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Breath Deep with Cough Reducing Mullein

Breath Deep With Cough Reducing Mullein

Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) is famous for its cough reducing abilities. It is a common weed through both the northern and southern hemisphere which increases it’s accessibility. It is easy to preserve or process. Most importantly, it works well to reduce different types of coughs in a vast variety of forms. Other species of Verbascum can be used interchangeably.

What Kinds of Coughs Does Mullein Reduce?

There are 3 basic types of coughs. A dry cough, a wet cough and paroxysmal cough. The dry cough is defined by its raspy sound and lack of expectorant. A wet cough is a productive cough, meaning that it expels mucus or phlegm through the airways. Paroxysmal cough is an persistent cough that is violent and uncontrollable. It can be caused by anything from asthma to choking to COPD.  Among these paroxysmal coughs are whooping cough which is the result of a pertussis infection. It is a hard cough that produces a “whooping” sound as the patient tries to draw breath. This is a dangerous cough (particularly in children) that requires the immediate attention of a qualified healthcare practitioner.

Coughs can be acute, subacute or chronic. They are loosely defined by its duration. Acute coughs generally last no more than 3 weeks. A subacute cough lasts 3 to 8 eight weeks. A chronic cough lasts for more than 8 weeks.

Mullein flower is frequently used for chronic, dry coughs. It is soothing and full of beneficial bioflavonoids. Mullein leaf is used for both wet and dry coughs as it extracts congested phlegm and replaces it fresh, healthy mucous. Paroxysmal cough are best treated by mullein that is a part of formulas. Since it is not contraindicated with prescription medicine, it makes a nice compliment to a traditional care protocols.

How Does Mullein Help?

Mullein contains triterpene saponins including verbascosaponin. This saponin is noted as one of many that work as an expectorant and a secretolytic agent. In layman’s terms, it helps pull mucus out of the air passages and break down phlegm. These 2 actions work together to destroy the blockage of mucus in the throat and sinuses while encouraging the infected material out of the body.

Western Formulas

Mullein is a powerful anti-spasmodic herb that when coupled with its antimicrobial properties assures its place in these formulas. It is a good companion to other moistening herbs such as marshmallow, plantain, Irish moss, Icelandic moss, or licorice. Warming herbs like ginger are often blended with mullein to stimulate circulation. Traditional cough suppressant herbs like lobelia or elecampane may be used as well.

Forms and Dosage

Mullein is widely available for medicinal use. Commercially, it is available as a tea, tincture, infused oil, salve or syrup. The leaves and flowers can be purchased separately. “Whole plant” is usually the root and leaf before it has flowered with the flower tincture added later to the mixture. Mullein flower is used primarily for wet, productive coughs. Mullein leaf is used for either wet coughs or dry coughs as it moistens the airways while breaking down compacted phlegm. The whole plant is usually seen in generic cough formulas as either a syrup or a tincture. Capsules are usually just or primarily mullein leaf. The salves and oils are primarily used for their antibiotic properties.


There is no evidence that mullein is contraindicated with any medication or for any health condition. Be sure to talk to your certified healthcare provider before adding it to your health regime if you are pregnant or nursing.

Further Research on Mullein

Journal of Medicinal Plant Studies: Antimicrobial potential of the leaves of common mullein (Verbascum thapsus L., Scrophulariaceae) on microorganisms isolated from urinary tract infections

Science Direct: Verbascum

NCBI: Risks and Benefits of Commonly used Herbal Medicines in México

Sue Sierralupe

Sue Sierralupé is a Certified Master Herbalist, Master Gardener and Sustainable Landscape Specialist. She is the clinic manager and lead herbalist at Occupy Medical clinic. Sue is author of The Pocket Herbal: Medicinal Plants that Changed the World and co-author of The Practical Herbalist Herbal Folios series. Follow her blog at Herbalism Manifesto for commentary on herbs, parenting, nutrition and a whole lot more.

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