Mullein is a plant with a long history of use for respiratory health, wound healing, and urinary tract infections.
This plant is also regularly called common mullein, candlewick plant, velvet plant, blanket leaf, Aaron’s rod, Jacob’s staff, and old man’s flannel.
Historically, mullein has been used as a remedy for the respiratory tract, particularly in cases of irritating coughs with bronchial congestion.
Mullein has also been used for urinary tract infections (UTIs), earaches, as well as asthma.
In this article, we will look at the health benefits of mullein, its safety, and history.
Table of Contents
What is Mullein?
Mullein is a herbaceous biennial in the Scrophulariaceae (i.e. figwart) family. It was originally native to Europe and Asia, but it can now be found growing wild throughout North America and much of the rest of the world.
The scientific name for this herb is Verbascum thapsus, but it’s commonly called mullein or great mullein.
Mullein leaf and flowers have expectorant and soothing properties. This herb is commonly used by herbalists to treat respiratory problems such as bronchitis, dry coughs, asthma, and hoarseness.
Mullein leaf is said to work as a diuretic, help to reduce inflammation in the urinary system and prevent UTIs.
Common mullein’s soothing properties come from its polysaccharide mucilage and gum content which work to soothe irritated tissue. Its expectorant property is the result of saponins that are said to stimulate fluid production in the lungs.
The anti-inflammatory property of this herb is due to iridoid glycoside and flavonoid content that work to decrease inflammation.
Mullein has a long history of traditional uses as a medicinal plant, but recent advances in herbal research are just now establishing its health benefits.
Health Benefits of Mullein:
There are many purported health benefits of mullein. Most of the scientific evidence behind this herb is the result of test-tube research or animal studies, since there are only a handful of human clinical trials.
1. May Support Respiratory Health
Common mullein is one of the most commonly used herbs for respiratory health. It has a long history of use by herbalists for reducing inflammation and stimulating expectoration.
A health advisory board in Germany approved mullein herb for helping to clear the respiratory tract.
Research shows that this herb contains a variety of anti-inflammatory compounds, including:
- and quercetin
It’s thought that these anti-inflammatory compounds can work to reduce inflammation in the lungs. Human clinical trials are needed to determine these claims.
Mullein also has strong antioxidant properties, which may contribute to its ability to support lung and respiratory function.
Additionally, this herb has a demulcent, soothing effect on the respiratory tissues due to its mucilage content.
Summary:Mullein appears to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties which may contribute to its ability to support respiratory health. Human clinical trials are needed to determine mullein’s efficacy for respiratory health.
2. May Promote Wound Healing
Clinical research shows that mullein may benefit the skin and speed up the healing process of wounds.
A recent double-blind placebo-controlled trial was completed in women given an episiotomy. The researchers gave the study participants either a mullein-based skin cream or a placebo cream over a ten-day period. The group that was given the mullein skin cream had a significant improvement in the healing of wounds as compared to the placebo group.
The researchers noted that the mullein group saw improvements in the latter half of the ten-day period, which indicates that mullein cream is best when used over a period of time.
Additionally, an animal study found that mullein helped to increase wound healing by 20%.
Summary:Research suggests that mullein is effective in speeding up the healing process of wounds.
3. May Help with Urinary Tract Infections
Laboratory-based research suggests that mullein is a beneficial herb for fighting UTIs.
A test-tube study looked at the antimicrobial properties of mullein extract in fighting common microbes found in urinary tract infections. The researchers found that this herb extract has strong antiviral activity against various microbes, including:
- Enterococcus faecalis
- Escherichia coli
- Klebsiella pneumonia
- Pseudomonas aeruginosa
- Proteus mirabilis
- and Candida albicans
The researchers noted that their findings support the use of Verbascum thapsus in traditional medicine for the treatment of UTIs.
Summary:Common mullein has been found to have antiviral activity and antimicrobial properties that are effective against a variety of microbes commonly found in UTIs. Human clinical trials are needed to determine the true impact of mullein on UTIs.
4. May Help with Earaches
Various clinical trials conducted on mullein oil show that this herb may work as an herbal remedy for earaches and ear infections.
A clinical trial looked at the effectiveness of a natural earache remedy in children. The natural remedy consisted of a variety of herbs, including mullein, garlic, St. John’s wort, lavender, and vitamin E in olive oil. The researchers found that the natural mullein oil was effective in reducing ear pain over the course of 2-3 days.
Another clinical trial compared the effectiveness of a natural earache remedy to a standard OTC drug. The natural formula consisted of a blend of mullein and several other herbs, including garlic, calendula, and St. John’s wort. The researchers found that the mullein oil earache remedy was as effective as the OTC drug in reducing ear pain.
Summary:A variety of clinical trials have been conducted on the effects of mullein-containing ear drops on earaches. Initial findings have been positive, however, a trial needs to be conducted on the isolated impact of mullein on earaches.
5. Other Benefits
Other purported health benefits of common mullein include:
- May Have Anti-Parasitic Properties – A lab study found that mullein extract has anti-parasitic activity against two species of worms, including roundworms (Ascaridia galli) and tapeworms (Raillietina spiralis).
