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What is mullein? What is it used for?

Mullein is a biennial plant that grows in Europe, north Africa and North America. It is known for its distinctive yellow-orange flowers, which bloom between July and September. The leaves and flowers are used medicinally.

Both mullein flowers and mullein leaves have been used as herbal remedies since ancient times. During the Middle Ages, mullein preparations were used to treat skin and lung diseases. Nineteenth century physicians used mullition for inflammatory diseases and respiratory and urinary conditions. Today, it is still prescribed by some practitioners in the treatment of otitis media and eczema.

In terms of active ingredients, mullein contains about three percent mucilage and small amounts of saponins and tannins. The mucilaginous constituents are primarily responsible for the soothing actions on mucous membranes, while the saponins may be responsible for mullein’s expectorant properties.

How much mullein should I take?

Many naturopathic practitioners recommend a mullein tea, which is made by combining one cup of boiling water with 5-10 grams of dried leaves or flowers and steeping them for 10-15 minutes. This tea can be drunk 3-4 times a day. Alternately, some practitioners recommend 3-4 grams of dried herb per day. For ear infections, some providers employ an oil extract applied directly in the ear; however, this should only be performed by a qualified health care provider

What forms of mullein are available?

Mullein is available either as a fresh cut or dried herb. It can also be found as a powder, tincture or extract.

What can happen if I take too much mullein? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

Aside from some minor skin irritations, mullein (when taken in the recommended dosages) is generally regarded as safe. There are no known adverse reactions or drug interactions, and there are no known restrictions for taking mullein while pregnant or breastfeeding.

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  • Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al (eds). The Complete Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, p. 173.
  • British Herbal Medicine Association. British Herbal Pharmacopoeia. Exeter, U.K.: 1996, pp. 140-41.
  • Klimek B. 6-O-apiosyl-verbacoside in the flowers of mullein (verbascum species). Acta Pol Pharm 1996;53(2):137-140.
  • Klimek B. Hydroxycinnamoyl ester glycosides and saponins from flowers of verbascum phlomoides. Phytochemistry 1996;43(6):1281-84.
  • Schulz V, Hansel R, Tyler V. Rational Phytotherapy: A Physician’s Guide to Herbal Medicine. New York: Springer, 1998.


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