If you asked me which herbal remedy I would choose to have with me on a desert island, I’d consider choosing mullein. Mullein (Verbascum thaspus) is a wild plant found growing abundantly around our region and in many other parts of the world as well (thus it could also arguably be found growing on our hypothetical desert island). Mullein is a healing herb in numerous aspects.
Often found on dry, rocky or disturbed soil, mullein’s large fuzzy green leaves and tall flowering stalk are hard to miss. It has a two-year lifespan. In the first year, a young basal rosette of leaves grow close to the ground. The leaves can grow up to 25 centimetres long and over 10 centimetres wide. In the second, year, a flowering stalk will grow, and if left undisturbed, can reach over six feet tall. Yellow buds and flowers bloom out of the fuzzy, elongated flower head throughout the summer months.
The flowers can be harvested and infused in olive oil (or other kinds of oil), in a clear glass jar in the sunlight for about a month. The oil can then be strained and stored in a cool, dark place. It can be rubbed onto achy, inflamed joints and tight muscles to relieve pain and inflammation. A cotton swab or cloth dipped into the same oil can be safely placed in the ear for about 15 to 20 minutes daily to help clear, and ease the symptoms of an ear infection.
Mullein leaf can also be infused in oil to make a healing skin salve for cuts, swellings, rashes, burns and bruises. It has a remarkable ability to restore damaged tissue and encourage healthy cell growth. The leaves have been successfully used as a poultice on broken bones to help support repair, and proper structural alignment.
The leaves, either fresh or dried, can be made into a tea by steeping in hot water (about 1 to 2 teaspoons of broken up leaf per cup) for 10 to 20 minutes. Mullein is notably helpful in moving lymphatic fluid, draining clogged lymph nodes and various types of cysts. A cloth dipped in the tea can be placed on the lymph nodes or cysts for about 20 minutes daily, until they clear. The tea can then be drunk for additional support.
Mullein is one of the first herbs I think of when choosing ingredients for a cough remedy. It is a reliable expectorant that also soothes and heals irritated membranes of the respiratory passage while fighting off infection and reducing inflammation. It works well in most types of coughs and lung infections, and can be very helpful for asthmatics too.
Some people prefer to strain mullein tea through a coffee filter. The reason is that the tiny hairs that give the leaves their fuzzy texture are fine enough to make it through a regular strainer or tea ball, and for some people they can tickle the throat a bit. A coffee filter or thick tea bag strains these out nicely.
When giving plant identification walks and workshops, I often expound on mullein’s benefits. I feel confident in sharing its safe, effective restorative capabilities. Also it is easily identified, and there’s enough of it to be found for its gifts to be shared far and wide. Here’s to the many miracles of mullein! With gratitude!
Originally Published: August 7, 2017
Tamara Segal, Contributor and Registered Herbalist
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Tamara Segal is a Registered Herbalist and wild foods enthusiast. She runs an herbal clinic called Hawthorn Herbals at her farm in Prince Edward County. She also teaches classes and gives plant identification walks and workshops throughout the Quinte area.