Mullein is one herb that is easy to harvest locally, and it is a good supplement to keep handy for lung health during wildfire season and when dealing with irritations and infections caused by viruses and allergies. Mullein grows wild and abundantly in Oregon, popping up along waterways, ditches, roads and at the edges of forests. The common mullein plant belongs to the snapdragon (Scrophulariaceae) family, evident by its tall flowering head of bright yellow blossoms.

Mullein is well known as a traditional treatment for respiratory problems, offering relief with chest colds, bronchitis, and asthma. Both the leaves and flowers contain mucilage, which is soothing to irritated membranes, and saponins, which make coughs more productive. Research has shown that the herb has strong anti-inflammatory traits, and some studies indicate that mullein flower infusions have antiviral properties, as well. Some studies also highlight the plants emollient qualities as it contains glycyrrhizin, a compound that aids in wound healing.

How it works

As a known expectorant, mullein helps remove excess mucus from lungs while soothing the mucus membranes. People who suffer from symptoms of bronchitis, heavy coughing, chest colds and asthma may find relief from mullein (leaf and flower) tea as well as in the form of OTC herbal supplements. Natural detergents contained in both the leaves and flowers support the releasing and expelling of phlegm from the walls of the lungs. It also contains mucilage, a gelatinous substance which soothes any irritated membrane.

How to use it

Dried mullein leaves, flowers and roots can all be used to heal a variety of lung conditions. As mullein can be harvested locally, mullein leaf and flower tea is a very good method for using the herb. Leaves chopped and steeped in boiling water for 10-15 minutes; mullein tea can be consumed up to 3 times a day. Gargling the cooled tea is also very effective for relieving coughs and soreness in the throat. The leaves of mullein make a very mild tasting tea, while the blossoms tend to taste sweeter.

Another great way to benefit from the healing qualities of mullein is by preparing an inhalant. A simple preparation for mullein inhalant is to set a handful of chopped leaves in water to boil. After five minutes or so, remove from heat and making a tent out of a towel, inhale the steam to relieve coughs, congestion, and asthma. Dried variations of mullein in the form of capsules, loose leaf, tea and tinctures are readily available through the Hawthorn Medicinary.

The science of mullein

There are many different mullein species, and studies show many have polyphenols, compounds which can have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Antiviral properties – Some lab studies have shown Verbascum species to have antiviral activity against influenza A and herpes. One laboratory study found combining the medication amantadine with mullein increased antiviral activity against influenza.

Antibacterial properties – Lab studies have shown mullein leaf has antibacterial properties in both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, including: Klebsiella pneumoniae, E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus.

A CAUTIONARY NOTE: Mullein seeds are not to be ingested as they are mildly toxic! Although mullein leaves are soft to the touch, the fine hairs can cause skin irritation rashes in some people. Always consult with your primary care physician before adding herbs to your diet, particularly if you are taking prescription medications.

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