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Mullein - General Info And History

Originally said to be a native plant that thrives in the Mediterranean, it is also found thriving in many parts of Europe, some parts of Australia and the Americas, although possibly as an introduced and naturalised species rather than a native plant. Despite being employed as a medicinal plant, mullein is nowadays commonly considered a weed as it grows nearly everywhere, especially in deserted plots of land that regularly experience direct sunshine. Mullein is easily recognized, it being a very small subshrub that grows (at the most) to the height of some 0.5 to 3 metres tall and characterised by densely arranged, broad hairy leaves and (in most cases) and five-petaled yellow flowers (although colours range from various shades of yellow, red, orange, purple, and even white). The flower's fruit is a capsule that contains a large profusion of seeds that are easily scattered by the wind or by animal or human contact, making mullein a very prolific weed in some areas. [1]

Mullein - Herbal Use

Mullein has a long history of medicinal use, primarily in European and American herbal medicine, and some selected schools of Asiatic herbal medicine and is known perhaps the world over as an all-natural remedy for coughs. Prior to its use however, the down on its leaves as well as its stem made it optimal for use as tinder when wholly dried and was employed as a primitive wick prior to the general use of cotton. It was usually soaked in an ignitable oil and lit with a flint or some other source of flame. This early use earned it the name 'candleweed', while early superstitions attributed it as being the choice of lighting material by witches and sorcerers, earning it the name 'hag's taper'. [2]

When used as a medicine, its leaves and flowers are typically made into strong decoctions (in some cases, the flowers are much more preferred over the leaves) and used either fresh or dried and given to individuals suffering from coughs and asthma. When dried, the leaves and flowers, as well as the stems of the plant may be used as an inhalant, especially when thrown over hot coals or boiling water and employed as a decongestant, or otherwise loaded into a trusty pipe and smoked to provide relief for coughs and lung congestions. Mixed with other herbs such as vervain or red willow bark, it can be smoked in lieu of tobacco for medicinal purposes or as a means to quit the habit of smoking. [3] To this effect, many herbal smoking blends are sold that have mullein among its ingredients.

Aside from its use as a cough remedy, a light decoction or infusion of its leaves may also be employed as a remedy for diarrhea, since mullein is a potent astringent. A poultice of the leaves and / or flowers of the plant (the leaves are preferred) may even be employed as a remedy for hemorrhoids and general aches and pains. [4] Hot compresses consisting of fresh crushed mullein and ginger root has even been used traditionally as an aid in the quick setting of broken bones and as a remedy for swellings brought about by sprains and contusions. Mullein may be drunk as a general strengthening tonic, especially if decocted with milk, cooled, and mixed with honey. This recipe is especially useful for convalescent patients that suffer from wasting diseases such as consumption (tuberculosis), or that experience extreme discomforts brought about by colic or catarrhs. It may even help to strengthen patients that are recovering from long bouts of illness and may be given along with one whole fresh egg mixed vigorously with the milk infused with mullein as a rejuvenating and filling drink. [5]

The flowers of the plant may be employed as a remedy for ringworms, burns, and other sin disorders by either making a conserve of the flowers by soaking the plant matter in vinegar or honey. The flowers may even be infused into oils (type of oils at the discretion of the herbalist, ensuring that the oil is not and essential oil, but a base oil) by a simple maceration method and used to treat everything from earache, general inflammations, bruises, frostbite, and scalp problems. [6] The flowers may also be made into a tincture, either by macerating it in gin, brandy, or by decocting or macerating it in wine. This resulting tincture can be drunk as a remedy for headaches and migraines, although potent tinctures created by macerating the flowers in pure grain alcohol needs be used sparingly in a dilution of a few drops of tincture (as directed by a herbalist) in a shot glass of water. [6]

Mullein - Esoteric Uses

Mullein is not without its occult uses, as it is a very notorious herb that is employed for warding and protection. It is employed by many ceremonial magicians as a protection herb, traditionally ascribed powers to cast away any type of evil spirit or entity by the sight or scent of the plant alone. When its stems are employed as lighting materials however, it serves a necromantic purpose, allowing the magician to see and commune with the dead and departed as well as to call spirits and bind them to whatever the magician may will them to do. When made into a decoction and drunk, or dried and smoked, mullein can also be employed to allow one to see manifestations, or to travel into the nether-realms and commune with the departed or with otherworldly entities safely. Its use as a magickal protection herb comes from long-standing myth and tradition, with the first recorded instance being its use by Odysseus to protect him from the spellbindings of the Siren Circe. Mullein tea is also believed by witches and shamans as an herb that encourages prophetic dreams and astral travel, while it's dried leaves and flowers, when used as incense or sewn into an herbal pouch and placed beneath a pillow keeps nightmares at bay and encourages sound sleep. [7]

Mullein - Safety Notes

Care should be taken when employing the seed of the plant however, as it contains a mild, but nevertheless potentially hazardous toxin. The seeds of the mullein flower was originally collected, dried, powdered, and then employed as a mild fish poison by Asian and European tribal cultures alike. [5]

