Mullein is a wonderful, healing medicine that nearly everyone in North America or Europe can find growing wild. You might not know its name, but you would probably recognize its silhouette and its fuzzy leaves. Mullein has so many medicinal qualities and uses, it’s a must-know herb for anyone interested in self reliance. Today we’re going to talk about mullein tea.
Mullein tea is a healing, nourishing drink that is the best natural lung medicine. It also has lots of other benefits, which we will discover here.
Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) is so very easy to recognize, and there are very few lookalike plants. The only thing that I am aware of that resembles mullein, is Lambs Ear.
This medicinal powerhouse has soft, fuzzy, pale green leaves. Mullein is a bi-biennial plant, which means it grows for two years then dies off. The first year plant forms a rosette that lays close to the ground. The second year plant shoots up a tall spike that is literally covered with tiny yellow flowers from mid to late summer. The mature plants get massive, and can be up to 6-7 feet tall.
Mullein loves full sun and dry conditions. It typically grows in poor, disturbed soil. Most often I find mullein on the roadside, especially where dirt has been brought in to level the road. Try to gather mullein farther away from roads, as the plant can soak up fumes and dirt from the cars driving by. You don’t want that pollution in your medicine!
History of mullein
Mullein originated in Europe, but became widely naturalized throughout North America. It is thought to have been brought over in the dirt that was used as a stabilizer in the bottom of old ships.
In Europe, mullein was traditionally thought to ward off evil spirits. Peasants were known to frequently use the thick, fuzzy leaves of mullein as shoe liners to help protect their feet from the cold.
The Irish grew mullein as a remedy for tuberculosis. In ancient Rome, the large stalk of mullein was dipped in tallow and burned as a ceremonial torch. American gold mines were typically lit using a similar method.
Native Americans often used the leaves as fire starter. They also smoked mullein, calling it “big tobacco”. This “big tobacco” was mixed with nicotine leaf and smoked to help alleviate asthma symptoms.
This is a video I posted to YouTube on how to identify mullein. Subscribe to my channel to get updates whenever I post a new video!
All parts of the mullein plant can be used medicinally. If you are wild foraging mullein, which part would be gathered, is dependent on what time of year it is. Typically you want to harvest the leaves before the plant flowers.
That would be either in the first year of the plant, or in spring to early summer. The flowers, which are said to have the most medicinal power, are only available on the plant from mid to late summer. The roots should be harvested in the fall or early winter.
These are common foraging “rules”. They are not set in stone, but there is a very good reason for these guidelines. It is based on where the energy of the plant is. In the spring, when the plant is focused on upward growth, most of the plant’s energy and power are in the leaves. When it starts to flower, the energy is shifted to the flowers. Then in the fall, when the plant is preparing for withstanding the winter, the energy shifts to the roots.
If you can’t forage for it but still want mullein to make your own medicine, you can find it at Starwest Botanicals.
Uses for mullein tea
Mullein tea is a powerful natural lung medicine. It is an expectorant, meaning it stimulates coughing, which can help dispel mucous from the lungs. I have found this remedy extremely helpful during cold and flu season.
Mullein tea is wonderful for colds and has even shown promise in fighting the flu virus. It’s antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory, which means that it can fight whatever ails you!
Mullein contains mucilage, which is helpful in soothing sore throats and inflamed, irritated membranes. This property is helpful for dry coughs. It also has polyphenols and antioxidants, which are both helpful for upper respiratory infections. It has been used historically as a traditional, natural lung medicine.
Mullein has been used to treat coughs, colds, flu, wheezing, hoarseness, sore throats, allergies, chills, fever, tonsillitis, headaches, and migraines. It has even shown results in more difficult ailments, like tuberculosis, asthma, whooping cough, and pneumonia.
Mullein tea, surprisingly, even has some other benefits. It helps with diarrhea, colic, and even gastrointestinal bleeding. Because of the mucilage, it is helpful for joint pain. It also soothes the inflammation that can cause pain, and can help facilitate healing.
