Great Mullein

(Verbascum thapsus)

Other Names:
Old man’s flannel, flannel leaf, beggar's blanket, velvet plant, felt-wort, witch's candle, donkey's ears, hag's taper, candlewick plant, torches, cowboy toilet paper, and Quaker rouge.


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:
The second year plant flowers in summer, and persists into Autumn.

Flower Appearance:
The flower stalk is erect, and quite large, growing up to 8ft in height. The end of the stalk has a spike full of tiny yellow flowers each up to 1 inch across. 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, black, 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 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:
Mullein is wonderful at treating lung ailments. It has been used as an effective treatment for Tuberculosis. A tea, decoction, or tincture made from mullein leaves is used to treat a host of lung ailments. Boiling 2oz of fresh leaves, or 1oz of dried leaves, for 15-20 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. Preparations mixed with mallow (Malva neglecta) are my favorite for treating lung ailments.

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 formula 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 and tones 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 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 and some sugar. Place a ½” layer of sugar into the bottom of a mason jar. Top that with a ½” layer of fresh mullein flowers. Repeat this process until the jar is filled to within ½” from the top. Cover the jar, and place it in a sunny location for a month. The resulting mullein syrup is an excellent, and delicious, remedy for coughs.

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 all-time favorite medicinal plants.

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

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