Botanical name: Verbascum thapsus
© Eric Yarnell
Parts used and where grown
Mullein is native to much of Europe and Asia and is naturalized to North America. There are
over 360 species of Verbascum with V. thapsus, V. phlomides, and V.
densiflorum mentioned most often in herbal texts. The leaves and flowers are both used
Mullein has been used in
connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual
health concern for complete information):
Historical or traditional use (may
or may not be supported by scientific studies)
Mullein leaves and flowers are classified in traditional herbal literature as expectorants
(promotes the discharge of mucus) and demulcents (soothes irritated mucous membranes).
Historically, mullein has been used by herbalists as a remedy for the respiratory tract,
particularly in cases of irritating coughs
with bronchial congestion.1 Some herbal texts extend the therapeutic use to
pneumonia and asthma.2 Due to its
mucilage content, mullein has also been used topically by herbalists as a soothing emollient
for inflammatory skin conditions and burns.
Mullein contains approximately 3% mucilage and small amounts of saponins and
tannins.3 The mucilaginous constituents are thought to be responsible for the
soothing actions on mucous membranes. The saponins may be responsible for the expectorant
actions of mullein.4 Human clinical trials are lacking to confirm the use of
mullien for any condition, however.
How much is usually taken?
A tea of mullein is made by pouring 1 cup (250 ml) of boiling water over 1–2
teaspoons (5–10 grams) of dried leaves or flowers and steeping for ten to fifteen
minutes. The tea can be drunk three to four times per day. For the tincture, 1/4–3/4
teaspoon (1–4 ml) is taken three to four times per day. As a dried product,
1/2–3/4 teaspoon (3–4 grams) is used three times per day.5 Mullein is
sometimes combined with other demulcent or expectorant herbs when used to treat coughs and bronchial irritation. For ear infections, some doctors apply an oil extract
directly in the ear. If the eardrum has ruptured, nothing should be put directly in the ear.
Therefore, a qualified healthcare professional should always do an ear examination before
mullein oil is placed in the ear.
Are there any side effects or interactions?
Mullein is generally safe except for rare reports of skin irritation. There are no known
reasons to avoid its use during pregnancy or
At the time of writing, there were no well-known drug interactions
1. Hoffman D. The Herbal Handbook: A User’s Guide to Medical
Herbalism. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 1988, 67.
2. Grieve M. A Modern Herbal, vol 2. New York: Dover
Publications, 1971, 562–6.
3. Wichtl M. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. Boca Raton,
FL: CRC Press, 1994, 18–9.
4. Tyler VE. The Honest Herbal, 3d ed. Binghamton, NY:
Pharmaceutical Products Press, 1993, 219–20.
5. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete
Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative
Medicine Communications, 1998, 173.