Botanical Name: Verbascum thapsus Family: Scrophulariaceae

Common name(s): Mullein


  • Biennial; herbaceous | Zones 3-9 | 5 – 6 feet | The first year the plant forms a velvety rosette, the second year it sends up a tall stalk of yellow flowers (then sets seed, withers, and dies. Flowers appear in mid-to late summer over a period of a couple of weeks, beginning at the bottom of the stalk.
  • Dry, well-drained soil | Full sun
  • Propagate from seed, directly in the ground in early spring or fall (or start indoors and transplant) 15 inches apart


  • The whole plant is used for medicine.
  • Harvest roots in the fall of the first year or spring of the second.
  • Hand pick leaves any time during the growing season.
  • Hand pick flowers in full bloom.

Companions: Mugwort, feverfew, echinacea


Infusion: Steep 1 – 2 teaspoonful of dried leaves or flowers in 1 cup boiling water for 10 – 15 minutes. Take 3x / day.

Decoction: Boil the roots to make a tea.

Tincture: 10 – 30 drops

Oil: Macerate the flowers in olive oil. Strain. Use a few drops in each ear with a wad of cotton for earaches.

External: apply a poultice of the leaves for boils, swollen glands, bruises, insect bites, and add leaves to the bath for relieving rheumatic pain relief

Etc: the dried leaves can also be smoked to get the medicine into the lungs.

Caution: the tiny hairs on the underside of leaves can irritate the skin. When making a poultice, wrap in cheesecloth or muslin before applying.


Constituents: Flavonoids, mucilage, polysaccharides, saponins, sterols

Actions: Anodyne (flowers), antispasmodic, antitussive, astringent, demulcent, expectorant, vulnerary

Uses: Lung and bronchial congestion, spasmodic coughs, sore throat, earaches, lymphatic congestion


According to what I’ve read, it’s the leaves of the plant that are primarily used, with the flowers the A+ treatment for ear infection. But I wanted to know what the roots were used for. According to this source, they are really good for treating bladder issues, and aligning broken bones, of all things! 

This plant pops up in my yard occasionally. Not abundantly, and I looked for it this year where it had towered last year, not realizing it was a biennial. So I’m hoping to be able to find a flowering plant this year to harvest some flowers and make an oil in case my new grandson gets any ear infections (like my kids did)!