Verbascum spp.

Mullein has a long history in herbal medicine, and it’s not surprising. Countless people claim that it is the best thing available for the flu or common cold.

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, Rag Paper, Wild Ice Leaf, Clown’s Lungwort, Golden Rod, Adam’s Flannel, Beggar’s Blanket, Clot-Bur, Cuddy’s lungs, Duffle, Fluffweed, Hare’s Beard, Hag’s Taper

The Great Mullein is a widely distributed plant, being found all over Europe and in temperate Asia as far as the Himalayas. It can also be found in North America as a naturalized weed in the eastern and central States.

‘Torches’ is another name for the plant. The name ‘Clown’s Lung Wort’ refers to its use as a homely remedy. ‘Ag-Leaf’ and ‘Ag-Paper’ are other names for it. ‘Wild Ice Leaf’ perhaps refers to the white look of the leaves. Few English plants have so many local names.

The down on the leaves and stem makes excellent tinder when quite dry, readily igniting on the slightest spark, and was, before the introduction of cotton, used for lamp wicks, hence another of the old names: ‘Candlewick Plant.’ An old superstition existed that witches in their incantations used lamps and candles provided with wicks of this sort, and another of the plant’s many names, ‘Hag’s Taper’, refers to this.

Mullein as an Herb for Medicinal Uses

MulleinThe medicinal parts are the herb at the beginning of the flowering season, the flowers and the root. The flowers have a honey-like fragrance and an almond-like taste. The leaves are slimy and bitter.

In ancient times, a decoction of its roots was used for toothaches, and also good for cramps and convulsions, and an early morning draught of the distilled water of the flowers was said to be good for gout.

The primary chemical constituents of Mullein include resin, saponins, glycoside (aucubin), flavonoids (hesperidin, verbascoside), choline, magnesium, mucilage, tannins, and carotene. Mullein also contains iron, magnesium, potassium, sulfur, and calcium phosphate.

Mullein juice and powder made from the dried roots rubbed on rough warts was said to quickly remove them, though it was not recommended for smooth warts. A poultice made of the seeds and leaves, boiled in hot wine, was also considered an excellent means to ‘draw forth speedily thorns or splinters gotten into the flesh.’ We also hear of the woolly leaves being worn in the stockings to promote circulation and keep the feet warm.

Mullein is a terrific narcotic herb that is not addictive or poisonous. It is used as a pain killer and to bring on sleep. It loosens mucous, making it useful for treating all lung ailments. It also strengthens the lymphatic system.

Native Americans mixed mullein with molasses to make a cough remedy.

In Southern Appalachia, people smoked mullein leaves as a folk remedy for asthma in (Cavender 2003). However, contrary to folk medicinal medicine claims, mullein is not useful as a treatment for asthma (Tyler 1985).

Mullein Infusions

Mullein is given in the form of an infusion: 1 ounce of dried, or the corresponding quantity of fresh leaves being boiled for 10 minutes in a pint of milk, and when strained and given warm, three times daily, with or without sugar. The taste of the decoction is bland and cordial, and creates a pleasant emollient and nutritious medicine for a cough, or for removing the pain and irritation of hemorrhoids. A plain infusion of 1 ounce to a pint of boiling water can also be made and taken in wineglassful doses frequently.

An infusion has been used as eyewash and as gargle.

Mullein is said to be of much help for diarrhea, from its combination of demulcent with astringent properties, with this combination strengthening the bowels at the same time. In diarrhea the ordinary infusion is generally given, but when any bleeding of the bowels is present, the decoction prepared with milk is recommended.

In most parts of Ireland, besides growing wild, Mullein is carefully cultivated in gardens, because of a steady demand for the plant by sufferers from pulmonary consumption.

Mullein leaves are used for the purpose of making a homoeopathic tincture. The leaves are nearly free of odor and have a bitterish taste.

The dried leaves are sometimes smoked in an ordinary tobacco pipe to relieve the irritation of the respiratory mucus membranes, and will completely control, it is said, the hacking cough of consumption.

They can be employed with equal benefit when made into cigarettes for asthma and spasmodic coughs in general.

Mullein was and still is also used as a tea for coughs (Maiscott 2000). Wichtl (2004) also noted its efficacy as a mild expectorant and value in treating coughs. The PDR for Herbal Medicines notes that the plant does act as an expectorant effect and alleviates irritation (Fleming 2000).

Postell (1951) found mullein mentioned as a slave treatment for kidney diseases, a preventative tonic and as a treatment for congestion, colds, dropsy, and other ailments. Its uses are consistent with modern understandings of the medicinal properties of the plant.

Mullein Tea Recipe

Mullein leaf tea soothes the urinary tract and facilitates urination. It also eases a nervous, irritable bladder and incontinence. Prepare mullein tea as directed below (minus the mullein flowers) and drink 3 to 4 cups daily. You may wish to ask your physician if this is suitable for any existing conditions you may have.

1 to 2 teaspoons dried mullein
1 cup boiling water

Pour 1 cup of boiling water over the dried mullein flowers and leaves. Steep for 10 to 15 minutes.

Pour the liquid through a cheesecloth or a coffee filter to strain out the plant’s tiny hairs as they can irritate the throat.

Culinary Uses of Mullein

Other than mullein tea, culinary uses are unknown and not recommended.

Folklore & Magical Uses

Use a mullein pillow to guard against nightmares. Carry some as a charm for courage, especially when faced with wild animals. Use powdered mullein leaves as a substitute for graveyard dust in spells.

Did you know?

Mullein is also known as Candlestick because the ancient Romans made a “Roman candle” by dipping the long, flower stems in tallow and lighting them.


Leaf hairs are irritating; always strain well through fine muslin before using.

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