Verbascum thapsus, V. olympicum
A beautiful and stately garden plant that is always a welcome surprise in the wild, Mullein is a member of the Figwort family, the Scrophlariaceae. It grows as a biennial, putting forth an abundant rosette of soft, fuzzy leaves in its first year, and a tall spire loaded with small yellow flowers in its second year. It is a voracious feeder, seeking out nitrogen and fertility wherever it can be found (even on arid roadsides), and when cared for can easily grow over 6 feet tall. We harvest the leaves from first year plants throughout the summer, the root at the end of the first year, and the flowers during July of the second year.
Elemental associations: Fire
Phytochemistry: Mucilage, Saponins, Iridoids, Flavonoids
Actions: Leaves: Expectorant, Demulcent, Antiseptic. Flowers: Antiseptic, Demulcent. Root: Nervine
Specific systems: Respiratory, Ear canal, Nervous
The downy leaves of this herb are it most commonly used form, and they are a premiere lung remedy, soothing, toning and reinvigorating the entire lower respiratory tract (lungs and bronchial tubes). Mullein leaves are therefore excellent for a stubborn, unproductive cough and for relief of chest congestion; they also prove invaluable as an adjunct in the treatment of chronic lung ailments such as asthma and occlusive pulmonary disease. For all these uses, Mullein is best taken as a warm tea (although an extract is acceptable, though much weaker). In the past, Mullein was smoked for its curative effects – and although no longer recommended for respiratory afflictions, it does make a mild and gentle smoke that can serve as base for herbal blends. Another use of the leaves is as an improvised bandage in the wild, being absorbent and soft on wounds (and also mildly antiseptic).
Although the leaves are an excellent medicine, the flower stalks of Mullein in its second year are its most impressive feature. The golden flowers are harvested to make an infused oil, which is soothing and disinfecting to the inner ear canal (valuable, along with Garlic, for ear infections and the associated pain).
Finally, the young root is used as a tonic for the nervous system, best prepared as an extract. It seems to be most indicated in cases of localized nerve spasms or disorders, such as Bell’s Palsy. There may be some reason to use this root in cases of epilepsy.
Indications: Chest congestion, lingering colds, bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma, ear infections, localized nerve disorders
Contraindications: None really.
Preparation/Dosage: Make a tea of the leaves, 6-8 TBS in a half gallon of water (along with other supportive herbs), and drink in small doses every 20 minutes for respiratory infections. The flowers are prepared fresh in an infused oil, left to steep for 2-3 days in the sun. The root tincture, 1:5 in 40% alcohol, can be taken in ¼ tsp. doses up to 4 times daily. Externally, the leaf is used as a vulnerary and improvised bandage.