Thousands of plants growing wild in nature, are considered to be common weeds. However, many of these plants have therapeutic, healing properties.
Thousands of plants growing wild in nature, are considered to be common weeds. However, many of these plants have therapeutic, healing properties. The tenacious mullen weed (Verbascum thapsus,) commonly found in open meadows, roadside ditches, pastures and gardens throughout the United States, presents a diverse array of interesting features. Before you dismiss the plant as a weed or invasive wildflower, reconsider. Many parts of the hardy herb have beneficial homeopathic applications. The flowers and leaves are employed in herbal remedies and the stalks are used for emergency torches.
Due to its widespread use in many parts of the world, mullen weed is called by several common names including Indian Tobacco, Feltwort, Arron’s Rod, Flannel Weed, Torches, Shepherd's Staff, Velvet Dock, Goosegrass, Lungwort, Lamb's-Tongue and Candlewick. Mullen is part of the plant family Scrophulariaceae or Figwort.
A herbaceous biennial, mullen grows velvety, soft green leaves in the first year, then offers brilliant yellow flowers and seeds in the second year. The plant dies at the end of the 2nd year. When mullen weed grows during the first year, long (15- to- 20 inch) wooly silvered leaves form an impressive, tightly bunched rosette at ground level. Mullen weed grows vigorously in a sunny location in well drained, fertile soil. A part of the same plant family as snapdragons, mullen flowers early in the spring of its second year of growth. The flowers are tightly bunched on the top of the spike. The leaf rosette expands and forms a rod-like stem or spike that reaches 5 to 8 feet tall at maturity. Stalks of mullen weed can be bound together with vines as used as an emergency torch. Rich in oils, the stalks will burn brightly for an extended time.
During the times of the ancient Romans, mullen leaves were employed as a remedy for colds and coughs. A bronchial dilator, mullen weed is used to open the lung, alleviate bronchial congestion and expel mucous. Mullen contains diuretic, expectorant, emollient, analgesic and antiseptic properties. Internally, mullen is used for whooping cough,TB, bronchitis, asthma, insomnia, nervous tension, urinary tract infections and influenza. Mullen is a mysterious plant. For some people, a simple tea made from mullen leaves provides immediate relief from the symptoms of asthma. For others, the tea has no effect. An asthma attack can be incrediblly frightening. For the large percentage asthma suffers that benefit from smoking mullen, the plant is a “miracle medicine”. When gathering leaves for tea, tinctures or smoking, gather the young leaves of first year plants. 1st year plants have the highest concentration of beneficial ingredients and the mildest flavor.
Native to Eurasia, common mullen weed was introduced to North America as a medicinal herb. The virtues of mucilaginous herb are touted in the folk-lore of countries throughout Europe and Asia. The fibrous gray leaves were used as dressings for wounds and to protect and keep food items from spoiling. Religious monks in Northern Europe used mullen weed to treat a wide variety of lung problems. One of its common names, "bullocks lungwort," is derived from it traditional use to treat cattle with congestion or pneumonia.
For centuries, herbal healers have employed the unique properties of mullen weed to treat cuts and scrapes. The sap from the leaf is said to eliminate the pain and itching of insect bites. Hikers and hunters find mullen leaves to be a useful plant to have available if they run out of toilet tissue. If you are hurt or cut out in the woods and are without medical supplies, a compress of fresh mullen leaves will help stop bleeding.
Native American Indian tribes smoked the leaves of mullen weed as a substitute for tobacco. Shredded mullen leaves are often added to tobacco to treat asthma, relieve migraine headaches and to treat pulmonary distress. Semi-dried mullen leaves (approximately 75 dry) are rubbed between the hands until fluffy and soft. The manipulated leaves are then rolled into a cigarette and smoked.
The tribal healers boiled the leaves in water, strained the liquid and allowed it to cool. Once cool, a thin layer of mullen essential oil was skimmed from the top of the water and used in salves to treat infectious cuts and scrapes, an a healing burn ointment and as ear drop to relieve the pain of earaches and infections in children. Today, herbalists pick the delicate flowers and buds and add them to a container of organic oil such as lavender or almond. The essence of the mullen seeps into the oil as it ages. Kept in a sterile, airtight container, mullen oil will keep for several years. It is used as a healing emollient for dry, chapped skin and lips. It is great for softening heels and cuticles.
Early in the 20th century, mullen leaf cigarettes could be commonly located in every pharmacy in the United States. Prior to the invention of pharmaceutical bronchiodilators, mullen weed was prescribed to treat bronchitis and asthma. Mullen weed was smoked or steam from mullen simmering in water was inhaled. Antitussive healing herbs such as mullen, calm dry throats and nagging coughs. Mullen is commonly used in teas, tinctures and herbal cough syrups.
Natural healers combine mullen weed with wild cherry bark to brew a tea that soothes the pain of a sore throat, relieves bronchial congestion, wheezing and tightness in the chest.
Mullen is often mixed with other natural healing herbs in a wide variety of nutritional supplements.
United States Department of Agriculture: Plant Profile; Mullen
University of Arkansas: Department of Agriculture; Plant of the Week; Common Mullen