How to make mullein tea
Start with mullein leaves and/or flowers.
If you are foraging your mullein, place it in the sun, oven, or dehydrator for a few hours to dry. Once it is dry, you can put it in a jar for longer term storage.
Crush the leaves or bruise the flowers.
Crushing the leaves creates more surface area to extract the benefits. Bruising the flowers also helps them to release their medicinal properties. Use about 2 Tbsp of the herb to 3 cups of water.
Heat water in a tea kettle or microwave.
Don’t heat it to boiling, as this can damage the antioxidants in the leaves.
Allow to steep for about 7-10 minutes.
This amount of time is perfect for releasing the majority of the medicinal constituents of the plant.
Strain all traces of the plant from the tea.
Use a very fine strainer or coffee filter. Alternatively, you can make your own tea bags to put the herb in, or use a tea ball. Be careful to remove all of the plant material, as it has little “hairs” on it that can cause lung and throat irritation.
Sweeten with honey, if desired.
Mullein leaves can be a little bitter, especially the large leaves. The flowers are sweeter, so you may be able to get away without any sweetener if you use them in your tea. You could also put some lemon in your tea for another flavor twist.
Enjoy hot or cold.
You can drink this tea hot or cold. I have found that for colds and flu, it’s best to drink it hot. A hot cup of tea is soothing when you are under the weather. Plus, the steam itself will help you breathe easier.
If you have extra, you can put in the refrigerator for a few days.
Take one cup 3 times daily as needed for lung issues.
Other medicinal uses for mullein
Mullein is also helpful as a topical wash or poultice. Eczema sufferers can drink mullein tea regularly for some longer-term relief, or mullein tea can be used as a wash for eczema flare-ups. A mullein poultice can be put on wounds, burns, bruises, frostbite, cellulitis, skin infections, hemorrhoids, and even staph infections.
Mullein root tincture is said to help with urinary issues. It is a mild astringent that aids in reducing inflammation of the bladder, without stimulating bladder or kidney function. It even helps to tone the muscles of the bladder, and helps relieve incontinence.
A mullein flower tincture is helpful in reducing swelling and pain associated with abscesses. The flowers are said to have more medicinal power. Mullein flower tincture tends to be quite sedative, so use caution when driving or operating machinery.
The bright, cheery mullein flowers can be infused in olive oil for a great remedy for earaches and ear infections. Garlic can also be added to this oil to increase its potency. This remedy, however, should only be used for a maximum of 3 days. If symptoms aren’t gone by then, you should seek medical assistance. This infused oil also helps to clear wax buildup in the ears. Here is a great source for mullein garlic ear oil.
For either ear issue, simply put a small amount into the affected ear, then put a small piece of a cotton ball into the ear canal to keep the oil in. Lay down with the oiled ear facing upwards. For ear infections, I have found it’s helpful to heat the oil just a bit (to about 100 degrees), and put a heat pad on the affected ear after applying the oil.
Closing thoughts on mullein
If you are interested in being more self reliant, making your own medicine is a good practice. In order to be more independent from “big Pharma”, most people turn to herbs and essential oils. Mullein is a must-have herb in your natural first aid kit. It is so versatile, you truly have to have it in your apothecary!
This post may be shared on Family Homesteading and Off The Grid Blog Hop, Simple Homestead Blog Hop, Farm Fresh Tuesday, and Old Paths to New Homesteading & Self-Reliant Living.
We tried foraging this once but it became very hard to identify the Mullein
I’m surprised! Mullein is one of the first plants I ever learned to identify and forage. It looks and feels a little like lamb’s ear, but in the 2nd year it shoots up a tall stalk that can get up to 7 feet tall. This stalk has yellow flowers on it for months, so it’s easiest to find and identify it then. My video on YouTube might help you see the things that are sure ways to identify it. Hope this helps!