- Anti-Inflammatory Properties – Various lab studies have found that verbascoside, a constituent in mullein, has strong anti-inflammatory activity.
While these various other health benefits of mullein are interesting, human trials are needed to corroborate these findings.
Summary:Mullein has been tied to a wide variety of health benefits. Human clinical trials are needed to verify these findings.
Best Mullein Supplement:
As noted in this article, mullein benefits the body in a variety of ways, especially respiratory health. This begs the question, what is the best mullein supplement?
The best way to use dietary herbal supplements with mullein is either through a mullein tincture or an encapsulated formula.
We recommend looking at Herbamama’s mullein tincture or capsules. Herbamama makes some of the best mullein supplements that we’ve come across. Their mullein dietary supplements are made with organic mullein. Herbamama’s herbal products are certified vegan and made in the USA. These clean, high-quality herbal products are the perfect way to add mullein to your daily health routine.
You can pick up these mullein supplements at Amazon, which offers competitive pricing and fast shipping.
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Safety Class: 1
Interaction Class: A
The Botanical Safety Handbook puts mullein in the safety class of 1, meaning it can be safely used when appropriately consumed.
It has an interaction class of “A” which suggests that no clinically relevant adverse side effects are expected to occur.
In general, this herb is well tolerated and safe to take for most individuals.
It should be noted that the small hairs found on the mullein leaf can cause a side effect of mouth and throat irritation if they are not filtered out prior to ingestion (especially if taken as tea).
Speaking with your primary healthcare provider before adding any new herbs to your diet is highly recommended.
Pregnancy & Lactation:
There’s no information on the safety of common mullein during pregnancy, while breastfeeding, or in infants and very young children.
Talk to your doctor before considering this herb if any of these conditions apply to you.
Standard dosing for mullein is as follows:
Tincture: 2.5-5mL three times per day of a 1:5 tincture (in 40% alcohol).
Infusion: To make an infusion, pour 1 cup boiling water over 2 teaspoons of dried mullein leaf or flower and infuse for 10-15 minutes. Strain through cheesecloth to filter out all of the tiny hair. Drink three times a day.
Dried Herb: 4-8g of dried herb daily.
Mullein is a fast-spreading plant that grows throughout the world. In many places, it is considered to be a weed.
As such, there are no concerns in regard to the sustainability of this plant.
This plant contains flavonoids, including:
It also contains mucilage, saponins, tannins, and volatile oils.
Species of Mullein:
There are various different Verbascum species of mullein, including:
- Verbascum thapsus | common variety, widespread around the world.
- Verbascum thapsus crassifolium | found in the Mediterranean region and in southwestern Austria.
- Verbascum thapsus giganteum | found throughout Spain.
- Verbascum phlomoides | orange variety, native to Europe.
- Verbascum densiflorum | large-flowered variety from Europe.
Expectorant, demulcent, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, vulnerary.
Naming & Taxonomy:
Common mullein is a biennial plant that belongs to the Scrophulariaceae family of plants.
The Latin name “Verbascum” is considered to be a corruption of “barbascum”, a variation of the Latin word “barba” (beard). It’s thought that this is an allusion to the shaggy leaves of this plant.
The species name for this herb is “thapsus” which is thought to refer to the Greek island of Thapsus, where the species was said to have thrived.
The common name for this herb ‘mullein’ comes from the Latin word “mollis”, which means ‘soft’ (a reference to the softness of the mullein leaf).
V. thapsus produces a rosette of leaves in its first year of growth. The leaves are large, up to 50 cm long. Second-year mullein plants normally produce a single unbranched stem, usually 1–2 m tall. The tall, pole-like stems end in a dense flower stalk of bright yellow flowers.
This plant is widely distributed, being found all over Europe and in temperate Asia as far as the Himalayas. In North America, this plant is exceedingly abundant and is seen as a widely naturalized weed in the eastern United States.
It grows by roadsides and on waste ground, especially on gravel, sand, or chalky soil. Its flowering period is during July and August.
History & Traditional Use:
Mullein leaf and flowers have been used in herbal medicines since ancient times.
Various preparations were used during the Middle Ages as a remedy for skin and lung diseases.
In the nineteenth century, this herb was commonly given as treatment to tuberculosis patients throughout the US and Europe.
Eclectic physicians used mullein for inflammatory diseases of the respiratory and genitourinary tracts and the ear canal.
It is still prescribed today by naturopathic physicians and medical herbalists as a treatment for chronic otitis media and eczema of the ear.
Mullein appears to be a safe and well-tolerated herb.
Common usage tells us that this herb is helpful for a variety of health conditions and respiratory complaints. Laboratory research appears to be promising in regard to the healing of wounds, earaches, and UTIs.
It also appears that this herb has strong anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.
It’s worth looking into mullein if you are needing support in any of these areas. As always, make sure to consult a healthcare provider before making any changes to your diet or adding a new supplement.
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Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Healing Arts Press.