A common weed, mullein (Verbascum thapsus) has long been used in herbal medicine, especially in remedies that aim to soothe the respiratory tract. These remedies involve the use of mullein's flowers and leaves.
Why Do People Use Mullein?
Herbalists typically use mullein to address the following health problems:
Certain compounds in mullein's leaves and flowers are thought to act as demulcents (substances that calm irritation or inflammation in the skin or internal parts of the nose, mouth, or throat) or expectorants (agents for stimulating the production or secretion of phlegm).
In some cases, mullein is applied directly to the skin to help treat burns or inflammatory skin conditions. Mullein oil is also used in ear drops for the treatment of ear infections.
Benefits of Mullein
The use of mullein to treat any condition is not well-supported by scientific data. However, preliminary research suggests that mullein shows promise for use in treatment of the following conditions:
1) Influenza (flu)
In test-tube research, mullein has been found to fight flu-causing viruses. However, since the flu can lead to serious illnesses such as pneumonia, it's critical to seek medical attention when experiencing flu symptoms (rather than attempting to self-treat the condition).
Learn more about treatment of influenza.
2) Ear infections
In a 2003 study of 171 children with otalgia (ear pain or earache), those who used ear drops containing mullein (along with garlic, calendula, St. John's wort, lavender, vitamin E, and olive oil) had a statistically significant improvement in ear pain over the course of three days. In fact, those who were given ear drops alone had a better response than those who were given ear drops together with amoxicillin.
In lab tests published in 2002, researchers found that mullein helped kill certain types of bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus (the most common cause of staph infections) and Escherichia coli (or E. coli).
How to Use Mullein
Tinctures, capsules, lozenges, powders, and ear drops containing mullein are found in many health food stores.
Although there are no known adverse effects associated with the use of mullein, it's important to educate yourself about supplement safety before using any herb.
Sarrell EM, Cohen HA, Kahan E. "Naturopathic treatment for ear pain in children." Pediatrics 2003 111(5 Pt 1):e574-9.
Turker AU, Gurel E. "Common mullein (Verbascum thapsus L.): recent advances in research." Phytotherapy Research 2005 19(9):733-9.
Turker AU, Camper ND. "Biological activity of common mullein, a medicinal plant." Journal of Ethnopharmacology 2002 82(2-3):117-25.