Photo by Karen Bergeron Copyright 2000.
Photo by Deb Jackson Copyright 2000
Other Names Adam's Flannel, Beggar's Blanket, Candlewick Plant, Common Mullein, Flannel Mullein, Flannel Plant, Hag's Taper, Jupiter's Staff, Molene, Mullein, Velvet Dock, Velvet Plant, Woolly Mullin
Habitat Alien, naturalized, biennial herb. Widely distributed plant, being found all over Europe and in temperate Asia as far as the Himalayas, and in North America it is exceedingly abundant. Great Mullein is found growing on hedge-banks, by roadsides and on waste ground, more especially on gravel, sand or chalk. Sunny positions in uncultivated fields and especially on dry soils. Cultivation: Great Mullein is an easily grown plant, it succeeds in most well-drained soils, including dry ones, and prefers a sunny position. Dislikes shade and wet soils. The leaves (first season) at the base of the stem form a rosette of numerous, large, 6 to 15 inches long and up to 5 inches broad, but become smaller as they ascend the stem, on which they are arranged on alternate sides. They are whitish with a soft, dense mass of hairs on both sides, which make them feel very furry and thick. The root is a long taproot with a fibrous outer cover and fleshy inside. The flower-spike (second season) has been known to attain a height of 7 or 8 feet, covered with densely crowded, sulphur-yellow, flowers about an inch across with five rounded petals. Blooming during July and August. Harvest the entire plant when in bloom and dry for later herb use.
Properties Great Mullein has been used as an alternative medicine for centuries, and in many countries throughout the world, the value of Great Mullein as a proven medicinal herb is now backed by scientific evidence. Some valuable constituents contained in Mullein are Coumarin and Hesperidin, they exhibit many healing abilities. Research indicates some of the uses as analgesic, antihistaminic, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, antioxidant, antiviral, bacteristat, cardio-depressant, estrogenic, fungicide, hypnotic, sedative and pesticide are valid. An infusion is taken internally in the treatment of a wide range of chest complaints and also to treat diarrhea and bleeding of the lungs and bowels. The leaves, root, and the flowers are anodyne, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, demulcent, diuretic, emollient, expectorant, nervine, and vulnerary.
Mullein oil is a very medicinal and valuable destroyer of disease germs. An infusion of the flowers in olive oil is used as earache drops, or as a local application in the treatment of piles and other mucous membrane inflammations. This infusion is a strong antibacterial. The oil being used to treat gum and mouth ulcers is very effective. A decoction of the roots is used to alleviate toothache and also relieve cramps and convulsions. It is also used in alternative medicine for the treatment of migraine headaches accompanied with oppression of the ear.
The whole plant possess slightly sedative and narcotic properties. The seeds are considered toxic. They have been historically used as a narcotic and also contain saponins.
The dried leaves are sometimes smoked to relieve the irritation of the respiratory mucus membranes, and the hacking cough of consumption. They can be employed with equal benefit when made into cigarettes, for asthma and spasmodic coughs in general. Externally, a medicinal poultice of the leaves is applied to sunburn, ulcers, tumors and piles.
Other Uses Dye, Insecticide, Insulation, Lighting, Tinder, Wick. A yellow dye is made from the flowers by boiling them in water. When used with dilute sulphuric acid they produce a rather permanent green dye, this becomes brown with the addition of alkalis. An infusion of the flowers is sometimes used to dye the hair a golden color. The leaves contain rotenone, which is used as an insecticide. The dried leaves are highly flammable and can be used to ignite a fire quickly , or as wick for candles.
Folklore An old superstition existed that witches used lamps and candles provided with wicks of Mullein in their incantations, and another of the plant's many names, 'Hag's Taper', refers to this. Both in Europe and Asia the power of driving away evil spirits was ascribed to the Mullein. Being a sure safeguard against evil spirits and magic, and from the ancient classics, it was this plant which Ulysses took to protect himself against the wiles of Circe.
RecipesTea: An aromatic tea can be made by boiling 1 tbs. dried leaves or root, in 1 cup water for 5 - 10 min. A sweeter tea can be made by infusing the fresh or dried flowers. Or for children and the elderly use milk instead of water. Sweeten if desired.
Mullein oil: Use flowers or root. Place in blender or crush, fill jar, cover with olive oil, set in warm place for 2 weeks. Strain before use.
Article by Deb Jackson & Karen Bergeron
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