Grow Mullein For Its Powerful Antioxidant Properties

Mullein is a common plant used since ancient times to soothe a host of maladies, from skin problems to infections and even respiratory issues.

by Carol Mowdy Bond
PHOTO: Carol Mowdy Bond

About 30 years ago, Linda Jameson acquired two mullein plants from her husband’s grandfather. She planted them on her family’s Oklahoma acreage, in case she needed them for medicinal purposes. 

 “But during 2020, 100 plants suddenly popped up and you could barely walk in my chicken yard,” Jameson says. “I couldn’t mow the area. So, I thought I should take the plants more seriously. I used YouTube to understand how to use mullein. Then I gathered the leaves and flowers for our family, and to share with friends.” 

Using & Preparing Mullein

During the plant’s first year, mullein emerges at ground level, remaining there before it dies during summer heat, leaving an established root. During year two, it grows back, up to 8 feet tall, and continues growing through spring and summer.  

Jameson does nothing to help the plants grow. During the spring, she gathers the leaves and flowers while they are fresh. However, the entire plant dries up at summer’s end, at which time she pulls down the stalks. By that time, the flowers are gone. 

In order to make teas and tinctures, Jameson gathers flowers when they bloom, and she only gathers leaves from the bottom of the plant so she gets fresh leaves. 

“I have a dehydrator, but I don’t use it because I don’t want the leaves or flowers to get too hot,” Jameson says. “I place the leaves on a surface to dry a bit, so they won’t mold. Then I tie the leaves with string, so air circulates around them, and let them hang where it’s cool inside my home. After they dry, I take them down and hand crush them, and put them in lidded canning jars.” 

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As well, Jameson places the flowers onto paper towels on wire racks, and lets them dry inside her home. She places the dried, whole flowers into lidded canning jars.  

Carol Mowdy Bond

Making Teas & Tinctures

Jameson uses small canning jars, allowing each opened jar to be fresh. She uses all the leaves or flowers in one jar, before opening the next jar. She keeps the jars for several years but cautions to make sure all moisture is removed prior to storing in jars.  

“I place about 2 teaspoons of the leaves, or the flowers, into boiling water like you would to make any tea,” Jameson says. “But it’s important that you strain it because there are little hairs on the leaves that irritate the throat. So, I strain the tea through a coffee filter. When I use the flower to make tea, it has a more delicate flavor.” 

Jameson uses YouTube for mullein tincture recipes. The tincture is more convenient to have on hand. She places tincture drops into warm water to make tea. 

For a tincture, use 2.5 to 5ml three times daily of a 1:5 tincture (in 40 percent alcohol). For infusion, pour 1 cup boiling water over 2 teaspoons dried leaf or flower, and infuse for 10 to 15 minutes. Then strain through cheesecloth to filter out the hairs. Drink three times daily.

You can also purchase already processed mullein products. 

Several years ago, the Jamesons brought beehives onto their property. The bees are all over the plants. When they harvest the honey, the honey tastes like mullein plants. So Jameson refers to the honey as “natural mullein honey.” 

 “You can infuse honey with mullein, but I don’t have to do that because the bees do it,” Jameson says. “The mullein honey stops coughs.” 

Linda Jameson

All About Mullein 

Mullein has been used since ancient times, and there are various species of the biennial herb, which is also known by many other names. During the Middle Ages, mullein was used for skin and lung diseases, to potentially help with respiratory health (especially coughs with bronchial congestion) as well as wound healing, ear infections, asthma and urinary tract infections.

Herbalists commonly use mullein for respiratory and lung health because of antioxidant properties that reduce inflammation and act as a stimulating expectorant. As well, mullein may benefit the skin and promote wound healing. Plus, due to microbial properties that fight urinary tract infections, the plant may act as a diuretic to reduce inflammation in the urinary system.  

Recent scientific research has backed up claims of the plant’s traditional health benefits, though researchers say more studies are needed.  

When appropriately ingested, mullein is safe and well tolerated by most people. However, no research exists relating to those who are pregnant or lactating. And the medical community suggests talking to a doctor before using the plant, while reiterating the mouth and throat irritation caused by the tiny hairs on mullein leaves. 

Mullein attracts insects, and is considered invasive in 20 states, producing 100,000 to 200,00 seeds per plant. Considered a weed by many, mullein may be challenging to remove, remain viable for decades, and crowd out native plant species. 

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