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.
Are smoking or making a tea the only ways to consume Mullin? How would you prepare it for use with ear aches? Can it be used topically on rashes?
You can consume it in capsules, in tea, in a tincture etc. Just like with most herbs. For ear aches you’d make an infused oil, which you can learn about making here — http://thefewellhomestead.com/how-to-make-herbal-lotion-bars/
It can be used topically on rashes by making a poultice.
Is there a definitive book you might recommend that, or a few books that I can purchase that shows how to make all these medicines as a prepper? Thank you.
Common Mullein is an invasive species, with serious ecological impacts and definitely should NOT be planted in any case due to how far it can spread, and how it changes ecosystems and their natural progression. I would love if this was mentioned in your article to help educate. It’s medicinal properties are great tho and I hope you continue to use and hand pull this plant when you see it!
Amy K. Fewell says
properly managed mullein is just fine to cultivate 😉
Tim Antrim says
I love my invasive plants. My jewel weed, horse tail and mullein reward me every year for not messing with them. Invasive plants, otherwise known as weeds, are a sign of the soil healing itself. The best way to get rid of many invasive plants is to feed the soil. Little known fact is that many weeds like poison ivy and morning glory can’t survive when the soil becomes too rich.
Hi, do you only use the dried young leaves for making the tincture? Thanks for all the great articles!
I use dried leaves in general, young or older
Mrs Clare Neal says
I Have hypersensitivity pneumonitis which flares often ans puts me in hospital. Would this help as my illness is caused by inflammation in my lungs to triggers but at yet they haven’t found which ones are triggering flares. I’ve nearly died 9 times in 3 years sow to this issue and now I have 3 to8 years left as its progressing. Can this give me help.
Tanya Couchman says
Hello Clare, When I saw your post I just had to respond. Sounds very similar to me but everyone’s situation is different. Back in 2017 I had Acute hypersenitivity pneumonitis and spent 3 weeks in intensive care. And yes nearly killed me. I was told what saved my life, I was in good health to begin with. My lungs went all over the country via telehealth and every expert stated they never saw such bad lungs and “couldn’t believe I was still alive” My trigger was a spraying farmer. I’ve since educated myself on this and it has been proven that these sprays can drift for many miles and still cause damage. I can only imagine what the planes are doing. This farmer is close by and his cocktail of chemicals drifted on our property. I was the main one in our family who was the sickest due to being in the garden daily. I lost many of my 52 herbs and other plants, lost livestock and other family members got sick as well. I’m very cautious and only use and eat organic. On to Mullein. I use it frequently and it is very helpful for me but you will have to determine what works for you. I also combine as a lung tea of mullein, white horehound and lemon balm. I sweeten with honey, very soothing. There are many herbs that are healing and soothing to the lungs and respiratory health. This tea is just one option that I use and find helpful. Some of the other greats that I use Licorice, elecampane and oregano those are options that work for me. Take care, my prayers are with you, Tanya
What a useful response! thank you !
Amber Norris says
The thing you said in the YouTube video about making a tincture from mullein does not extract the mucilage does that apply to all mucilaginous herbs? What about a glycerin extraction? Also what oil is best for infusing for ear ache oil?
I use olive oil
Loved your video Amy thank you!
I just pulled out what was left of my mullein from the summer from under 8 inches of snow !and it’s actually still plump and soft (bottom three sets of leaves and a rosette)…I currently have viral bronchitis and I’m really struggling and don’t want to do inhalers/steroids….do you think a plant this old should be made into tea ?…or smoked it would probably take too long to dry for use now.?
Would so appreciate any wisdom, thank you from Ontario Canada
Hey there! I think the plant is fine as long as it was still vibrantly green and very much alive. Otherwise, I would toss it.
hi 🙂 I have freshly picked leaves, but how should I clean them before I use them? I plan to dry some out to use and keep some fresh so I can use them for tea 🙂 I’ve never used mullein but as an aspiring herbalist I’m excited to finally be making progress!
