The medical community in the Western world is slowly accepting the therapeutic properties of herbs. Prior to this it was only the physicians in the East who used them. One of the most popular herbs is the Mullein - Verbascum thapsus. It belongs to the Scrophulariaceae family. Mullein is also known as Adam's Flannel, Beggar's Blanket, Bullock's Lungwort, Bonhomme, Jupiter's Staff, Molene, Pano, Sigirkuyrugu, Velvet Dock and Velvet Plant. The main reason for its popularity is that it is extremely versatile and used in a host of cases. Mullein has been used as an anodyne, demulcent, expectorant, diuretic and as an anti-spasmodic drug. The down on the leaves and stem makes it an excellent tinder when quite dry, which ignites readily at the slightest spark. Therefore, before the introduction of cotton, it was used for lamp wicks, hence it is also known as the Candlewick Plant. Some of the constituents of Mullein are Mucopolysaccharides, Flavonoids, Saponins and Volatile oil.
Mullein is found in Haiti, India, South America, Spain and Turkey. In the United States it occurs along roadsides, fields and barren areas. Mullein thrives in sunny uncultivated fields, waste ground and on dry soils. It has traditionally and currently used for cough, especially dry night cough, ear pain, urinary irritation and pain. It is an herb that is consumed most during the flu season. The Latin name Verbascum is considered to be a corruption of barbascum, from the Latin barba (a beard), in allusion to the shaggy foliage of the plant. Mullein preparations were used during the Middle Ages as a remedy for skin and lung diseases in cattle and humans. By the end of the nineteenth century, mullein was given to tuberculosis patients in Europe, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Mullein is a tall (two to seven feet) fuzzy plant that has yellow flowers growing off a stalk from March to November. The yellow, unstalked, flowers appear in densely packed spikes, and bloom at random, from spring until fall. The flowers are small, an inch or less across, and cup-shaped, with five petals joined at their base, five stamens, and one pistil. The flowers are fragrant and taste sweet, the leaves however are not fragrant and taste slightly bitter. Through the summer and early fall, the flowers fade, and the fruits appear.
Mullein not only has practical usage but it is also making a name for itself in the world of mythology. In Europe and Asia it is believed that Mullein has the power to drive away evil spirits. The ancient classics mention that it was this plant, which Ulysses took to protect himself against the wiles of Circe.
The German Commission E has approved mullein flower as an expectorant and pain reliever. It combines well with other expectorants such as coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) and Thyme (Thymus vulgaris). The dried leaves are sometimes smoked in an ordinary tobacco pipe to relieve the irritation of the respiratory mucus membranes, and it is said, will completely control, the hacking cough in consumption. Tea made from the flowers is a strong and soothing sedative. The flowers are used medicinally in the treatment of migraines and as a local antibiotic and bactericide. A poultice of the leaves is a good healer of wounds and is also applied to ulcers, tumors and piles. The juice of the plant and powder made from the dried roots removes rough warts when rubbed on them. An infusion of the flowers in olive oil is used as earache drops.
Apart from its medical usage it is also used for ornamental purposes in gardens throughout the world. But the garden could become difficult to manage because mullein also attracts a wide variety of pollinators, including bees, flies, and butterflies. The leaves are a rubefacient, which means that if you rub them against your skin it will become red and irritated. But this characteristic has been exploited by make-up manufacturers. They produce a natural, make-up out of the Mullein. This practice ensured that Mullein acquired another name - Quaker Rouge. The flowers make a bright yellow dye, which can be used to dye hair or cloth. The addition of sulfuric acid will produce a green color. If you then add an alkali, to raise the pH, the dye becomes brown.
This material is not intended as a guide to self-medication by consumers. The lay reader is advised to discuss the information contained herein with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse or other authorized health care practitioner.