The mullein has to be one of the most recognizable foraging plants. It’s found throughout the United States. The long stalks can reach seven feet in height and are easily spotted from a distance.The stalks will flower most of the summer with yellow blooms and turn a deep brown in late fall. The mullein pale green leaves are equally distinctive. They almost appear to be made from felt or velvet and are fairly large. The plant in the first photo below is close to 18 inches wide.
Mullein is found growing on hedge-banks, by roadsides and on waste ground, more especially on gravel, sand or chalk. Sunny positions in uncultivated fields and especially on dry soils.
Let’s get the warnings out of the way first. Mullein seeds are toxic and the leaves have been known to be the cause of contact dermatitis. With that said, we can now move on to how our ancestors put the common mullein to practical use.
Mullein was mainly used as a remedy for respiratory ailments. A tea or infusion made from the leaves was the most common way of preparing the remedy but there is some indication that smoking the leaves also brought relief. Today you will find mullein leaves for sale at herbal stores and if you look hard enough you’ll find the leaves available for smoking.
Many claim that mullein can be used to manage serious ailments like asthma and tuberculosis. There has been some recent research that supports these claims. Other research has shown mullein to have anti-viral properties against Herpes 1. Today, many people still use mullein to clear lung congestion and open sinuses.
Mullein leaves and the oil from the plant have also been used in poultices to treat everything from acne to sore throat and swollen glands to hemorrhoids and rhuematism
We mentioned that the mullein seeds were toxic, they contain a narcotic. Apparently, our ancestors knew about this and prepared sedatives from large quantities of mullein seeds.
The mullein leaves were used for lamp wicks or were dipped in fat and used for torches.
The mullein has many other names. Some of them include “Hig candlewick”, “Bullicks lungwort”, “Adams-rod”, “Hare’s-beard”, “Ice-leaf” and “Cowboy Toilet Paper” are a few.