Ep. 89 Heirlooms and Herbals – Mullein

In this episode of Heirlooms and Herbals, Joanne Bauman discusses mullein, its medicinal and culinary uses, how to grow it, identify it, and it's special history.

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In this episode of Mother Earth News and Friends, Joanne Bauman discusses Mullein (Verbascum thapsus), tinctures and infusions, and how to use the herb for medical issues.

Joanne Bauman, a Kansas herbalist, shares the gift of the green nations (healing food and medicine plants) in the Wise Woman Tradition of healing. Bauman (of Prairie Magic Herbals) teaches herb classes, grows and wildcrafts medicine plants, creates herbal preparations, and does consultations. Her love of the plants and easygoing teaching style make learning and using your own herbal remedies accessible to everyone. The Prairie Magic Herbals website conveys her thoughts about plants and herbalism. She first learned about plants from her pharmacist father, has a master’s degree in clinical psychology, and applied her personal experiences to counsel others in a physical rehabilitation hospital. Bauman serves as coordinator of the Herbalists Without Borders (HWB) Community Herbal Apothecary Project and as coordinator of the Kansas Chapter of HWB.

Additional Resources:

Some people have said they aren’t sure how to pronounce mullein…it is like mull, as in mulling over mullein. Because mullein is a biennial plant (taking two years to complete its life cycle), leaves and roots can be harvested at the end of the first and beginning of the second year, while flowers can only be harvested from the second year.

Make fresh plant preparations or dry for later uses.

Harvest mullein leaves when they are fresh and vibrant looking, ideally when the leaves are still in a basal rosette. The best times are in the fall of the first year’s growth or in the spring of the second year before the flower stalk starts to grow. In a pinch, the leaves can be harvested from a plant with a flower stalk. When harvesting the leaves, take a few from a single plant, leaving plenty to ensure the continued life of the plant.

You can dry mullein leaves by cutting an entire stalk and hanging it upside down out of the direct sun to dry.  I pick mullein leaves as the basal rosette grows and also from second-year mullein when they are fresh and soft and green. I lay them out in a single layer on a large flat dying basket so air can circulate, and slide the basket under a bed to keep out of direct sunlight. In a day, I check them and turn them over, then do this again in a few days. Depending upon moisture and humidity, the leaves will typically dry in days to a week. They will be less soft and pliable and more dry to crumble.   I know an herbalist who lays hers out on a paper sack or basket and uses her car trunk to dry leaves. It typically only takes around a few hours on a good sunny/warm day.

Mullein  Infusion

Mullein leaves are an excellent tonic for the entire respiratory system, soothe sore throat irritation and lung problems such as cough, congestion, bronchitis, etc.  2-4 Cups of mullein leaf infusion daily also can strengthen the lungs, or restore health to lung tissues after “assaults” such as tobacco smoke or radiation. Mullein helps relieve allergies and asthma as well.  Mullein leaves are fuzzy, so use a muslin bag for making your infusions or strain through tightly-woven cloth (cheesecloth or even a coffee filter).  Small hairs on mullein leaf may cause irritation in the mouth and throat if not filtered out of extracts prior to consumption.

Drink warm or cool according to preference.  In addition, a compress made from plant strained from the infusion can be applied to the chest to ease congestion. A warm poultice of the leaf can be applied to sprains, painful joints, and swollen glands.

Here is how to Make and benefit from herbal infusions:

Making nourishing herbal infusions is simple, affordable, they taste great and are an excellent source of absorbable vitamins and minerals. Nutritive herbs were meant to be consumed on a regular basis as a part of our food. They were intended to help nourish our bodies and keep them strong. These nutrients found behind the cell wall of the plant, release themselves only after steeping dried (drying makes the cell wall more fragile) plant material for 4-8 hours.  My favorite herbs for infusion are nettle leaf, oatstraw, linden blossom/leaf, violet leaf, raspberry leaf, calendula blossom, and mullein or marshmallow root (althea) in winter, but only one at a time. You can add a bit of honey or mint to infusions if desired.

