Mullein plants are found all over Pine Valley, wherever there is disturbed soil. They have soft fuzzy leaves that have earned them the name of "Boy Scout Toilet Paper". The first year mullein grows as a basal rosette, and the second year it develops a tall spike with tiny yellow flowers on it.
Mullein has had a myriad of uses in history. Every part of the plant is used at different times in its life cycle. The thick, soft leaves have been used in a tea to treat respiratory illness. They have been shown to loosen congestion and help clear the lungs. The tiny hairs on the leaves can be irritating, and any teas must be filtered very carefully to avoid this problem. The dry flower spikes were dipped in tallow and used in the Middle Ages as torches.
Native American people smoked cigarettes made of tobacco mixed with dried mullein for respiratory problems. They also used to throw dry mullein seeds into a pool of water. The seeds had a narcotic effect and the fish would rise to the top of the pool where they could be easily gathered.
Mullein flowers have been picked throughout the growing season, placed in olive oil and left to infuse in the sun. The resulting infusion was wonderful for earaches that did NOT involve a ruptured eardrum. Adding beeswax to the infused oil made a soothing balm for chapped skin. A baby's diaper area benefited from a light layer of this mullein balm. Mullein root tea has been also used in urinary tract issues.
Finally, mullein is a wonderful indicator of a soil's contamination level. When looking for wild mullein, only harvest from straight, vigorous stalks. The crooked stalks indicate a high level of chemical contamination in the soil.
The next time mullein plants pop up in your yard, call them by name and give them some appreciation. They are a great plant to know.
**This article is for educational purposes only and is not meant to diagnose, treat or give any medical advice whatsoever.