Verbascum thapsus

Figwort Family (Scrophulariaceae)

Energetics: roots - warm, dry; leaves & flowers - cool, moist (De la Foret, n.d.)
Taste: root - earthy, slightly astringent, slightly bitter; leaves and flowers - astringent, bitter (Sinadinos, 2009)
When to harvest: Harvest leaves and roots in the first year and beginning of second; harvest flowers in the second year.
Identification: Mullein is a tall, striking plant that likes disturbed, well-drained soils in sunny areas. It’s a biennial plant, sending up a flowering stalk in its second year, which produces small yellow flowers in the top third of the stalk. The flowering starts at the lower end and makes its way up, with each flower blossom lasting one day. Mullein can grow up to 2 metres tall and the leaves can be 30cm long and are woolly with thick fuzz.

Mullein is native to Europe and Asia, where it has long been used for various practical applications besides medicinal uses. The big leaves have been used fresh as toilet paper, nappies, food wrappers and shoe insoles (Bruton-Seal and Seal 2008). The soft leaves indicate some of its soothing uses for the respiratory system, but also for other systems. Mullein is a bioaccumulator plant, drawing up minerals and contaminants in the soil, so is being researched for its potential in remediating contaminated soil.

Respiratory system

Lung irritation/inflammation

Mullein soothes dry, irritated, or inflamed lungs, whether due to coughs, asthma, or from particulate matter in the air. It is specific for dryness or unproductive coughs with a deficiency of mucus, or feelings of tightness that prevent full inhalation.

Researchers exploring scientific explanations for the use and effects of mullein in Spanish folk medicine suggest that much of the use entails addressing inflammatory processes, and theorise that this is due to flavonoids such as luteolin, quercetin, apigenin, and kaempferol (Blanco-Salas et al., 2021). These are molecules whose inflammation modulating effects are well established.

Smoking cessation support

Herbalists use mullein leaf internally to support people wishing to quit smoking, as it supports the lungs; simultaneously, the dried leaf can be smoked when cravings to smoke arise - within reason (De la Fore, n.d.)

Ear canal

Mullein flower infused oil has long been used to relieve earache pain. A few drops of some oil warmed to room temperature can be placed into the affected ear and held in place with a cotton ball (De la Foret, n.d.). It can be combined with garlic infused oil to help address the infection. Mullein flower oil can be rubbed around the ear to act on the lymph glands to help address the infection (De la Foret, n.d.).

Mullein flower oil has also been used for haemorrhoids and other mucus membrane irritations (Turker and Gurel, 2005).

Musculoskeletal system

Mullein root has recently come into use for back pain, recommended by herbalists jim mcdonald and Matthew Wood (De la Foret, n.d.). Jim mcdonald has found the root as an infusion or tincture has sorted out kinks in his back; Matthew Wood attributes this to mullein root’s action on synovial fluids (fluid in cavities of joints that rub against each other), stimulating lubrication around dry joints or pinched nerves (De la Foret, n.d.).

Urito-genital system

Mullein flower oil has been used to relieve haemorrhoids, and the root has been used to address various kinds of urinary incontinence issues (Turker and Gurel, 2005).

Sprains, swellings, bruises

Mullein leaf poultice has been used to soothe acute inflammatory conditions such as bruises, sprains, and swellings (Turker and Gurel, 2005).

Plant preparations


  • Decoction - root
  • Infusion
  • Tincture - root
  • Smoke/cigarette


  • Poultice (leaf)
  • Oil (flower)


Herbalist Rosalee de la Foret (n.d.) has suggested the following precautions:

Dried mullein leaf’s hairs can be irritating, so if making an infusion, strain it through a coffee filter or a few layers of muslin. Mullein accumulates heavy metals, so be sure to only harvest mullein from healthy, uncontaminated land. Mullein oil should not be applied to the ear if the eardrum has been perforated.

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