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This is Mullein, Verbascum thapsus

Mullein, aka Verbascum thapsus, has long been a favorite respiratory remedy herb. This fuzzy biennial grows happily in sunny places, often along roadsides and in ditches or on the edges of fields where the soil has been disturbed repeatedly. Mullein’s ready to take up residence in the lawn or garden, too. Pretty much, where ever Nature or Mankind needs a little room to breathe, you’ll find Mullein helping make some space for just that.

Mullein supports Easy Breathing

Folks with Asthma are rediscovering the power of our weedy cousins, including Mullein, to ease inflammation and dry irritation that accompanies or provokes an asthma attack. In truth, this moistening, soothing herb is a boon to almost all respiratory agitation, including dry and irritated coughs, infections including pneumonia and bronchitis, and irritation due to inhaled particulates like smoke and pollen.

Mullein is often included in oils to treat ear infections, too. Paired with Saint John’s Wort, Calendula, and Garlic, Mullein helps fight the infection while soothing the inflammation associated with ear infections. According to Maria Noel Groves, Mullein has also been used internally and externally to give tendons and connective tissues a little more stretch. For connective tissues blends, the flowers and the roots are often the herbalist’s choice.

Growing Mullein

Choose a sunny spot where Mullein will enjoy reasonable drainage. Sprinkle seeds generously, and wait. Mullein needs sunlight to germinate, so it’s best to plant seeds on the soil’s surface and cover them with barely a dusting of soil if at all. Riccho Czech recommends patting them in firmly both to help prevent the seeds from being carried away by the next rain and to help them connect with Mother Earth and sink their roots with confidence. Mullein is a biennial who grows in a soft, fuzzy rosette of leaves in the first year. In the second, Mullein sends up the classic flower spike to bloom a few buds at a time with small bright yellow blossoms. Mullein is considered a weedy invasive in some parts. Be aware of the regulations in your area before you plant Mullein…and be ready to harvest Mullein to keep it from spreading too far. Birds enjoy Mullein seeds! They partner to spread Mullein far and wide, making it easy for Mullein to break out of the garden and into surrounding territory.

Be Careful…Mullein has a Dangerous Look Alike

Looks alikes include foxglove, aka digitalis, and comfrey. Comfrey’s leaves tend to be larger and are far less hairy than those of Foxglove or Mullein, and Comfrey is a safe herb should you by chance mis-identify it for Mullein. Foxglove, however, can be quite deadly. This video has a great comparison between the two. It pays to get to know Mullein over the course of several years, watching the first year plants develop into second year plants with their tell-tale flower spikes, before harvesting. If you don’t have patience for waiting and watching, get a first-class herbalist or botanist to help you ensure the plants you’re thinking about picking actually are Mullein.

Herbal Nerd Society Members…Look for more articles and info on Mullein this month!

Further Resources

Grow Your Own Herbal Remedies by Maria Noel Groves.
Winter Weeds: Common Mullein

Candace Hunter

Candace Hunter is a self-taught herbalist and artist who never, ever practices on guinea pigs in part because her family and friends are generally up to the job. She is co-author of The Practical Herbalist's Herbal Folio series and author of Herbalism for the Zombie Apocalypse. She edits The Practical Herbalist website and Practical Herbalist Press publications. She has also recently entered into the field of podcasting with reckless abandon. Listen to her on Real Herbalism Radio today, see her work at CandaceHunter.com, or find her on Facebook at Candace Hunter Creations.


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