We know mullein (verbascum) today as towering ornamental plants in the rock garden, which delight us with countless flowers. But it is also a medicinal herb that soothes irritated mucous membranes and helps to loosen the mucus in the event of inflammation.
Profile of the mullein
- Scientific name: Verbascum
- Plant family: Braunwurzgewächse (Scrophulariaceae)
- Popular names: Weather candle, sky fire, torch or fire herb, wool flower, wool herb, Neunmannkraft, gold flower, bull's lung herb, St. John's candle, woman candle, thunder candle, lightning candle etc.
- Occurrence: Central and Southern Europe, North Africa, Central and West Asia, Caucasus, Siberia, India, Pakistan, Nepal, China and others
- application areas are among other:
- Bronchial asthma,
- Lung infection,
- Inflammation of the mouth and throat
- and bronchitis.
- Plant parts used: Flowers and leaves
Medically effective ingredients
The mullein are biennial medicinal plants, their yellow flowers form five petals, and the flowers are collected to make medicinal tea. They contain the valuable ingredients of plant mucus, saponins (which promote expectoration), traces of essential oils and phytosterols.
There are also cough and bronchial teas that consist only of mullein flowers, but more common (and more useful) are dried verbascum flowers in tea blends with plants that act similarly as expectorants or relieve coughs. For example, mucus dissolves the wild mallow and thyme is effective against cough.
Mullein as a medicinal plant
Mullein are used in folk medicine for a variety of ailments, but the evidence for such cures is insufficient. They are used as a medicinal plant for driving urine as well as against rheumatism, hoarseness and externally to accelerate wound healing.
The mullein flowers contain abundant plant mucus and are particularly used against cough, cold, flu, kidney problems and inflammation of the intestine, which are associated with colic. Externally, they are a traditional remedy for skin inflammation such as itchy rash.
The sheets are put on to clean small injuries. As a poultice, they serve to soften hemorrhoids and alleviate the pain they cause. Such envelopes can also help with boils, finger ulcers, light burns, and itching.
Overview of application areas:
- Intestinal inflammation with colic,
- Inflammation of the respiratory tract (bronchitis),
- Inflammation of the ears such as otitis media,
- Skin lichen,
- flu infections,
- Rash and itchy skin,
- Cough (especially a coughing cough),
- Lung infection,
- Kidney and urinary tract diseases,
- and wound treatment.
Mullein - external use
Mullein is used internally or externally - in the first case as tea from the flowers, the leaves and flowers are used for the external application.
To apply the flowers externally, we apply five grams of dried flowers to 100 milliliters of water. This should help against irritated outer skin and irritated mucous membranes. We let the flowers infuse for up to ten minutes, then carefully sift the liquid through a cloth. In the event of skin irritation or rash, we place a compress on the appropriate area or wash the region with the broth. We gurgl it with irritated mucous membranes in the mouth and throat.
The leaves are supposed to face the outside
- Finger ulcers
- and itching
help. To do this, we boil a handful of leaves in milk into porridge. We put it hot on the skin.
Mullein - internal use
Internally, the flowers are said to help against inflammation in the throat such as the intestine and cough. To do this, we let two grams of the dried flowers soak in 100 milliliters of water, sieve the brew after ten minutes through a cloth and drink one or two small cups a day.
It is more effective to add tea blends to the dried flowers because mullein has two effects. On the one hand, it dissolves mucus, and this effect is intensified together with other expectorants such as marshmallow, mallow or ribwort. On the other hand, it relieves cough, and this effect potentiates together with similarly acting plants such as thyme, fennel or primrose roots.
Common names and etymology
The term mullein could come from the fact that the towering stems with hundreds of yellow flowers, each of which form five petals, are reminiscent of a candle - and of a royal beautiful candle. Another thesis says that the plants soaked in pitch or wrapped in beeswax served as torches.
Other terms for verbascum strengthen the second thesis. So it is also called Johannis, Frauen-, Marien-, Donner-, Blitz-, Unholds-, Feld- or Wetterkerze as well as sky fire, torch or burning herb. Other names are wool flower or cotton herb, Neunmannkraft, gold flower and bull's lung herb.
How do we recognize mullein?
