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Antimicrobial Properties of Mullein and Other Verbascum Species

Antimicrobial Properties Of Mullein And Other Verbascum Species

Mullein (Verbascum thapsus, V. georgicum, V. densiflorum and others) plants are a mandatory part of most herbalists gardens. There are different verbascum species that are native to a diversity of countries around the world yet all of them are used in one form or another as an antimicrobial herb. Some cultures have a tradition of using just one part of the plant while others use a blend. There are 233 species and most of them are native to Turkey. All told, when it comes to infections, the verbascum genus is a vital part of their medicine cabinet.

What Constituents are Responsible for Fighting Infection?

Verbascum species like mullein are complex creatures. They do not have only one constituent that fights bacteria, fungi and yeasts. There are a multitude of chemical compounds that work together to defeat invading microbes. Although most of the research on verbascum for coughs is on mullein (Verbascum thapsus), it is no means the only subject of scientists studies.

The list of the vast array of bacteria that verbascum species kill is growing. Most recent studies point to it as being most effective against Gram (+) bacteria such as E. coli and S. aureus. This includes antibiotic action against Streptococcus pneumoniae which is the most common bacteria that triggers childhood ear infections (otis media). The jury may be out on whether putting mullein infused oil directly in the ear canal but there is strong evidence to support it as part of an effective treatment plan.

What Constituents are Responsible for Fighting Infection?

The last decade has seen an increase in research and comprehension of botanical antimicrobial compounds. Like humans, plants have to defend themselves from infection. Evolution has offered clever venues for plants like verbascum species to produce their own medicine.
The primary metabolites that serve this function for mullein relatives are verbascoside, forsythoside B, luteolin, and luteolin-7-glucoside. These compounds fit into several definitions but chief among them is that they are flavonoids.
Flavonoids are strong antioxidants that defend cells from free radical damage and shore up the immune system of the plants. Fortunately, they do the same job for humans that consume them that they do for the herb that produced them. By relying on the natural defenses of verbascum species, herbalists are finding that this weedy genus has a lot to contribute to the world of medicine.

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.

Contraindications

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

Pharmaceutical Pharmacy: Antimicrobial Activity of Three Endemic Verbascum Species

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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