The Health Benefits of Mullein

Soothe the Respiratory Tract, Ease Ear Pain, and Fight Infection

mullein
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Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) is a common weed that has long been used in herbal medicine, especially in remedies that aim to soothe the respiratory tract. These remedies involve the use of mullein's flowers and leaves. Mullein is also sometimes used as a flavoring agent in alcoholic beverages.

Health Benefits

Certain compounds in mullein's leaves and flowers are thought to act as demulcents or expectorants. Demulcents are substances that calm irritation or inflammation in the skin or internal parts of the nose, mouth, or throat. Expectorants are agents for stimulating the production or secretion of phlegm.

In some cases, mullein is applied directly to the skin to help treat burns or inflammatory skin conditions. Mullein oil is also used in ear drops for the treatment of ear infections.

In lab tests published in 2002, researchers found that mullein helped kill certain types of bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus (the most common cause of staph infections) and Escherichia coli (or E. coli). Herbalists typically use mullein to address the following health problems:

  • Upper respiratory tract infections
  • Coughs
  • Bronchitis
  • Asthma

The use of mullein to treat any condition is not well-supported by scientific data. However, preliminary research suggests that mullein shows promise for use in the treatment of the following conditions:

Flu

In test-tube research, mullein has been found to fight flu-causing viruses. However, since the flu can lead to serious illnesses such as pneumonia, it's critical to seek medical attention when experiencing flu symptoms (rather than attempting to self-treat the condition).

Ear infections

In a 2003 study of 171 children with otalgia (ear pain or an earache), those who used ear drops containing mullein (along with garlic, Calendula, St. John's wort, lavender, vitamin E, and olive oil) had a statistically significant improvement in ear pain over the course of three days. In fact, those who were given ear drops alone had a better response than those who were given ear drops together with amoxicillin.

Possible Side Effects

Although there are no known adverse effects associated with the use of mullein, it's important to educate yourself about supplement safety before using any herb.

Supplements haven't been tested for safety and due to the fact that dietary supplements are largely unregulated, the content of some products may differ from what is specified on the product label. Also keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications have not been established. 

Dosage and Preparations

There is not enough scientific data to determine a specific appropriate dose of mullein. However, in studies, a specific product that contains mullein, garlic, calendula, and St. John’s wort has been used in the ear for up to three days. 

The correct dose for you may depend on factors including your age, gender, and medical condition. Speak with a healthcare provider to get personalized advice.

What to Look For

Tinctures, capsules, lozenges, powders, and ear drops containing mullein are found in many health food stores.

Due to the limited research, it's too soon to recommend mullein as a treatment for any condition. If you're considering using it, talk to your doctor to weigh the potential risks and benefits. Keep in mind that alternative medicine should not be used as a substitute for standard care. Self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

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