Mullein Herb

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What is Mullein?

The common mullein, usually found throughout the US, is a woolly-leafed biennial plant. During its first year of growth, the large leaves form a low-lying basal rosette. In the spring of the second year, the plant develops a tall stem that can grow to more than 1.22 m in height. The top portion of the stem develops yellow flowers that have a faint, honey-like odor. This, along with the stamens, constitutes the active ingredient.

What is it used for?

Mullein boasts an illustrious history as a favored herbal remedy and, consequently, has found use in various disorders. Its traditional uses generally have focused on the management of respiratory disorders where it was used to treat asthma, coughs, tuberculosis, and related respiratory problems. However, in its various forms, the plant has been used to treat hemorrhoids, burns, bruises, and gout. Preparations of the plant have been ingested, applied topically, and smoked. The yellow flowers once were used as a source of yellow hair dye. In Appalachia, the plant has been used to treat colds and the boiled root administered for croup. Leaves were applied topically to soften and protect the skin. An oil derived from the flowers has been used to soothe earaches.

Miscellaneous uses

There is little evidence to indicate that the plant can offer more than mild astringent and topical soothing effects. It may have mild demulcent properties when ingested. Mullein has expectorant and cough suppressant properties that make it useful for symptomatic treatment of sore throat and cough. Antiviral activity of mullein has been reported against herpes and influenza. Clinical research is lacking.

What Is Mullein Tea? Benefits, Side Effects, and More

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Mullein tea is a flavorful beverage that has been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments, including chronic coughs, colds, and asthma (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source).

It has a rich, aromatic taste and is made from the leaves of the common mullein (Verbascum thapsus), a flowering plant native to Europe, Africa, and Asia.

This article examines the uses, benefits, and side effects of mullein tea — and tells you how to make it.

Potential benefits and uses of mullein tea

Mullein tea has been linked to several potential health benefits.

May treat respiratory conditions

Mullein has been used for thousands of years to treat respiratory conditions.

It may be especially effective at relieving asthma, which causes your airway to swell and results in symptoms like coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath (4Trusted Source).

Animal and human research suggest that mullein tea works by reducing inflammation, thereby helping relax the muscles in your respiratory tract (5, 6Trusted Source).

The flowers and leaves of the plant are also used to treat other respiratory ailments, such as tuberculosis, bronchitis, tonsillitis, and pneumonia. However, no human research has studied whether mullein combats these conditions (3Trusted Source).

May help fight viral infections

Some test-tube studies suggest that mullein may possess powerful antiviral properties.

For instance, one test-tube study analyzed several medicinal herbs and found that mullein extract was particularly effective against the influenza virus (7Trusted Source Trusted Source).

Other test-tube studies show that mullein extract may also fight pseudo rabies, a virus in the herpes family (8Trusted Source, 9Trusted Source).

Nonetheless, human research is needed.

Possesses antibacterial properties

Mullein tea may offer antibacterial effects as well.

One test-tube study found that mullein extract inhibited several strains of bacteria, including Bacillus cereus, which commonly occurs in soil and food (10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source Trusted Source).

Another test-tube study noted that mullein extract reduced the growth of certain types of bacteria that cause infections, such as E. coli and Streptococcus pyogenes (12).

Although limited human research is available, one study in 180 children indicated that this herb may treat ear infections, which are often caused by bacteria (13Trusted Source).

This 3-day study, which used ear drops that contained mullein alongside several other herbal extracts 3 times daily, reduced ear pain by 93%, on average. However, it’s unclear to what extent this effect was due to mullein extract versus other herbs used in the ear drops (Trusted Source14Trusted Source).

Thus, additional human research is needed.

Potential side effects of mullein tea

Most people can enjoy mullein tea safely with minimal risk of adverse effects.

Yet, the mullein plant may cause skin irritation for some people, so be sure to exercise caution if you’re handling the herb directly (15Trusted Source).

The tiny hairs of the plant can also irritate your throat, which is why it’s important to strain this tea thoroughly before drinking it.

Additionally, no research is available on mullein tea’s safety for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Thus, these populations should consult a healthcare professional before using it.

If you notice any negative side effects after drinking this tea, consider scaling back your intake or avoiding it.

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Mulling Over Mullein Leaf

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The mullein plant has been around for thousands of years. The plant is found in many parts of the world, including the United States, and has more than 200 species.

The most popular type commercially used is common mullein (Verbascum thapsus). The leaves are harvested near the bottom of the plant and used either fresh or dried to make various products.

Among the many herbal products

Herbal medicines have been around for more than 5,000 years and are still very popular around the globe. According to the American Botanical Council, the U.S. herbal product market surpassed $7 billion in sales in 2016.

About mullein oil 

Mullein oil is extracted from the flower or leaves of the plant. The oil is used as a remedy for earaches, eczema, and some other skin conditions.

One older study Trusted Source showed some benefit for ear pain based on a trial of 171 children between 5 and 18 years old with an ear infection. They were given antibiotics or herbal drops with or without a topical anesthetic.

Researchers found the herbal drops reduced pain. They also pointed out that they cost less than antibiotics and didn’t have any side effects.

Mullein oil two ways

Mullein oil can be made from either fresh or dry parts of the plant by either hot (active) or cold (passive) processing:

  • Hot oil infusion. This process involves using a double boiler technique to gently heat a carrier oil, such as olive oil, with mullein leaves or flowers for up to 3 hours. Then the product is strained and stored.
  • Cold-steeped oil. The cold process usually involves steeping dry flowers or leaves in carrier oil for 7 to 10 days.
  • The Mullein’s plant towering flower stalk with golden yellow flowers can be seen presiding over fields and open spaces throughout most of the world. The common name Mullein is a derivation of the Latin word ‘Mollis’ which means soft and refers to the texture of the leaves. The plant is native to Europe, the Mediterranean, North Africa and Asia and has been widely naturalized in North America and Australia. The first documented medicinal use can be ascribed to Dioscorides 2000 years ago who wrote about its use for pulmonary conditions. The flowers have a sweet and emollient quality and an oil infusion can be made and used externally or in a natural ear drop. The large dried flower stalk was dipped in tallow and used as a torch, and the flowers and leaves have been used as a dye for fabric and hair. Native American cultures have smoked the dried leaves in ceremonial and medicinal blends. This is a majestic and versatile plant indeed

How to Grow Mullein

Mullein is drought-resistant and grows easily from seed. Sow a small pinch of seeds about 18 inches apart and 1/16 inch deep in ordinary, well-drained soil, toward the back of the border or bed. A location in full sun is preferable, but mullein will grow in light shade. Clumps of seedlings and low rosettes will arise the first year. By the second year, the mature plants will provide a tall vertical element in the garden. Mullein self-sows readily, so take care to pull out unwanted plants to keep your mullein patch tidy.

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