Also Known As
The name mullein probably comes from the Latin word mollis, meaning soft, referring to the plant’s woolly stem and leaves. The name also might relate to the Latin malandrium, meaning malanders, a cattle disease for which mullein was used as a remedy.
A couple of folk names for mullein have more intriguing associations. “Candlewick plant” refers to the old practice of using the dried down of mullein leaves and stems to make lamp wicks. Some say mullein stems once were dipped in tallow to make torches either used by witches or used to repel them, hence the name “hag taper.” The custom of using mullein for torches dates back at least to Roman times.
“Jacob’s staff,” “Jupiter’s staff” and “Aaron’s rod” all have been used as names for the tall flower stalks. The plant’s soft leaves also are known commonly as “bunny’s ears” and “flannel leaf.
Traditional and Modern Uses
Mullein tea is a traditional treatment for respiratory problems, such as chest colds, bronchitis and asthma. Mullein leaf tea is slightly bitter; a tea of the flowers is sweeter. Both the leaves and flowers contain mucilage, which is soothing to irritated membranes, and saponins, which make coughs more productive. Research has shown that the herb has strong anti-inflammatory activity, and lab studies suggest that mullein flower infusions have antiviral properties, as well.
Many of mullein’s traditional medicinal uses were similar throughout the Old and New World, but whether European settlers learned to use the herb from Native Americans or vice versa is open to debate. Besides using mullein leaf and flower teas to treat respiratory problems, some Native Americans also used the plant’s roots. The Creek Indians drank a decoction of the roots for coughs; other tribes smoked the roots or dried leaves to treat asthma.
Topical applications were equally varied. The Cherokee rubbed mullein leaves in their armpits to treat “prickly rash.” Leaf poultices were used to treat bruises, tumors, rheumatic pains and hemorrhoids. Mullein flower oil (made by steeping the flowers in warm olive oil) also has been used for treating hemorrhoids, as well as earaches.
Mullein leaves have been used in cosmetic preparations to soften skin. “Quaker rouge” refers to the practice of reddening cheeks by rubbing them with a mullein leaf. And a yellow dye extracted from the flowers has been used since Roman times as a hair rinse as well as to dye cloth.
Like many other herbs, mullein is not entirely benign. Some people find the plant’s hairs irritating to skin and mucous membranes. It’s a good idea to see how you react to a small amount of mullein before consuming it or smearing it on your body. And always strain the tea through fine-weave cloth or a coffee filter to remove any stray hairs.
From Mountain Rose Herbs
Verbascum densiflorum Bertol.
Plant Family: Scrophulariaceae
Mullein is towering biennial plant with a single stalk up to 6-1/2 feet (2 meters) bearing whorls of leaves and topped with a spike of 5-part yellow flowers. The flowers coat the mouth with a honey-like scent and a sweet taste. The name mullein itself is derived from the Latin word “mollis” which means soft. It has its origins in the Mediterranean, but has been naturalized in North America. The flowering stem was dried by the Greeks and Romans and dipped in tallow to be used as a lamp wick or torch. These torches were said to ward off evil spirits and witches, though mullein was certainly not uncommon in a witch’s herbal garden. Frazier writes in the Golden Bough that mullein was added to the bonfire on Midsummer’s eve to ward away evil from the celebration. Some ancient magical grimoires have listed powdered mullein leaf as a substitute for graveyard dust when that is unavailable.
Mucilage, flavonoids, Iridoids, sterols, and sugars.
Dried flower as an oil, and dried leaf as a tea.
Traditionally used as a tea, and is frequently combined with other herbs. May be taken as an extract if fresh material is used, and is very rarely found in capsule form. The fresh or dried flowers have traditionally been used to make an oil infusion for external use.
From Susun Weed
Looking to protect your lungs from the smoke in the air from all of the wildfires burning? Or maybe you or someone you know is experiencing COPD or emphysema? Do you have a child or are you an adult with a chronic cough? Listen to Susun explain the healing and strengthening qualities of mullein to support lung health and learn how to make restorative mullein milk.
From “Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs”
Mullein (Verbascum thapus)
Folk Names: Aaron’s Rod, Blanket Leaf, Candlewick Plant, Clot, Doffle, Feltwort, Flannel Plant, Graveyard Dust, Hag’s Tapers, Hedge Taper, Jupiter’s Staff, Lady’s Foxglove, Old Man’s Fennel, Peter’s Staff, Shepherd’s Club, Shepherd’s Herb, Torches, Velvetback, Velvet Plant
Powers: Courage, Protection, Health, Love Divination, Exorcism
Mullein is worn to keep wild animals from you while hiking in untamed areas. It also instills courage in the bearer, and a few leaves placed in the shoe keeps one from catching a cold. Mullein is also carried to obtain love from the opposite sex.
Stuffed into a small pillow or placed beneath your pillow mullein guard against nightmares.
In India, mullein is regarded as the most potent safeguard against evil spirits and magic, and is hung over doors, in windows, and carried in sachets. It is also used to banish demons and negativity.
In the Ozarks, men performed a simple love divination. The men went to a clearing where a mullein grew and bent it down so that it pointed toward his love’s house. If she loved him the mullein would grow straight again; if she loved another it would die.
Graveyard dust-an infrequent ingredient in spells-can be substituted with powdered mullein leaves.
At one time Witches and magicians used oil lamps to illuminate their spells and rites, and the downy leaves and stems of the mullein often provided the wicks.