mullein large Mullein

Mullein | Verbascum thapsus

general characteristics

general characteristics

Common names include mullein, Aaron's rod, Great mullein, common mullein, candlewick, candelaria, cow lungwort amongst many others. The common name mullein is thought to derive from the Latin 'mollis' meaning soft.

A native of Europe, North Africa and Western Asia but naturalised in the US and Austraila, Mullein is a tall and stately looking biennial herb belonging to the Scrophulariaceae family (same as foxglove and figwort). In the first year it forms a base rosette of greyish green downy leaves and the flowering stalk appears in the second year, with delicate pale yellow flowers appearing from nobbly flower cases. It then sets seed and begins it life cycle all over again. It is a very tall plant growing up to 2.5 metres or so in its second year and is often seen in meadows, roadsides and waste ground, often seen along railway tracks in the UK. It prefers a sunny site with minimal water requirements.
Flower stalks can be dipped in wax, oil or animal fat and used as torches.


Organic dried leaf and tincture are available to buy in our herbal shop.

harvesting and preparation

harvesting and preparation

Mullein leaf, root and flowers are all useful medicines but the part most commonly used are the leaves.
The plant draws contaminants from deep within the soil so be very careful where you harvest from if you don't know the history of the land. You could end up adding toxins to the body. It is very easy to grow from seed however and likes poor dryish soil. It self seeds regulary, I have planted a few in the garden over the years and they pop up all over the place, often where I wouldn't expect it to.
The leaves can be gathered on a dry day when the plant is in its first or second year and the flowers gathered in the second year (when it actually flowers!). The roots should be collected in the Autumn of its first year of life when leaves are still in rosette form or early Spring in its second year. If you gather the root when the flower stalk is up then the root won't be anywhere near as effective as the whole plant is coming to the end of its life.
Lay the leaves (or flowers) on a tray or similar to dry thoroughly before crumbling and storing in an airtight jar in a cool dark place. Make sure the leaves are crispy dry before storing them as they are quick to mould if stored with any hint of moisture still in them. If collecting roots, wash and chop into useable pieces and lay out to dry in the same way.
The dried leaves make excellent firstarters, taking a spark really well.
Read how to increase flower yield! 


Organic mullein dried leaf and tincture are available to buy in our herbal shop.

