Great Mullein

(Verbascum thapsus)

Other Names:
Mullein, Old Mans Flannel


Scrophulariaceae – Figwort or Snapdragon family

Growth Type:
A biennial plant

First year plants form a reclining basal rosette. Second year plant can grow up to 8 ft tall or higher under optimal conditions; although 3-5 ft tall is typical.

The plant produces a large rosette of fuzzy, gray-green leaves the first year, and an attractive spike of light yellow flowers the second year. The leaves are large, oval shaped, and extremely hairy, even flannel like.

The second year flower stalk is erect, and quite large, growing up to 8ft in height. The end of the stalk has a spike fully of tiny yellow flowers.

Taproot and hairy root mass

Flower Season:
Summer persisting into Autumn

Flower Appearance:
The second year flower stalk is erect, and quite large, growing up to 8ft in height. The end of the stalk has a spike fully of tiny yellow flowers. The dried flower stalk can persist throughout the winter, and can be used as a drill for fire making, or as a survival arrow shaft.

Seeds from the second year plant are small and quite numerous.

Miscellaneous characteristics:
This common plant is often missed, but I have no idea how, as it is so large, it grows practically everywhere, and is really quite beautiful. The blossoms and seeds contain a small amount of saponin. This is useful in a survival situation because it works to temporarily paralyze fish.

Abandoned homesteads, disturbed soils, fields, waste areas, and forest margins.

Parts Used:
Flowers, Leaves, Roots

Wild Food Uses:
None Known

The following text is meant for informational purposes only. It is not meant to diagnose or treat any illness or injury. Always consult with a physician or other qualified medical care provider concerning the diagnosis and treatment of any illness or injury.

Medicinal Uses:
A tea, decoction, or tincture made from mullein leaves is used to treat a host of lung ailments. A decoction made from 1oz dried leaves, or corresponding amount of fresh leaves boiled for 7-10 minutes in a pint of water yields a decoction that, when strained to remove the tiny hairs, is excellent at alleviate coughs, bronchitis, lung congestion, and symptoms of asthma.

Native Americans smoked the leaves to alleviate coughing, bronchitis, and asthma. I have personally used mullein tincture to treat colds, and asthma. I use mullein in a tonic I use to treat colds. Taken at the first signs of a cold, this formula has proven highly effective at "nipping a cold in the bud". It has also proven to lessen the length and severity of colds.

I use a mixture of mullein and goldenrod tinctures to treat seasonal allergies. A friend of mine had a severe sinus infection that would not respond to antibiotics. He took a tincture of Verbascum thapsus I gave him, and in two days his sinuses were clear.

The plant is listed as an Antitussive, meaning that it quiets coughs. This is a bit of a misnomer, as it does not work as a normal cough suppressant, in that it does not act on the brain. It rather soothes the mucus membranes of the sinuses, eliminating sinus drainage, which in turn eliminates that dry scratchy cough. It also soothes the mucus membranes of the throat and lungs, and it helps eliminate excess mucus from the lungs. My favorite recipe is to boil 1/3 cup each of dried Mullein and Mallow (May substitute 2/3 cup Mullein for Mallow) in 4 cups of water for about 15 minutes. I then pour the mixture through a strainer to remove the plant material, and then give a final strain through a plastic mesh coffee filter to remove the fine Mullein hairs. A cup of this decoction sweetened with sugar or honey is a wonderful remedy for upper respiratory problems, or as a daily treatment for asthma.

All it takes to make a highly effective cough syrup is a bunch of mullein flowers, some sugar, and a little water. I like to use dried flowers and flower spikes. Start by picking the blooming flower heads from five or six mullein plants (all flowers need not be in bloom). Drying in a food dehydrator will speed the process, but you can also dry manually by breaking each flower from the stalk, and setting in the sun or a warm dry place for a few days.

Mullein flowers infused in Olive Oil is an excellent remedy for ear infections. It is highly effective for both humans and pets. It is also an excellent treatment for ear mites in dogs and cats. This is one of my favorite medicinal plants.

Medicinal Actions:
Antiasthmatic, Antibacterial, Anticatarrhal, Anti-Infective, Anti-Inflammatory, Antimicrobial, Antispasmodic, Antitussive, Demulcent, Expectorant, Lymphatic, Pectoral

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