It is a native to Britain with various species found throughout Europe, Asia, the Himalayas and India. It has naturalized itself throughout the United States.
Other names blanket herb, Aaron’s rod, Jupiter’s staff, candlewick plant, etc. The names usually refer to the tall flowering spike which in medieval times was dipped in tallow and set aflame as a torch in the evening.
The flowers contain a yellow volatile oil, fatty acid, free malic and phosphoric acids, malate and phosphate of lime, acetate of potash, uncrystalizable sugar, gum, chlorophyl and a yellow resinous matter. The leaves contain 8% of crystalline wax, a trace of volatile oil, 78% resin soluble in ether, small quantity of tannin, a bitter principle, sugar, mucilages, etc. 5.9% moisture and 12.6% ash. Like other members of the family it contains saponins, mucilage, carbohydrate including dextrin, glucose, saccharose, moisture, ash and 32.7% cellulose and lignin.
Properties: It is classified as a demulcent, emollient, diuretic, anodyne, narcotic, antiseptic, bacterioside, vermicide, alterative, antiasthmatic, anticatarrhal, antispasmodic and vulnerary.
Uses: The root can be used as a febrifuge. A decoction of the root in either water or wine is useful for the treatment of fevers of all kinds. The same decoction gargled will relieve toothache. If red hot steel is quenched in a hot decoction of mullein that preparation is useful for treating bleeding dysentery as well as increasing urination.
While seldom used these days it is a potent lymphatic drainer and a decoction of both the root and the leaves can be topically applied as a fomentation for tumors, swollen glands, including enlarged thyroid gland and throat inflammation.
The seeds have narcotic properties and can be used to poison fish. The seeds together with the leaves boiled in wine can be applied topically to draw out splinters and thorns embedded in the flesh. Since the narcotic properties are particularly concentrated in the seeds, when crushed and boiled in wine the can be topically applied as a fomentation to relieve pains in any joint or painful area of the body.
The leaves are used for upper respiratory conditions including asthma, emphysema, coughs, bronchitis, etc. The can be macerated in olive or sesame oil and the oil applied topically to allay inflammation.
A handful of fresh leaves boiled down to a pint of milk is sweetened, strained and can be taken at bedtime to relieve cough, remove pain and irritability. An oil made by macerating the fresh flowers in olive oil is used as ear drops to relive earache. This oil can also be used topically to relieve the pain and inflammation of hemorrhoids. A handful of the dried and powdered flowers will assuage intestinal pains and inflammations.
The powder of the dried flowers is also beneficial for various intestinal pains and colic. Culpepper describes how a decoction of mullein with sage, marjoram and chamomile is very effective for treating colds, stiff joints and menstrual cramps. Three ounces of mullein flowers taken as a tea 3 times daily is very effective treatment for gout. Dr. Shook regards it as an important remedy for tuberculosis and recommends the following preparation:
Infusion of Mullein Leaf:
- 1 ounce freshly mullein leaves
- 1 1/2 pint of distilled water.
- Boil the water and pour over the leaves.
- Cover and let steep for 15 minutes.
- Strain through a muslin to avoid the hairs going into the tea which can be irritating to the throat.
- Sweeten with honey to taste or add 1 ounce of glycerine.
- Cool, bottle and store in a cool place.
- Take a half to one cup 3 or 4 times daily between meals.
- Children less according to age.
This is useful for acute and chronic coughs, bronchitis, spitting blood, asthma, emphysema and all pulmonary diseases. It is also effective for hemorrhage of the lungs, stomach and intestines or topically for wound healing. For more advanced conditions it is combined in decoction with comfrey and garlic.
Strong Decoction of Mullein:
- 4 ounces mullein leaves and flowers, equal parts
- 3 pints of distilled water
- Boil slowly for 15 minutes.
- Press strain and continue boiling to reduce the liquor to 1 pint.
- Add 4 ounces of glycerine, cool, bottle and store in a cool place.
- Take one tablespoonful 3 or 4 times daily.
- For children, add honey to taste and give 1 teaspoonful. This is four times the strength of the infusion and being non-toxic, it can be taken in larger dosage.
- Its narcotic principle is not well known but contributes to its calming and pain relieving properties.
- Culpepper describes earlier uses that included relieving spasms, cramps, convulsions, It is very effective alone or with comfrey leaves for spitting blood from the lungs.