The small-flowered mullein is covered with a dense, white-greenish felt (hence wool flower). In spring it forms a rosette near the ground, in the middle of which a simple stem sprouts in late spring. This ranges from 50 centimeters to two meters in height.
The base leaves are oval to oblong and form a rosette. Leaves also form on the stem, these have a short stem or lie against it. They are often lightly serrated. The color is matt green.
Verbascum flowers have a simple cluster or a branched panicle. They have a goblet that is divided into five lobes - in the form of pointed lancets. The flower crown glows in golden yellow - this characteristic of the mullein may be where its name comes from, since the gold and the shape of the flower crown (with a little imagination) could be reminiscent of a royal crown.
When do we collect the flowers and leaves?
We can collect the leaves from spring to late summer, the flowers immediately after they bloom from June to August. We collect the flowers individually without a calyx.
How do we dry the flowers and leaves?
The best way to dry the groupage is in the summer sun. We keep dried leaves in paper or fabric bags, the dried flowers in glasses. Under no circumstances should we let the flowers get damp, because the iridoid contained in them causes the magnificent yellow flowers to turn brown when wet.
Spreading the Mullein
There are around 350 types of mullein, 80 of them in Europe alone. They all grow in the northern hemisphere and outside the tropics. The center of their spread is the Balkans, Anatolia and the Caucasus. In Germany, we usually mean the small-flowered mullein, which grows in country gardens and in the open. It is widespread in large parts of Europe, as well as in Algeria and Morocco north of the Sahara, in western Asia and in Central Asia, in the Caucasus, in Siberia, India, Pakistan, Nepal and China.
She was abducted by people to various countries and thrives as a neophyte in the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Azores, Sri Lanka, Japan, Chile and Argentina.
Verbascum loves stones and sun, preferably a little dry - but not too much. The wool flower is a typical type of gravel slopes, gravel pits and quarries, but not specialized in the high mountains - it only rises to 1500 meters in the Alps. As a garden plant, it serves to design gravel and rock gardens and borders.
Mullein are survivors, and in the rosette stage they easily accept disturbances. Whether they are spilled from the earth, plowed up with the soil or the rosette leaves are cut off - the plants look almost indestructible. They react more sensitively during flowering, when the shoot is cut off, the plants often die.
Mullein is an important plant in the natural garden, because owl moths seek it out as a source of food, especially the gamma owl. Two species, Shargacucullia thapsiphaga and Shargacucullia verbasci, are even dependent on them.
Medical and cultural history
The physician of ancient Greece, Hippocrates, already advised that Verbascum be used for wound dressings. Aristotle recommended the mullein seeds as poison in order to stun fish and thus be able to catch them.
In the Middle Ages, the cloister Hildegard von Bingen suggested cotton wool as a remedy for a "sad heart". She called the plant "wullena". The yellow flowers were used to dye clothes, the stems were dipped in pitch and gave good torches. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Dr. phil. Utz Anhalt, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch
- Van Wyk Ben-Erik; Wink, Coralie; Wink, Michael: Handbook of Medicinal Plants - An Illustrated Guide, Scientific Publishing Company, 2004
- Wichtl, Max et al .: Tea drugs and phytopharmaceuticals: A handbook for practical use on a scientific basis, Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft, 2009
- Schilcher, Heinz; Kammerer, Susanne and Wegener, Tankred: Phytotherapy guidelines, Urban & Fischer Verlag / Elsevier GmbH, 2016
- Escobar, F.M .; Sabini, M.C .; Zanon, S.M. et al .: Genotoxic evaluation of a methanolic extract of Verbascum thapsus using micronucleus test in mouse bone marrow, in: Natural Product Communications, 6 (7): 989-91, July 2011, PubMed
- Ecological teaching garden of the University of Education Karlsruhe: Mullein - Verbascum densiflorum (accessed: November 6, 2019), PH Karlsruhe
- Technical University of Braunschweig: biology, ecology and socialization of Verbascum densiflorum Bertol. (Large-flowered mullein) with special consideration of northern Germany (accessed: November 6, 2019), TU Braunschweig
- Turker, Arzu Ucar; Camper, N.D .: Biological activity of common mullein, a medicinal plant, in: Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Volume 82, Issues 2-3, pp. 117-125, October 2002,, ScienceDirect