I first posted this article to my old blog on July 15, 2016. So it seemed like a good one to resurrect today in my new blog, exactly three years later:
Maybe a better first question would be “What IS mullein”? I certainly had no idea until about a week ago. Mullein is a plant, Verbascum thapsus, that grows as a weed in this country, especially in dry, sandy, gravelly soil that has been disturbed and degraded by construction or other human activity. It’s not a native plant. It originally grew in Europe, Africa, and Asia, and was brought to America in the 1700’s to be cultivated as a medicinal plant. It’s a biennial plant, which means that it takes two years to complete it’s biological life cycle. In the first year, it grows only leaves, stems, and roots. It stays close to the ground and grows in a rosette shape with no flower stalk. Then it has a dormant period over the winter. In it’s second year, the stalk of yellow flowers shoots up, and the plant can actually reach a height of six to eight feet! These plants are also prolific self-seeders, releasing thousands of seeds in their second season to ensure the longevity of the species.
Here I am after harvesting my very first mullein plant. It must have been quite the sight, with me walking up the street carrying the stalk like a torch in the middle of the bright, sunny afternoon! Behind me is a huge dirt pile consisting of the topsoil that was scraped off of the land during a construction project, which was abandoned, and then left there for several years. Plants have taken over the pile, as well as the gravelly land all around it, up and down the street. This is earth’s way of aerating the soil, repairing the damage, and bringing back the lost fertility of the soil by depositing more organic material on it every year. It’s really a wonderful system, and one that I find both fascinating and beautiful. I love walking my dog through this area, looking at the amazing diversity of species that have found a way to sprout and grow in hot, baking dust. They are called “pioneer species” because they are the first ones to come back into an area where there are no plants at all. I take photos and then go home and try to identify them. It’s like a huge laboratory for me. I’ll be sad if the construction project resumes at some point (which I fear will be soon) and my plant lab is turned into another new subdivision.
*This fear of mine from back in 2016 has since come to pass. The whole street has been turned into a subdivision. Some homes are still under construction. And all of the lovely plants that I enjoyed seeing every day are gone, gradually being replaced by mono-culture lawns.
So now, what can you do with mullein? It has been used for over a thousand years to treat skin, throat and lung ailments. It has both astringent and emollient qualities, and has been used for coughs, helping a dry cough to be more productive, asthma, bronchitis and sore throats. An infusion or tea can be made with the dried leaves or flowers. But anything you prepare to drink must be finely filtered first to remove all the tiny hairs that are on the leaves. These hairs cause a red, itchy, skin irritation if you rub the velvety leaves on your skin. It would be both unkind and unpleasant to subject your digestive tract to that experience! Sometimes the dried leaves were smoked to ease an acute asthma attack. Alternatively, they could be burned, and the smoke inhaled in second-hand fashion for a gentler affect. The root can be made into a powder and used as a poultice to apply to sores, rashes, and skin infections. An infusion made by soaking the root has been used to cure athlete’s foot. Also, by soaking the flowers in olive oil for about six weeks, a remedy for ear aches can be concocted. Just a few drops in the ear of a sick child could give her and her parents a good night’s sleep.
There are surely other benefits to be had from using the mullein plant. For instance, warding off curses and evil spirits in ancient Ireland. But I simply plan on drying the leaves and making an infusion with them. I’m hoping it will offer some relief to my family when they are coping with coughs from colds, asthma and COPD this winter. And if it keeps us away from the doctor’s office, my work will have been well worth it.
Grow and be well,
I am not a doctor, nor should anything on my blog (www.creatingaconnectedlife.com) be considered as medical advice. Any information about herbs or plants that I discuss in my posts is intended for general informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for qualified medical advice or care. There are no assurances of the information being useful for your medical needs. To the maximum extent allowed by law, I disclaim any and all warranties and liabilities related to your use of any of the information obtained from my blog. Your use of this information does not constitute a doctor-patient relationship. No information on this blog should be considered complete, nor should it be used as a substitute for a visit to, consultation with, or the advice of a physician or other qualified health care provider.