti-inflamatory    (15)  

Demulcent, astringent, pectoral.    (57)

Studies show antiviral activity against flu and herpes simplex, as well as expectorant.    (61)

Conditions & Uses:    Used for catarrh of the respiratory tract;  folk uses include diuretic, antirheumatic, and vulnerary.    (2)

It is used for cough, hoarseness, bronchitis, phlegm, and whooping cough. The flowers are specifically sedative and anti‑inflammatory. An oil made from them (see medicated oils, pg.59) is used for otitis media and earaches. The Ieaves are smoked, alone or with coltsfoot and yerba santa, to soothe the throat and as a substitute for tobacco. The  root treats eye inflammations, is a vulnerary, and is good for cramps and diarrhea. It also is good for bleeding from the lungs or from the gastrointestinal tract.   (6)

A specific in bronchitis with a sore, hard cough.  Its anti-inflammatory and demulcent properties indicate its use in inflammation of the trachea and associated conditions.  An olive oil extract is excellent for external application to any inflamed surface.    (8)

Internal uses —  asthma, bronchitis:  syrup*, powder*, infusion*.  Bruises:  infusion.  Constipation:  infusion*, syrup*.  Coughs, diarrhea, whooping cough:  infusion, syrup.  Swollen lymph glands:  fluid extract, powder, infusion.  Hay fever:  infusion*, powder*, fluid extract*.  Hemorrhages (bowels or lungs):  infusion*.  Sinus congestion:  infusion*, tincture*, fluid extract*.  Toothaches:  oil rubbed on gums.  Tumors:  powder*, fluid extract*.

External uses — diaper rashes, inflamed eyes, skin diseases, tumors:  poultice, fomentation.

*Usually used in combination with other herbs when treating the indicated problem.

Oil of mullein is considered one of the best remedies for ear infections.  Put two to three drops of 

          MULLEIN     (Verbascum thaspus; Scrophulariaceae)

the warm oil in the ear overnight or two to three times daily.  The dried leaves were smoked to relieve lung congestion by the Native Americans.  Mullein tea is useful for coughs, colds and respiratory diseases.  It is good for hemorrhoids, diarrhea, hemorrhages of the lungs and shortness of breath.  It is used in kidney formulas to soothe inflammation.  Mullein leaves are also used to treat lymphatic congestion. (14)

Demulcent and mildly sedative wound herb.

Flowers: A relaxing expectorant for dry, chronic, hard coughs, such as in whooping cough, tuberculosis, asthma and bronchitis. The flowers are also effective for throat inflammations. Still made today, the infused oil is used to sooth inflammations, wounds and earache.

Leaves: Used mainly for respiratory disorders, the leaves were at one time made into herbal “tobacco” and smoked for asthma and tuberculosis. Traditionally, the plant was regarded as antiseptic and the large leaves produced in the second season were wrapped around fruits to preserve them.   (15)

Both leaf and flower are useful in cases of pulmonary disease, cough, consumption, and hemorrhage in the lungs or bowels.    (57)

Historically used for lung conditions and as an expectorant.  It has been smoked like tobacco to relieve lung congestion and irritation of the mucous membranes.  Mullein cigarettes have been especially valued for asthma and spasmodic coughs, though asthmatics are advised not to smoke anything.  Flowers soaked in olive oil are a folk treatment for earache and inflammatory conditions of the mucous membranes.  Externally applied to wounds.    (61)

Combinations:     For bronchial conditions, combines well with white horehound, coltsfoot and lobelia.(8)

Combine with stimulating  expectorants if required, such as mulberry  bark, cowslip root,  elecampane, sweet violet, anise, or thyme.    

                              Support with antibiotic herbs as as purple coneflower (echinacea) in       capsules, and phlegm-reducing herbs such as elderflower infusion or goldenseal capsules.  (15)

Precautions:     No known hazards or side effects with designated dosages.    (2)

            Do not use eardrops if there is a risk that the ear drum is perforated.    (15)

Tincturing Process:

Applications:    Powder:  up to 10 #0 capsules (60 grains) frequently. (14)


Infused oil— used to sooth inflammations, wounds and earache.   

An infused oil made from the flowers was a standby in many parts of Europe for ailments as diverse as hemorrhoids and ear infections.    

Make by the cold infusion method and use drops for earache (only if certain that the eardrum is not perforated). Use as a salve on wounds, hemorrhoids, eczema, or inflammed eyelids. Use cold infused oil as eardrops.

Tincture–Take up to 20 ml a day for chronic, dry coughs, and throat       inflammations.    (15)   

Gargle–Use an infusion for throat inflammations.                  

Syrup–Take a syrup made from the infusion for chronic, hard coughs.  (15)         


Infusion–Use a strong infusion of dried herb (50g:500 ml water) for chronic coughs and throat inflammations. Also promotes sweating, so can be useful for feverish chills with hard coughs.  

Tincture–Use for chronic respiratory disorders; if necessary, combine with stimulating                                                 expectorants such as mulberry bark, cowslip root, elecampane, sweet violet, anise, or thyme.    (15) 


Dosage:  standard infusion or 3‑9 gms.; tincture,  10‑30 drops      (6)

An infusion of 1 oz. to a pint of boiling water is taken in half-cup doses frequently.  Liquid extract dose 1/2-1 drachm.   (57)

Steep 2 tsp dried flowers and/or leaves in 1 cup hot water for 10-15 min., up to 8 x daily.  Tincture 25-40 drops every 3 hours.    (61)

General Notes: The tall stems of mullein, covered in fine down, were once burned as tapers in funeral processions. Dioscorides used the herb for scorpion stings, eye complaints, toothache, tonsillitis, and coughs. It was also traditionally taken for wasting diseases such as tuberculosis. An infused oil made from the flowers was a standby in many parts of Europe for ailments as diverse as hemorrhoids and ear infections.

    “…beasts of burden that are not only suffering from cough but also broken-winded, are relieved by a draught.”Pliny, A.D. 77.      

    Flowers and leaves are not often separated in commercially dried mullein; leaves generally predominate. (15) Scant scientific evidence of efficacy.    (61)



(2)  PDR for Herbal Medicines (Medical Economics Co., 1998), p. 1210-11

(6) Planetary Herbology by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., pg. 389

(8)  The New Holistic Herbal by David Hoffman, p. 217

(14) Natural Healing With Herbs by Humbart Santillo BS, MH, pgs. 149-50

(15) The Complete Medicinal Herbal by Penelope Ody, pgs. 111, 140-141

(57) Potter’s Cyclopaedia by R.C. Wren, F.L.S., p. 243

(61) 101 Medicinal Herbs by Steven Foster, pgs. 140-41


PHOTO: Wikipedia