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Botanical Description & Habitat

Verbascum thapsus


Common names

Aaron's rodAmerican mullein
CandlewickEuropean mullein
HigtaperGreat mullein
Jacob's StaffLongwort
Mullein dockOld man's flannel
Orange mulleinShepherd's club

Mullein is a common plant in the United States, originally introduced from Europe. It is a perennial plant which grows in waste places, fields, pastures, and along roadsides, prefering sandy or chalky soil.

Has a round, branched, hairy stem which grows from three to six feet in height and bears light green leaves. The leaves are sessile and oblong or oval, growing alternately along the stem. The flowers are yellow and grow in cylindrical spikes from June to September.

Medicinal parts
Leaves during spring and summer of the year when the plant is not flowering.

Flowers - dried.

Historical Properties & Uses

Mullein is used primarily for its soothing action on mucous membranes, and for its expectorant properties. Mullein leaves are a common ingredient in chest decongestants and in many medicinal tinctures and proprietary skin creams. Mullein contains a high concentration of mucilage, plus saponins, flavonoids, and various other chemicals. It is used internally as a gargle or tea; to soothe irritated membranes due to coughs, bronchitis, or whooping cough; and to free the respiratory tract of congestion.

Externally, mullein soothes painful inflammatory conditions of the skin and eyes. Research has uncovered anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial principles contributing to mullein's mucilaginous effect. The herb also demonstrates an antitubercular property, which would explain its use against tuberculosis earlier in this century in India. In addition, the herb has excellent hypotensive properties largely overlooked in Western folk medicine. This oversight is interesting, since mullein has been recommended for practically every human complaint at one time or another.

Its saponins are probably responsible for the herb's expectorant property. Tannin, present in mullein leaves and flowers, imparts mild astringency to the plant, which contributes to its effectiveness in various skin conditions. Mullein is nontoxic.

Mullein flower has approval status by the German Commission E for catarrh.


Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Method of Action

Mullein has good anti-inflammatory properties
In the standard carrageenin-induced rat paw edema assay, mullein in a dose of 100 mg/kg was shown to inhibit inflammation by 50% which represents good to very good anti-inflammatory effect. Rats were injected subcutaneously with a dose of whole mullein plant extract at 150 minutes and again at 30 minutes prior to carrageenin administration. Although the rat paw edema test often is falsely positive, the tests nevertheless indicate the need for further tests.

Mullein has hypotensive properties
In experiments on normotensive rabbits, cats, dogs, and on dogs with induced kidney hypertension, plants of the family scrophulariaceae, including mullein, had marked hypotensive action.

Mullein has antitubercular activity
Incubated at 37 degrees C. for seven days with the H37Rv strain of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, mullein leaf extract produced inhibition at concentrations lower than 1:80 but higher than 1:40. This makes it one of the weakest of those plants having such activity, but demonstrates the presence of the property nonetheless.

Mullein is mucilaginous
Mullein contains a large amount of mucilage, which accounts for its demulcent and emollient uses. None of these properties have been investigated experimentally, but the effects of mucilage are well enough understood to predict a certain usefulness in soothing irritations and itches.

Drug Interactions & Precautions

Possible Interactions
The following drugs may be imperfectly absorbed if mullein is used daily: tetracycline derivatives, oral anticholinergics, phenothiazines, digoxin, isoniazid, phenytoin, and warfarin.

The urinary excretion of alkaline drugs, such as amphetamines or quinidine, may be inhibited by the antacid nature of mullein. The antacid nature of this herb may also decrease or delay the absorption of nalidixic acid and the sulfonamides.

The antituberculous activity of mullein may potentiate the adverse effects of other antituberculous drugs, especially ethionamide.

Mullein's analgesic effects may be additive with other analgesics and anesthetics. They may, however, be inhibited by barbiturates, despite any CNS-depressant effects which may occur.

Conversely, the analgesic property of mullein may be reversed or eliminated by P-chlorophenylalanine, cyproheptadine HCl, and ephenobarbital. The CNS-depressant tendency of this analgesic may be potentiated by chlorprothixene HCl, haloperidol, and tranquilizers.

The anti-inflammatory activity of this herb can be seriously inhibited by phenobarbital and certain other sedatives and hypnotics, such as chloral hydrate and meprobamate, as well as beta-adrenergic blocking agents, such as propranolol.

The antacid properties of mullein may enhance the renal tubular resorption of the antiarrhythmic drug quinidine, leading to increased quinidine serum levels.

Use of large amounts of mullein on a continuous basis may partially block the digestion, absorption, or resorption of a wide variety of drugs and fat-soluble vitamins. The absorbent nature of mullein may also inhibit absorption of lincomycin and digitalis.

In the absence of other hard data, it may be assumed observable interactions occur between the many central nervous system drugs and the psychoactive principles in mullein.

Safety Factors & Toxicity

Mullein has no known toxicity.

Mullein flower has approval status by the German Commission E.


Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Preparation & Administration

Three times a day

Dried leaf and flower
4-8 grams

made from 1 tsp dried leaf or flower

Fluid extract
1:1 in 25% alcohol, 4-8 ml

Oil (from flowers)
1-5 drops in ears

This herb has approval status by the German Commission E.

Recommended daily dosages in Germany are as follows:

3 - 4 g of the herb.


Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Note: This Herbal Preparation information is a summary of data from books and articles by various authors. It is not intended to replace the advice or attention of health care professionals.


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Verbascum thapsus

? Southwest School of Botanical Medicine