Common mullein is widely and abundantly distributed throughout Europe,temperate Asia into the Himalayas, and North America. Ancient Greeks used mullein for both physical and emotional matters of the heart. Early North American colonists drank it to treat coughs, bronchitis, and asthma. Ayurvedic healers prescribe mullein for coughs. American Indians used it this way and a multitude of others.
Mullein leaves are demulcent, emollient, and astringent, making them an excellent tonic for the entire respiratory system. A daily cup of dried mullein leaf infusion is a great way to soothe chronic bronchial problems. Two cups daily effectively clears lung congestion, relieves throat inflammation and irritation, and helps to control coughing.
A poultice made from plant material strained from the infusion helps soothe a sore throat and congested chest. Mullein blends well with other lung herbs such as coltsfoot, hyssop, thyme, and comfrey. Long used as a smoking herb, mullein is inhaled to heal lung tissue, open up air passageways, and stop asthma attacks. The Hopi, Malecite, Mohican, Navajo, and Potawatomi treated asthma this way.
Ojibwa used the inner bark of mullein roots to stimulate the heart. Mullein leaves were widely used by indigenous peoples to treat lung disorders, and were commonly applied as a warm poultice to sprains, painful joints and inflammations, swollen glands, cancers, tumors and warts. To relieve the pain of gout, Lumbee soaked their feet in an infusion of mullein leaves. Indians of the Western Plains used mullein as an antispasmodic and a pain reliever.
Infused mullein flower oil has strong bacteriostatic properties. For centuries, grandmothers have used it to relieve painful ear infections. Mullen's golden-yellow flowers open up one at a time, all along the tall, stately stalk of the second year mullein plant. I gather them as they bloom and put them into a small jar of olive oil to infuse for six weeks. After careful straining, I put one drop of oil into ears that ache or are inflamed. I'm always amazed at how quickly it works to relieve pain, allowing the child to fall back asleep. Never use anything in the ear if there is a chance the eardrum could be perforated.
Mullein is an herb of protection. It blesses any garden or wild place it inhabits. Old wives suggest we carry a mullein leaf as a talisman of safety. Mullein stalks have long been used to start sacred fires. Our ancient European ancestors dipped then into tallow and set them afire as torches on Halloween.
I take mullein flower essence when I need to acknowledge and access inner guidance, and be true to myself.
Mullein is an easy plant to grow and beautiful to have around the garden. The woolly green leaves of this easily recognizable biennial plant grow in a basal rosette the first year. Although I do gather it wild, for years now I have seriously encouraged students to bring mullein seeds home instead of wild harvesting. This year, a huge, three-spiked plant from wild seed graces the corner of our garden. The harvest we use for medicine now comes from plants we've grown ourselves.
Walking in the early summer evenings, we often come upon giant mullein plants standing watch over us. Some flowering spikes reach over six feet tall. Mullein loves dry, sandy soil, and I've seen beautiful mullein growing in pure gravel!
Harvest mullein leaves anytime until it sends up its flowering spike and dry them for infusions or poultices.
Make a Ritual Sprinkler
Collect some water reverently, even if you collect it at the Supermarket or the kitchen sink. Wth deep respect, gather a bunch or fresh herbs. Dip your bundle of herbs into this water made by your reverence. Sprinkle droplets into all corners of your home to create sacred space.
When many people
gather wild plants, plant
populations may rapidly
dwindle for future gener-
ations. To ensure plenty,
bring seeds from wild
species to your garden
where you can then
gather and propagate
without disturbing the
wild plant populations.
Mullein is a prominent ingredient in our Breathe Deep Herb Tea and is also in our Decongestant Formula.