Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Mullein; a Versatile Healer

Blog Party!! This month's party is hosted by Darcey Blue over at http://desertmedicinewoman.blogspot.com Check out her blog for links to all participating blogs. Enjoy!

I was driving up my road the other day and spotted the largest stand of Mullein I’ve ever seen, along the previously Roundup’d banks of a neighbor’s home. “This guy has some problems” I thought to myself, as I am a believer that what we need most grows profusely around us. This home was literally surrounded by Mullein, most of it second year and made even more spectacular by the multitude of yellow-flowered stalks rising from the poisoned ground. The vision of that bank stayed with me and prompted me to research and write this.

Not native to North America, the seed of the plant were likely brought over on early settlers’ footwear or ships’ ballast, much as Plantain was. Mullein, or Verbascum thapsus, is a biennial herb, with a rosette of leaves the first year, and shooting up a tall stalk with flowers the second. It is easily recognized by the large fuzzy leaves and the tall stalk with yellow flowers. Growing almost everywhere, Mullein prefers the sun and poor soils where the land has been abused, so it is frequently seen along roadsides and semi-bare construction areas. Other names for it are Wooly Mullein, Flannel Plant, Candle Wick, and Quaker Rouge.

Mullein has been used to treat a multitude of ailments, and the history is well documented; One well known use is for lung issues, namely colds, coughs, asthma, bronchitis, tuberculosis and Flu. Some evidence exists that the seeds were once used as a fish poison; crushing them and scattering them in water created a layer of saponins on the surface, which caused the fish to rise to the surface to be easily caught. Quaker women liked to rub the fuzzy leaves on their cheeks to impart a nice glow when being courted. The stalk, dried, can be dipped in tallow or wax and used as a torch. The leaves can even be used as emergency toilet paper, but use caution, as some folks itch terribly when the leaf comes into direct contact with skin. Hikers and folks caught out in cold weather can use the leaves to line socks and shoes for added insulation against cold.

Modern day scientists have proven its effectiveness against colds and Flu, Staph a, Staph e, and E coli, and have identified components that act directly against the viruses Herpes simplex and Influenza.

All parts of the plant have uses in medicine, except the seed, which should not be used. The root can be dug from either a first year or second year plant before it shoots up a stalk. One can make tea or tincture. It is effective for back pain and bone breaks, causing the muscles and tendons to realign the spine or breaks. It also tightens the trigone muscle at the base of the bladder to help remedy incontinence. Try it along with Kegel exercises for stress incontinence. Some Herbalists have reported it effective against Bell’s Palsy when combined with St John’s Wort.

The fuzzy leaves can be harvested at any time and used. The plant is even green over the winter here in the Appalachians. Use the leaves to poultice broken bones, make tea, tincture, or syrup (Always strain Mullein products through a coffee filter before use, as the tiny hairs can be quite irritating to the throat!) and take for colds, Flu, bronchitis, and asthma. To make a tea select about one cup of leaves with no mold spots, either dried or fresh, and simmer in a quart of water for thirty minutes, strain carefully through a coffee filter, sweeten with honey, and serve warm. A syrup can be prepared by simmering for thirty minutes and decocting until reduced by two thirds volume, then add two parts honey, glycerin, or even molasses. For a tincture I use fresh leaves, 1:1 in 100 proof alcohol. A salve can be prepared from Mullein oil, either from leaves or flowers, and used for skin infections and minor wounds, burns, herpes lesions, and bruises.

Mullein is expectorant, demulcent, and antispasmodic, so really helps with chronic cough. Some Herbalists use the leaves for back issues as well. The leaves have been smoked to relieve lung ailments, ease asthma, and quiet coughs, and it has some sedative properties that can promote sleep, making it valuable in treatment of endless coughing fits that drain the energy and keep one from rest. Use care in drying the leaves, as the thick center vein dries slowly and many a batch of dried herb has been ruined due to the still moist veins molding. I like to separate the center vein before drying, making it easier to rub the leaves to a fluffy consistency for smoking.

The flowers make the very best ear oil ever. Pick flowers from several stalks as they open, preferably in the morning after dew has dried. Drop them into a small jar and fill with olive oil. Let sit in a cool dark place for two to six weeks, strain and use. Children who are prone to earaches due to wax buildup especially benefit. Place a few drops in a child’s ear and watch as the pain goes away almost instantly. Leave the ears unplugged and allow the oil and wax to drain naturally overnight. Adding a second pillowcase or soft towel to the pillow is useful here. For infections and swimmer’s ear, try crushing a clove of garlic and adding that to your oil. It is my treatment of choice for ear mites and ear infections in my dogs too.

Watchouts and contraindications;
NEVER use the oil in ears that may have a perforated ear drum or in childrens’ ears with tubes!!!

Do not use Mullein flower oil and garlic combo on cats. Use the flower oil only and sparingly.

Avoid using Mullein if taking the drug Lithium, as it can intensify the effects.

Avoid using Mullein with muscle relaxing drugs for the same reason.
Some evidence exists that mullein is diuretic (although I have not found it to be so) and use should be avoided if taking prescription diuretics.


Kristena Haslam said...

I love mullein too. I have root harvested already, just a waitin on the flowers!

Diane Kidman said...

Mullein is "my" plant - sometimes you just connect with one! The leaves are a great relief for my asthma, and since I have a bad back I really have benefitted greatly from the root. Great article! Thanks!!!

Sarah said...

Thank you for a wonderful article with so much new information about a plant I thought I knew a little!

Rosalee de la Foret said...

A very thorough commentary - thank you!

tansy said...

wow! i have loved mullein for years but never knew the extent of its uses! i have used the flowers in ear oil and the leaves for lung ailments and in a smoking blend. thanks for telling of the other uses as well!

Aquarian Bath said...

great post :)