‘Husbandmen of Kent do give it their cattle against the cough of the lungs, and I, therefore, mention it because cattle are also in some sort to be provided for in their diseases.’ Coles, 1657, in “Adam in Eden”
Common Names: Mullein, Natures Toilet Paper, Candlewick Plant, Velvet Dock, and many more
Scientific Name: Verbascum thapsus
Family: Scrophulariaceae (figwort family)
Parts Used: Leaf (Astringent) and Flower (the flower is more specific for the nervous system, and are more demulcent)
Harvesting: Mullein is a biennial plant that grows in recently disturbed areas and clearings. It is very common to see Mullein lining highways. The low rosette of leaves shoots up a stalk of flowers that blooms June to September. Leaves can be collected any time in the Spring or Summer, before they turn brown. Flowers should be collected in bloom and infused fresh.
Qualities: Sweet, Bitter, Mucilagenous, Cool, Astringent
Constituents/Nutrition: Mucilage and gum, Saponins, Volatile Oils, flavonoids, Glycosides, High in Aluminum, Iron, Vitamins A and C, Calcium, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, and Sodium!
Properties/Actions: Demulcent, Mild Diuretic, Anti-spasmodic, Anodyne, Expectorant, Mild-sedative, Vulnerary, and Tonifier.
Uses/Indications: The leaves are primarily a Respiratory and Urinary herb. Mullein’s Doctrine of Signatures is its hairy leaf which looks like the cilia that lines mucous membranes (ears, throat, lungs…). It is a wonderful herb to use for hacking, spasmodic coughs, respiratory infections, asthma, as a tobacco substitute, bronchitis, tracheal inflammation… Mullein works by toning the mucous membranes, decreasing inflammation, and increasing fluid production (which, in turn, helps expectoration of thickened mucous). So, it is also useful for Urinary tract inflammation and lymph congestion). Leaves combine well with Horehound, Coltsfoot, Lobelia, and Elder for colds and flu; combines well with Echinacea, Cleavers, and Red Root for lymph and glandular support. Mullein Flowers make a fantastic infused oil for ear infections. Mix with Garlic, St. John’s, Calendula, and Echinacea. The flowers are also great for nerve pain and inflammation.
Folk History/Magical Uses: Mullein has been used historically for protection, to drive away the evil eye, and to instill courage. It was given to Ulysses to protect him for the sorceress Circe, who changed his crew into pigs. The dried stalks can be dipped in fat or oil to make a slow-burning torch. Leaves were put in thin shoes to protect the feet and keep them warm in the winter. Leaves were also rubbed on ladies checks as a rubifacient, to create a rouge effect. Mullein is also considered useful in bleeding conditions of the lungs and bowels, as well as diarrhea and hemorrhoids.
“A fomentation of the leaves in hot vinegar and water forms an excellent local application for external irritations, as for the itching of piles” – Meyer
Common mullein (Verbascum thapsus L.): recent advances in research.
A nice research review of Mullein.
Phytother Res. 2005 Sep;19(9):733-9.
Naturopathic treatment for ear pain in children.
A double blind study using antibiotics or a natural ear drop (containing Mullein) concluding that the antibiotics are not needed in effective treatment of Otitis Media (ear infection).
J Fam Pract. 2003 Sep;52(9):673, 676.
Cautions/Side Effects: No known side effects or drug interactions.
Preparation/Dosage: Mullein can be used as an oil, tea, poultice, tincture, smoke, or gargle. (Don’t really try using it as toilet paper… it is too irritating!)
1 tsp. to 1 Tbsp. of dried leaves infused in boiling water for 20 minutes, TID
1 oz leaves per pint of water, 3c/d – L. Tierra
Tincture – 10-40 drops 1-4x/day; 1:5
Liq. Ext.: 1:1 in 25% alcohol, 4-8ml per day – BHP
4-8 g/day – BHP
5-10 drops oil in the ear 3-4x/day into both ears for infection
My first experience with Mullein was when I was on a hike and a fellow hiker said, “Hey, if you ever don’t have toilet paper with you on a hike and you need to go, that plant there is called Nature’s Toilet Paper.” NO! Don’t do this! Well, OK, you can if you really want to, but it is a bit irritating. Take my word.
I later learned of this herb from a friend who has Asthma and uses Mullein to help control her symptoms. She says that smoking Mullein when she first gets symptoms works wonders for her.
Bremnes, L. (1988). The complete book of herbs. New York: Penguin Group.
Cunningham, S. (2000). Magical herbalism. Minnesota: Llewellyn Publications.
Gladstar, R. (2001). Rosemary gladstar’s family herbal. North Adams, MA: Storey Books Publishing.
Great Mullein. Retrieved on August 3, 2006 from:
Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical herbalism. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.
Meyer, J. (1918). The herbalist. Illinois: Meyerbooks.
Mullein. Retrieved on August 3, 2006 from:
MulleinCommonPlant. Retrieved on August 3, 2006 from:
Pederson, M. (1994). Nutritional herbology. revised edition. Indiana: Wendell W. Whitman Company.
Tierra, L. (1992). The herbs of live: health & healing using western & chinese techniques. Freedom, CA: The Crossing Press.
Tilgner, S. (1999). Herbal medicine from the heart of the earth. Creswell, OR: Wise Acres Press.