Mullein is one of the most commonly noticeable wild foraged herbs. The medicinal uses of mullein (Verbascum thapsus) are vast when it comes to respiratory and lung health. It even has antiviral and antibacterial properties. There are over 200 species of mullein, but common mullein is most often used for smoking mullein, mullein tea, and mullein tinctures.
Common Names: common mullein, Candlewick Plant, Torches, Our Lady’s Flannel, Shepherd’s Staff, lady foxglove, Beggar’s Stalk (there are many more throughout history).
Parts Used: leaf, flower, root
In this article, we’ll go over the medicinal uses of mullein, how to smoke mullein (with an herbal smoking mullein recipe), how to use mullein for ear aches, and more. We will also talk about the history of the plant and how it’s proving great promise through research in the fight against Tuberculosis and other mycobacterial infections.
The History of Mullein
Mullein has been cultivated in large scales for centuries. It is one of the easiest wild herbs to grow, as it grows in soil that isn’t well fertilized. In Ireland, mullein was cultivated extensively, and it was even sold in the capital’s best chemist shops (and still is). It’s still largely used today, especially with growing concerns of antibiotic resistant bacterias.
In the late 19th-century, a pharmaceutical trial showed that the herb was beneficial in cases of tuberculosis. Dr. Quinlan of St. Vincent’s hospital in Dublin, Ireland noted that it was a trusted popular remedy in Ireland for tuberculosis. The study stated that 6 out of 7 cases were successful in the treatment of tuberculosis by smoking mullein or drinking mullein tea.
Mullein has been used by cultures across the world for centuries, including native Americans, Europeans, Israelis, and Asians. It can be found even throughout desert regions like Northern Africa, Egypt, Ethiopia, and India.
In the Middle Ages, mullein was used for skin and lung health in both cattle and humans. It is an herb that truly stretches across all generations and cultures.
The medicinal uses of mullein are far and wide, with extensive uses for tuberculosis and respiratory ailments affecting the lungs. Cultures have also turned to smoking mullein for cough and asthma. Using the flower stalks as torches, and as a medicinal ear ache cure when made into an infused oil, were also not uncommon.
How to Grow Mullein
Growing mullein is fairly easy. Simply plant the mullein seeds in the late fall in sandy or rocky soil. Cover them with a thin layer of mulch or soil without sowing them into the ground too far. The seeds will germinate when it’s time for them to grow in the spring. Mullein likes to be in full sun, so make sure you’re planting accordingly.
If you didn’t sow mullein seeds in the fall, you can start mullein seeds indoors to transplant after the last frost of the season.
How to Harvest & Wild Forage for Mullein
If you prefer to wild forage for mullein, you’ll find it growing in most pastures, along roadsides, in prairies, and in gullies where there is full sun. The most sustainable way to forage for and harvest mullein is to find the fuzzy leaves in the spring time and harvest them before the flower stalk starts to shoot up when the weather gets very warm.
While you can still harvest the leaves from the stalk once it matures, it’s best to use tender, young leaves. However, I still harvest all of the leaves, even off of mature plants.
To sustainably wild forage and harvest, you’ll need to cut the leaves and tops of the mullein plant off and leave the root so that it comes back each year. Mullein is a biennial plant, which means it grows small the first year without a large flower stalk. The second year and subsequent years, it will throw up a large flower stalk. It may not flower every single year, but every other year.
If you choose to use the root of mullein, simply replant seeds as necessary. If harvesting mullein root, I just pull the entire plant out of the ground when its mature and hang to dry, much like you would tobacco plants. This way I’m harvesting every medicinal part of the plant at one time. In fact, Native Americans used to refer to mullein as as a tobacco alternative.
Once harvested, allow the mullein to dry out by hanging the entire plant in a dry place, or near a window. If you’re only harvesting the leaves, you can place them on a drying rack or dehydrate them. Wash the mullein root very well, then allow the root to dry off and cure for about a week.
Store the herb in an airtight container for up to 18-months.
Medicinal Uses of Mullein
More studies are needed to scientifically prove some of the things mullein has been used for in folk medicine for centuries. But medical professionals and herbalists across the globe can’t deny its amazing medicinal properties. While I often prefer to share only scientific evidence based herbalism, there are some herbs that simply haven’t been studied enough to share about.
However, some herbs have been used so extensively, and written about so vastly, that they are worth sharing. Mullein is one of those herbs that I feel comfortable sharing.
Let’s go over the medicinal uses of mullein.
Mullein has the following medicinal uses:
(works against both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria)
(which can help inhibit the development of cancer)
- helps treat pneumonia
- helps treat staph infections
- helps treat e. coli
(helps release the body of mucus in the respiratory tract)
- relieves asthma
- treats gout (when used as a poultice)
- antispasmodic (meaning, it suppresses muscle spasms)
- treats respiratory catarrh (gets rid of mucus build up in the lungs)
(natural moisturizer, adds moisture externally the same way a demulcent does internally)
(relieves inflammation in mucus membranes by creating a film and moisturizing the respiratory tract)
- genitourinary tract health (urinary tract issues)
- helps treat herpes simplex virus
- helps treat fowl plague virus
- eases sore throat
- eases migraines
- helps with gastrointestinal issues
- treats otitis media
(inner ear inflammatory disease or ear infection)
How to Smoke Mullein
As you can see from the lengthy list of medicinal uses for mullein above, mullein is most well known for its antibacterial properties. Many of the issues listed above are due to bacteria. Mullein is the herb you should keep on hand at all times, especially for bacterial issues that could arise.
Other than bacteria, mullein is most well known for its ability to heal the respiratory system. Through every single culture and demographic, this has always been what is is most used for.
What many people don’t realize is that smoking mullein for respiratory ailments is extremely easy and safe. While herbalists don’t recommend smoking mullein every day, you can absolutely smoke it as needed during a respiratory ailment such as influenza, bronchitis, pneumonia, coronaviruses, asthma attacks, and more.
Herbal Mullein Smoking Blend for Respiratory Ailments
Use mullein leaf as your base, then add in other herbs to your liking. Remember that long term smoking of any plant is not healthy for your lungs and respiratory system. However, smoking herbal blends infrequently, or in times of respiratory ailments, is completely safe.
Here’s what you’ll need:
2 tbs mullein leaf, dried
2 tsp peppermint leaf, dried
2 tsp thyme leave, dried
1 tsp water
- In a small bowl, try to shred your herbs together. You can use a pestle and mortar or simply do it by hand. Make sure you get them fine enough to fit into a pipe or paper roll.
- Spritz your herbal blend with just a bit of water. This will help the blend be more palatable. You want the herbs to be moist, but not at all soaking. They should feel naturally smooth. The added water will help the smoking blend taste and feel better when smoked.
- Add as much of the mixture as you can to your smoking pipe, or roll them into non-bleached organic rolling paper. Smoke as needed, though try not to exceed every 2 hours.
- Do not exceed smoking the herbal mix for more than 2 weeks. If symptoms persist, seek medical attention.
Dosing for Mullein
Use 3-4 grams of cut herb for teas and other internal uses.
In a tincture — 1:5 (g/ml): 7.5-10 ml, twice daily
Contraindication Notes about the Medicinal Uses for Mullein
There are no known adverse side effects of mullein.
As with any plant, contact dermatitis could happen if you are allergic to the plant.
It has been reported that mullein could interact with anti-diabetic drugs, so please consult your physician before taking.