An herb “tea” is not brewed very long. An infusion is a large amount of herb brewed for a long time to free up the vitamins and minerals. Typically, one ounce by weight (about a cup by volume) of dried herb is placed in a quart jar which is then filled to the top with boiling water, tightly lidded and allowed to steep for 4-8 hours. Use muslin bags for ease; Strain the plant matter out (please return it to the ground, not the trash). After straining, a cup or more is consumed, and the remainder chilled to slow spoilage. Drinking 2-3 cups a day is usual. You can start out slowly with 1-2 cups. Since the minerals and other phytochemicals in nourishing herbs are made more accessible by drying, dried herbs are considered best for infusions.

You can make infusions at night before bed and they are ready in the morning. You can drink infusions either hot or cold/iced. You can mix part infusion, with your drinking water initially if you want to, rather than drink full strength. You can also add infusion to soups, stews, etc. as a liquid (if recipe calls for 2 cups of water, use 1 C. infusion, 1 C. water or etc..). You can freeze infusion in ice cube trays and use it in cooking that way also. I even know one woman who made morning coffee with water and part oatstraw infusion so her husband could get the benefits and not even know he was having his coffee made with it!

Drink the quart of infusion within 36-48 hours typically, or until it clouds or smells off (you’ll know). You can use any you do not use to water house plants–they will love the nutrients!

Mullein Flower Infused Oil

Best known for use in easing ear infection and pain or swimmer’s ear.  Find stalks of Mullein in flower, and pick the flowers that are just out. Do not wash any part of the plant. Moisture can ruin your oil.   You can put flowers in a small basket and let them wilt an hour or so to reduce moisture content. Put them in a small jar and fill to nearly the top with extra virgin olive oil.  You’ll need more flowers to fill the jar and they don’t bloom at once, but sporadically, so gather more flowers over the next few days and add them into the oil. Lid, and label and keep the jar at normal room temperature out of direct sunlight and not refrigerated.  Any condensation can cause moisture which causes oil to get moldy and spoil.  Store in a cupboard or on a shelf.  I like to add a couple of chopped garlic cloves to my oil. Garlic is antibacterial and antiviral.  In 6 weeks, strain off (decant) the liquid and return the plant to the earth or compost.  You can apply 1-2 drops in an ear with a dropper. Massage the ear. Do not apply if there is any chance or you suspect perforation of the eardrum.

For making salves,  beeswax is usually added to thicken oils.

This mullein flower oil can also be useful for mouth and gum sores; rashes, bruises, cuts, and sores. It is also beneficial for sprains and inflamed joints. Mullein flower oil can be used postpartum to heal the perineum.

Mullein leaf, flower or root Tincture

Remove the fresh herb off of the stalks–flowers, as they bloom, leaves fresh and green any time off rosettes or stalk. If using freshly dug roots early spring or fall (the first year for roots), wash and scrub them of dirt.

Chop fresh herbs and grind dried herbs to increase the surface area for the maceration. Place herbs into a clean, dry jar with a wide mouth.

Pour high proof alcohol (vodka or brandy) over the herbs until they are completely covered. Dry herbs may absorb the liquid, so check and add alcohol as needed.

Cover tightly with a lid and place the jar in a dark cupboard and allow it to soak or macerate for 6 weeks.

During this time period, give the jar a shake every 2-3 days. Keep an eye on the alcohol level to ensure all your herbs are still covered.

After 6 weeks, strain the mixture through a strainer or cheesecloth and press down on herbs to squeeze out any remaining liquid.

Use a funnel to transfer into labeled, glass bottles and store out of the light.

More links from this episode:

MOTHER EARTH NEWS – Mullein a Gift From the Birds

Mother Earth Living – Herb Profile: Mullein

JoAnne’s Website: Prairie Magic Herbals

JoAnne’s Facebook: Prairie Magic Herbals

Our Podcast Team:
Carla Tilghman and Jessica Mitchell
Haley Casey and Charlotte French

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  • Updated on Mar 11, 2022
  • Originally Published on Sep 6, 2019
Tagged with: gardener, heirlooms, herbals, Joanne Bauman, medicinal, mullein, verbascum
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