I just brush mine off and use them in a little tea steeper
Armenta Lou mellecker, sr says
can I make a tea out of the fresh leaves? I would be comfortable drying them for tea but if i can crush them and steep them while they are just up now I will if that is okay.
Amy K. Fewell says
Debbra J Walter says
I have had to use Mullein leaf for many years. I have moderate to severe asthma. Mullein leaf helps me better than my medicine, and nearly as well as my rescue inhaler. Since my kitty mistook my fingernail for one of her treats I have had no problem with infection. Thank you Mullein.
Patricia Ritchie says
I have 9ft. Mullein that is now (July 28) past its peak and looking raggedy. I want it to return next year. Somewhere I read that I should cut the stem off but leave the rosette at the bottom. Is that correct? Do I use the yellow flowers in the tea also? (They are mostly gone now, but I will be prepared for next year. )
Amy K. Fewell says
Mullein is a bienniel, so don’t be surprised if it doesn’t flower the following year. It will be ok whether you cut it down or not. I would cut the stem off though, and leave the rosette, as you mentioned.
Susan Kedzie says
Hi – where can I find out about processing the root? And the flowers? I have a ton of mullein growing at my house and would like to prepare it for this winter. Thank you, Susan
Thanks so much for all the information. Our property is filled with Mullen and this will be my first harvest. (Better late then never)
My question is how much leaves do you put in a tea to start, obviously a small amount to start but then how many leaves for a normal tea? And I can dehydrate the root as well to put in the tea too? Lastly how long do I dehydrate in a dehydrator?
I’ve joined your mailing list and would love to join your class in January! Looking forward to it!
Renee Trepanier says
found information useful. First time harvester of mullen.
Charlie Bryan says
Hey Amy, I just saw your video on mullein usage on YouTube. Is the tea or smoking it better? I haven’t found any around in north florida area. I found a buyer on Amazon. I have upper respiratory issues i think from this junk. Ive been having a hard time clearing out my lungs. Will this really work for my ailments to clear out the mucus and inflammation? Im kind of new to this. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you😊🙏🏻
Hi. Will this help with covid pneumonia? And can I drink mullein tea to help? Also, I am on antibiotics for the pneumonia. Is there any reason not to use this while on antibiotics? Thank you.
A while ago I kept goats, one of which had horns. She was the best milker, so I bred her to a non-horned Billy, but within a week or so of their birth it was evident that her twins were also going to have horns. So I took them to a veterinarian and had the horn buds removed. Little goats are bouncy, however, and the little girl kept knocking the scabs off and bleeding a lot.
I used a mullen poultice, both for its antibiotic qualities AND because it stopped the bleeding and helped her head heal faster.
Shelly Lecher says
Where can I buy seeds at?
I just ordered some from Etsy.
I just picked a pod from a few plants that live in a bulky gravel behind a bridge on my street. I’ve had mullein ever since. It’s literally everywhere in rural areas. Might be worth the drive in gas vs cost of seeds. Just watch for plants that might be sprayed with a plant killer. Happy foraging!
Gyhany Caine says
I’ve been using mullein leaves as tea for several months. I had COVID in December 2020 and still struggling with my lungs. Mullein is helping tremendously, but I need a lot to keep my lungs clear [at least 10 tsp of crushed leaves/day]. While I was reading on it I noticed it’s also good for the bladder. I have chronic/debilitating Interstitial Cystitis and I am on a mixed herbs tincture for years, but I didn’t know about Mullein for the bladder. Which part of the plant do you suggest for the bladder? Any suggestions would be welcome. TY
Thank you for your very informative video. A friend of mine has an allergy to cedar trees that usually flares up nov to feb. Could this be taken orally to aid that. Also you stated it helps fight gram pos and neg. Is this for oral use? Could it be used for ear infection?
Please post any info you have on using the flowers. I just harvested and dried those. Thank you!
I wanted to print this article about Mullein but I don’t see a print key. I only see fb YouTube and pin