Other names for Mullein, Past or Present

English - High-Taper, Beggar's Banquet, Hag's Taper, Aaron's Rod, Cows Lungwort, Cow's Lung Wort, Hare's Beard, Jupiter's Staff, Velvet Dock, Hedge Taper, Torch
Latin - Verbascum, Tapsus barbatus, Verbascum thapsus
French - Bouillon, Cierge cotonneux, Cierge de Notre-Dame, herbe de Saint-Fiacre, molene, Oreille de Loup
German - Beiss
Dutch - Wolle kruyt
Spanish - Gordolobo, Verbasco
Italian - Tasso Barbasso, Verbaci Flos
Sanskrit - Gidar Tamaku

Mullein in old Herbals & Pharmocopœia

Elizabeth Blackwell's "A Curious Herbal" (1751): 1. It grows to be six foot high, the leaves are a light willow-green, and the flowers a pale yellow. 2. They grow on highways and Commons and flower in Iuly. 3. The leaves are used for coughs, pains in ye breast and collic-pains, and outwardly in fomentation, and are thought a specific against the piles. Dioscorides recommends a decoction of the Root as good for toothache.

William Thomas Fernie - "Herbal Simples" (1895): MULLEIN - The great Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) grows freely in Great Britain on dry banks and waste places, but somewhat sparingly in Scotland. It belongs to the scrofula-curing order of plants, having a thick stalk, from eighteen inches to four feet high, with large woolly mucilaginous leaves, and with a long flower spike bearing plain yellow flowers which are nearly sessile on the stem.
In most parts of Ireland, besides growing wild, it is carefully cultivated in gardens, because of a steady demand for the plant by sufferers from pulmonary consumption. Constantly in Irish newspapers there are advertisements offering it for sale, and it can be had from all the leading local druggists. The old Irish method of administering the Mullein is to put an ounce of the dried leaves, or a corresponding quantity of the fresh ones, in a pint of milk, which is boiled for ten minutes, and then strained. This is afterwards given warm to the patient twice a day, with or without sugar. The taste of the decoction is bland, mucilaginous, and cordial. Dr. Quinlan, of Dublin, treated many cases of tubercular lung disease, even when some were far advanced in pulmonary consumption, with the Mullein, and with signal success as regards palliating the cough, staying the expectoration, and increasing the weight.
Mullein leaves have a weak, sleepy sort of smell, and rather a bitter taste. In Queen Elizabeth's time they were carried about the person to prevent the falling sickness; and distilled water from the flowers was said to be curative of gout. In Germany a capillary wash is made therefrom which is a capital restorative of the hair.
The leaves and flowers contain mucilage, with a yellowish volatile oil, a fatty substance, and sugar, together with some colouring matter. Fish will become stupified by eating the seeds.
The plant bears also the name of Hedge Taper, and used to be called Torch, because the stalks were dipped in suet, and burnt for giving light at funerals and other gatherings. "It is a plant," says the Grete Herball, "whereof is made a manner of lynke if it be tallowed." The name Verbascum is an altered form of the Latin barbascum, from barba, "a beard," in allusion to the dense woolly hairs on both sides of the leaves; and the appellation, Mullein, is got from the French molene, which signifies the "scab" in cattle, for curing which disease the plant is famous. It has also been termed Cow's Lung Wort, Hare's Beard, and Jupiter's Staff; and Velvet Dock from its large soft leaves.
An infusion of the flowers was used by the Roman ladies to tinge their tresses of the golden colour once so much admired in Italy. A decoction of the root is good against the megrims of bilious subjects, which especially beset them in the dark winter months. The dried leaves of the Mullein plant, if smoked in an ordinary tobacco pipe, will completely control the hacking cough of consumption; and they can be employed with equal benefit, when made into cigarettes, for asthma, and for spasmodic coughs in general.
By our leading English druggists are now dispensed a succus verbasci (Mullein juice), of which the dose is from half to one teaspoonful; a tincture of Verbascum (Mullein), the dose of which is from half-a-teaspoonful to two teaspoonfuls; and an infusion of Mullein, in doses of from one to four tablespoonfuls. Also a tincture (H.) is made from the fresh herb with spirit of wine, which has been proved beneficial for migraine (sick head-ache) of long standing, with oppression of the ears. From eight to ten drops of this tincture are to be given as a dose, with cold water, and repeated pretty frequently whilst needed.
Mullein oil is a most valuable destroyer of disease germs. If fresh flowers of the plant be steeped for twenty-one days in olive oil whilst exposed to the sunlight, this makes an admirable bactericide; also by simply instilling a few drops two or three times a day into the ear, all pain therein, or discharges therefrom, and consequent deafness, will be effectually cured. Some of the most brilliant results have been obtained in suppurative inflammation of the inner ear by a single application of Mullein oil. In acute or chronic cases of this otorrhcea, two or three drops of the oil should be made fall into the ear twice or thrice in the day. And the same oil is an admirable remedy for children who "wet the bed" at night. Five drops should be put into a small tumblerful of cold water; and a teaspoonful of the mixture, first stirred, should be taken four times in the day.
Flowers of Mullein in olive oil, when kept near the fire for several days in a corked bottle, form a remedy popular in Germany for frost bites, bruises, and piles. Also a poultice made with the leaves is a good application for these last named troublesome evils. For the cure of piles, sit for five minutes on a chamber vessel containing live coals, with crisp dry Mullein leaves on them, and some finely powdered resin.



Mullein Illustration


Main article researched and created by Alexander Leonhardt.

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