therapeutic actions and uses

therapeutic actions and uses

Its overall characteristics tend towards pain releif, easing inflammation and congestive swellings, relaxation, tissue repair and strengthening and improving the immunity through its varied actions. It is cooling, and rich in mucilage which coats and soothes tissues and relieves inflammations and irritations, similar to marshmallow root in that respect.
On a subtle level, mullein is associated with protection and guidance and its energetic essence is often used by healers and spiritual seekers to act as both gaurdian and wayshower. I have heard it described as 'both key and door' which I think is beautiful. When writing this piece and thinking about all the times I have used mullein over the years , it suddenly came to me that as I do write ups for each herb I should drink the tea of that herb. I have taken a cup of mullein leaf tea over the days I have been collecting this info and can say with confidence that my voice has softened and my lungs are coughing each morning and shedding a good amount of mucous that I didn't really know was there! An all round invaluable herb to have in the house, growing in the garden or growing on some waste ground nearby.
Mullein has several medicinal uses within the body but is perhaps best known as a soothing and strengthening lung remedy. Coughs, especially dry hacking or wheezing coughs can be eased as it clears congestion and reinforces lung function. It can be taken as a tea, smoked or inhaled for conditons such as asthma, shortness of breath, emphysema, hay fever, wet pleurisy, tuberculosis, pneumonia and bronchitis or any condition where the lung function is compromised. Its antispasmodic action works well on spasmodic coughs. Mullein leaf is an important ingredient in my all purpose cough syrup formula.
It can also improve the voice and reduce hoarseness where inflammation or irritation has damaged the voice box. I can vouch for this personally too as my voice has been getting a little deeper and hoarser lately until drinking a daily cup of mullein leaf tea.
Its gentle astingency can also be applied to conditions of prolapse when taken as a tea and for bleeding from the bowels, lungs or urinary tract.
All parts of the plant used medicinally can induce a sense of relaxation and peace so can be used to reduce symptoms of tension and stress. The tea can be taken at bedtime to induce sleep, to encourage lucid dreamimg and to guard against nightmares. The dark resin from cut flower stalks is reputed to be mildly psychoactive and to taste and smell like vanilla.
The flowers (especially mullein flower infused oil) are particularly suited to problems with the ears such as earache, Menieres disease, tinnitus, vertigo and dizziness, cattarhal deafness and congestion.  To make mullein flower oil, pick some handfuls of the flowers and allow to dry for several hours before placing in a small jar and topping up with olive oil. Cap tightly and leave in the sun for a month before straining out the flowers. Store the oil in a dark cool place. Around 3-5 drops of gently warmed oil can be dropped in the ears and plugged with a little cotton wool. I have used this on my children over the years with good results and it also eases the distressing pain asociated with earaches.
Clears excess moisture from the tissues so can be added to formulas for water retention and general oedema. In easterm medicine mullein is used to drain excess dampness form the bladder and kidneys. It is interesting that it has drying properties in excess watery states and yet is also lubricating and moisturising to dry tissues.
Mullein root and/or leaves have gained great respect more recently from herbalists for correcting spinal mis-alignment, back injuries, general backache, 'slipped' discs, joint problems. It lubricates synovial joints and encourages better movement as well as promoting tissue strength, tissue building, repairing and healing and easing pain and inflamation. Matthew Wood highly rates mullein for its ability to reset broken bones and damaged joints etc back into their proper place - he concludes this is due to its lubricating actions that allow tissues / bones to easily slide back to their natural position. It is also helpful for nerve pains (neuralgia) where nerves are inflammed or irritated.
Anthelmintic, tapeworms and roundworms link.
Mullein is also a lymphatic system cleanser and useful for relieving swollen glands and lymph nodes anywhere in the body, including lumps in the breast and mastitis and swollen lymph glands or nodes in the armpits, groin and back of the knees. Conditions of enlarged glands in the neck and throat like tonsilitis, quinsy, mumps and even swollen testicles and orchitis can benefit from mullein. The flowers and/or leaves are particulary good for this purpose.
The fresh leaves, wilted in boiling water can be used as a wrap/poultice (or taken as a tea) for swellings, inflammations, haemorrhoids, varicose veins, cysts and abscess (flower oil can work for these too), to help speed repair of broken or damaged bones or connective tissue such as tendons, ligaments etc. and to ease pain from those conditions.
Antibacterial against Trichomonas vaginalis, a sexually transmitted vaginal infection here. Mullein leaves have been used to wrap and preserve fruits such as figs as they delay putrefaction.
Mullein flower tea has shown to be anti-viral against certain influenza strains.
Mullein is also very useful for problems relating to the skin such as burns & scalds, ringworm, bites, bruises, skin ulcers, the leaves and flower infused oil being best for these purposes.
Other historical uses for mullein inlude the root to alleviate toothache, fresh leaves placed in the socks to protect feet and keep them warm, flower tea to colour hair blonde, and the seeds crushed and thrown in water to stun fish making them easier to catch.
Mullein root can be used with very good results for urinary disorders such as urinary tract infections, interstitial cystitis and urinary incontinence as a tea or tincture. Especially useful for urinary incontinence during menopause (due to drop in oestrogen), pregnancy, bedwetting in children (or adults) and for benign prostate enlargement with its resulting urinary difficulties.
Mullein root also has a good reputation in the sucessful treatment of Bells palsy and cases of facial neuralgia.
Herbalist Kiva Rose shares her deep knowledge of the multi-level healing powers of mullein.
An experience based article on the versatility and many medicinal uses of mullein by herbalist Jim McDonald
A beautiful and informative blog post on all things mullein from the Sacred Gardener can be found here.

dosage and cautions

dosage and cautions

* Mullein is considered a very safe herb suitable for longer term use over weeks and months. Be careful when handling the fresh or dried leaves though as the tiny hairs on the leaves can become quite irritating to some sensitive individuals, even causing a dermatitis like reaction when handled. Strain the tea through a muslin or similar fine cloth before drinking.




Tincture (leaf): 2 mls up to 3 times daily

Dried leaf in tea form: up to 1 teaspoon of leaves per cup, up to 3 times daily. Strain through a cloth, paper coffee filter or very fine strainer to filter out the tiny hairs.

Mullein root tincture: 7 drops up to 3 times daily

Mullein root tea: Put 4 tablespoons of root in a pan with 2 pints of water and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Drink between 4-8 fluid ounces up to four times daily.

Mullein flowers: up to 3 g per cup, up to 3 cups daily.


Add 12 to the child’s age. Divide the child’s age by the total.
E.g. dosage for a 4 year old...... 4 {age} divided by 16 {age + 12} = . 25  or 1/4 of the adult dosage.

Child watering plants




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