That Woman in the Woods: Mullein
Updated: Feb 24
For those of you who know Nellie, the wise Native elder in the Etched in Granite Series, you are familiar with the many plants that are part of her healing world. This valuable information is not restricted to her. She passes her wisdom down for future generations. From Abigail to her son, Samuel, in Down from the Tree, the gift of knowing is present. Also, in a very different setting, there are references made to plant medicine in The Angels’ Lament.
As an author, it is my responsibility to do my research. I love it and cannot get enough. I want to share that I have many years of experience and training in wildcraft herbalism. I only work with plants that grow with me. Any references to plant medicine in my work are valid and practiced in my own world. I am that woman in the woods.
That being said, let’s talk about the local biennial, Mullein. It is one of my favorite plants. Oh, wait! I say that about so many volunteers that show up here. Mullein is a resilient plant that continues to exhibit its greenness in the depths of winter. I often enjoy a tea blend of mullein leaf, mint, and either white pine or hemlock fir needles. For me, there is no need to sweeten.
The healing properties of this great plant are almost too vast to mention, but I will name a few. First of all, to shake it up a bit, I will say that it is beneficial for lung healing in a smoke blend. Yes, you read correctly. Natives knew this long before white settlers arrived.
It acts as an expectorant. Mullein leaf not only helps with coughs, but it is also believed to aid in clearing the lungs during and after the quitting of tobacco smoking. That's only the beginning.
Mullein is commonly used as a tea, frequently combined with other herbs in blends for treating cough. It may be taken in tincture form and is very rarely found in capsule form. The fresh or dried flowers are traditionally used to make an oil infusion for external use.
The soothing mucilage of mullein coat sore throats and make coughing more productive.
The German E Commission relates that mullein is useful for catarrhs of the respiratory tract and as an expectorant. (1)
Mullein Flower Oil – Used for soothing ear aches* and applied externally for relief of aches and pains from arthritis, sprains, swelling, and tendonitis.
Mullein Root Tincture – Used for incontinence, coughs, sore throats, and respiratory illnesses. Urinary incontinence, bladder infections and control, and reduces swelling. Aids in the healing of broken bones, spine and disk alignment, back injuries, related swelling, and muscle spasms.
Mullein Flower and Leaf Tincture – Used for general swelling, muscle, and joint pain. Mullein is one of the primary herbs in treating congestion and dry coughs, it works as an effective expectorant.
Mullein (Leaf) is also a highly effective remedy for the lymphatic system. Folk herbalist Tommie Bass states that the leaves can be applied as a compress to any instance of glandular swelling. The physiomedicalist Dr. William Cook called Mullein an "absorbent" of "peculiar and reliable power." He recommended Mullein leaves be made into a strong decoction. Then that water used to wet more leaves that were then applied externally over the swelling. To further increase the effectiveness of the preparation, it is suggested that Mullein root be taken internally. The use of Mullein Flower Tincture to relieve swelling is attributed to its lymphatic actions. (2)
Properties: Mucilage, Flavonoids, Iridoids, Sterols, and Sugars.
___________________________________________________________________ Folklore: The name mullein itself is derived from the Latin word "Mollis," which means soft. It has its origins in the Mediterranean but has been naturalized in North America. The flowering stem was dried by the Greeks and Romans, dipped in tallow, and then used as a lamp wick or as a torch. (3)
These torches were said to ward off evil spirits and witches, although it was certainly not uncommon in a witches herbal garden. Frazier writes in the Golden Bough that mullein was added to the bonfire on Midsummer's eve to ward away evil from the celebration. Some ancient grimoires (magical ‘textbooks’) have been found to list powdered mullein leaf as a substitute for graveyard dust when that was unavailable. (4)
Works Cited: (1) Excerpt from Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs
Copyright 2000 American Botanical Council
Published by Integrative Medicine Communications
Available from the American Botanical Council.
Mj Pettengill Wildcraft Practitioner Marigold Moon Wildcraft Apothecary