Have you ever noticed this strange and beautiful plant? Often growing in polluted soils, look for mullein along roadsides, train tracks, and empty lots around town. It has an affinity for damaged soils, and is often one of the first plants to pop up in disturbed landscapes, thus helping to improve the quality of the soil for other plants to thrive. Once you see it, it just can't be missed with its characteristically tall rod of small yellow flowers, which can reach up to 8 feet in height! An interesting-looking plant to be sure, and one that brings us lots of healing.
Mullein has been used since ancient times. Its wide variety of folk names reflects its long and varied usage, known colloquially as everything from torches, blanket herb, old man's flannel, to lungwort. The tall stalks of mullein were reportedly dipped in fat and burned as candles, and the soft, wide leaves were used to wrap, wipe, and soothe.
Where mullein really shines, however, is when taken internally as a tea or tincture to support our respiratory systems. An expectorant (helps expel congestion in the lungs), astringent (reduces secretions; helps dry out), and demulcent (soothes irritated mucus membranes), mullein helps you have a more productive cough while soothing your lungs. It moves Kapha congestion from the body, energizes the lymphatic system, and in general tones the respiratory system. The leaves of mullein, taken as a tea or tincture, are used for colds, congestion, asthma, and bronchitis. Here at Una, we make mullein extract to use in our herbal Vapor Rub to help get the gunk out of your lungs--and it sure does work!
But what about those pretty yellow flowers, you say? Those pack a healing punch, as well. Use the flowers to make an herbal oil that will heal up an ear infection, stat! Mullein flowers are anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory, and they work wonders on ear aches. To make the oil, fill a clean, sterilized mason jar a third of the way with mullein flowers. (You can purchase organic mullein locally from Cutting Root Apothecary or online at Mountain Rose Herbs.) Cover with organic olive oil. Let sit for 3-6 weeks, strain, and it's ready to go. Put a few drops in infected ear. For extra old-school healing, cover sore ear with half a warm onion wrapped in a towel (it really works!).
For more tips on staying healthy this winter, check out our Fight the Flu blog post. Stay warm, drink tea, and be healthy, friends!