A (Very) Useful Weed

We cleared land and built our house. The first year here everything was so bare! But in the un-landscaped rubble rose several beautiful spires of MulleinVerbascum thapsus.  Mullein is generally found in very poor, disturbed and dry soil and can often be found in rock quarries, along railroad tracks or anywhere the soil has been very abused and overused.

Our soil qualifies as poor: if it’s not clay it’s a thin layer of powdered rock over still-intact rock. I was excited: at least one something-good had come out of all the bareness! Mullein is extremely useful and the dried flowers, which are very delicate, are almost impossible to find. Thinking I could have a whole section of my yard as Mullein, I let it go to seed rather than harvesting anything. Much to my chagrin, they didn’t reemerge the following year, or the year after that or …

Finally, in our seventh year here, there is one Mullein plant in a completely different place (birds? wind?). There were actually two but my husband (who should know better by now) pulled one up when he was mowing before I could holler at him.

Nearly all parts of the plant are useful … the flowers, fruit, leaves and root. Crush a fresh leaf and put it on a sore or toothache for quick relief of pain and speedy healing; or use as a poultice for mastitis (swollen breasts). An infusion of the leaves is used as a remedy for any sort of lung congestion and will calm coughs. The same infusion can be used to soothe the discomfort of hemorrhoids.

Mullein contains iron, magnesium, potassium and sulfur, making it very nutritious. An infusion, fluid extract or tincture will help with sluggish digestion.  Although I haven’t tried, I imagine the young leaves could be added to a salad, as well. (But the leaves are rather fuzzy … I’m not sure I’d like the texture.)

An ages-old remedy for earaches is to infuse Mullein flowers in oil (generally olive) and then put a couple of drops of the oil into each ear. (Remember, even if only one ear hurts, they are connected so you want to treat both.)

The uses of Mullein aren’t limited to internal. A steam cleanse with the leaves or flowers will help a blemished complexion. (Fill a bowl with steaming hot water. Crush a handful of dried leaves or flowers and put them in the bowl. Cover your head with a towel, bend over the bowl and allow the steam to penetrate all your pores for about ten minutes.) The leaves have a high mucilage content, making them a wonderful, softening addition to creams. An infusion of the flowers used as a rinse will brighten blond hair.

Magically, Mullein leaves can be stuffed into a dream pillow to discourage nightmares; or carry either the root or a leaf with you to maintain health. Best of all, the dried leaves can be powdered and used as a substitute for graveyard dirt.

If you’re lucky enough to have Mullein growing nearby, be sure to store the flowers in an opaque jar. They will turn black if exposed to light.

Mullein doesn’t like to be babied so I will let this plant do its thing. This year, however, I will take a few flowers and leaves … just in case it’s another seven years before I see one again!