Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)
Mullein is a hardy biennial that can be found in fields and ditches across the country. (A biennial takes two years to finish it's life cycle.) The first year the leaves grow in a rosette and the second year the flower stalk will rise from the center of last years rosette of leaves. Seeds can be sown in the spring or fall by scattering them on the soil surface and tamping down. Mullein seeds need light to germinate, so don't cover your seeds when you sow them. In fact, I've found the best way to sow Mullein seeds is to leave them on the tall stalks and let the birds sow the seeds for you. Don't have any seed stalks in your yard yet? No problem. There's usually groups of Mullein plants full of seeds along the fields and ditches in the rural parts of the country. Carefully cut a stalk near it's base, place in a bag to catch any loose seeds and take it home and stick it in the soil. (Always leave some stalks behind in the area you gather your seeds to keep the Mullein growing there too.) The birds will find it quickly find your treasures and spread the seeds for you. Mullein will grow even in poor soil in strong full sun. Occasional watering and fertile soil will grow huge plants up to seven feet tall. Mullein grows as a stout unbranched woolly stem with fuzzy leaves along the stalk. A spike of many small yellow flowers will appear in July through August of the second year. Flowers appear gradually starting at the bottom of the stalk and continuing upward. They can be collected everyday to use fresh or dry for later. Leaves may be collected thoughout both growing seasons as long as plenty are left to sustain the plant. Mullein roots should be dug in the fall of the first year or early spring of the second year. Wash and dry the roots and slice while still fresh to make that task easier.
Mullein has been used medicinally for many generations . Native Americans smoked the dried leaves to relieve chest congestion. Mullein leaf tea is an excellent remedy for coughs, colds, bronchial congestion, croup, sore throat,shortness of breath and asthma. I have personally used Mullein leaves mixed with Comfrey leaves and Lobelia in the treatment of whooping cough. The tiny hairs on Mullein leaves can be irritating to some people, so you may want to strain your tea through a coffee filter to trap the tiny hairs. Mullein is mildly sedative in nature, astringent, expectorant and antispasmodic. The leaves may also be used externally as a poultice when added to warm water and applied to inflamed hemorrhoids, ulcers, tumors, mumps and swollen tonsils and lymph glands. Adding Lobelia to Mullein at a ratio of three parts Mullein to one part Lobelia (by weight) aids in draining impurities from the lymphatic system. Mullein flowers can be mixed with Garlic and used to make an excellent oil for ear infections and earaches. It is best to use fresh flowers and garlic for "ear oil", although dried can be used if necessary. Mullein root is beneficial to the kidneys and can be made into a tea by simmering covered in water for 20 minutes. Let steep 20 more minutes and strain. This tea can be enjoyed up to 3 times a day. Mullein has also been called "torch plant" because the long flower stalks were dried and dipped into fat or oil and used as slow burning torches.