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Mullein: Monograph Series


INTRODUCTION: Mullein is in all of our smoking blends. It's moistening and relaxing to the respiratory system. It's particularly great for dry, hacking, and unproductive coughs as it loosens and moistens mucus in the lungs and makes it easier to expel. It's very effective for loosening and eliminating the baked-on mucus and sediment of a smoker's cough. Mullein also helps to expectorate environmental contaminates that get inhaled into the lungs and can cause congestive problems and infections (think construction workers, painters, firefighters, and mechanics). Mullein is a relaxing herb and relaxes bronchial tissue and the nervous system. 

AFFINITES: respiratory system

KEY ACTIONS: respiratory relaxant, moistening expectorant, nervous sedative, demulcent, emollient, cooling, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, anodyne, urinary and connective tissue tonic

CONSTITUENTS: mucilage, flavonoids, triterpenoid saponins, volatile oil, tannins, iridoids, catalpol, sterols, sugars

BOTANY & HARVESTING: Mullein is a towering, upright biennal (meaning it takes two years to complete its lifecycle, requiring a winter dormancy) growing up to 6 feet tall and has slightly hairy, gray-green oval shaped leaves and spikes of bright yellow flowers. It's native to central and southern Europe and western Asia but it's now naturalized in many other temperate regions like the US. Mullein grows on open, uncultivated land and along roadsides. The leaves and flowers are collected during the summer. Once gone to seed, the plant dies, with its now brown flower stalk remaining upright for quite some time so seeds can disperse. New, first year plants can often be found within 15-20 feet (4.5-6m) of the dead stalk.

USES: Mullein was first recommended by Dioscorides 2000 years ago to use against pulmonary diseases, one of the herb’s primary uses to this day, especially against coughs. Mullein is a valuable herb for coughs and congestion, and contains a high level of mucilage. Mucilage is a water soluble heteropolysaccharid that also includes gum and pectins. Due to its mucilage content, mullein is used in antitussive (cough-suppressant) formulas where they can calm the coughing reflex through a sympathetic soothing action on the vagus nerve (which connects the digestive and the respiratory systems of the body). The leaves and flowers may be made into an infusion (tea) to reduce mucus formation and stimulate the coughing up of phlegm, and combines well with other expectorants such as thyme (Thymus vulgaris). Applied externally, mullein is a good emollient and makes a good wound healer. The root is not as frequently used, but can be effective for urinary incontinence as a bladder tonifying agent.

PREPARATIONS: Mullein leaves are the most commonly used and is the only herb that helps heal lung tissue as it is being smoked. Mullein leaves are a helpful addition to tobacco when trying to quit smoking. The leaves can also be tinctured or infused into tea or oil to make salve or lotion. Mullein flowers infused in oil can be used for pain caused by ear infections and speeding up recovery time. The flowers, when prepared as a tincture, act to reduce swelling and the accompanied pain in the ear as well.

Chevallier, A. Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants: 1996.
CommonWealth Center for Holistic Herbalism - Materia Medica course

For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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