What Is Mullein?

Mullein tincture, capsules, and ear drops

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Mullein (Verbascum ) is a common plant used for centuries in herbal medicine. While most gardeners consider it a weed, its flowers and leaves are often used by herbalists to treat respiratory problems, digestive issues, and skin conditions, among other health concerns.

There are many different species of mullein, but the most commonly used one is Verbascum thapsus, or the mullein leaf.

This article explains the traditional uses of mullein in herbal medicine, how it is commonly administered, and what you need to know about side effects, precautions, and interactions when taking it.

Dietary supplements are not regulated in the United States, meaning the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve them for safety and effectiveness before products are marketed. When possible, choose a supplement that has been tested by a trusted third party, such as USP, ConsumerLabs, or NSF. However, even if supplements are third-party tested, that doesn’t mean that they are necessarily safe for all or effective in general. It is important to talk to your healthcare provider about any supplements you plan to take and to check in about any potential interactions with other supplements or medications.

Supplement Facts


●     Active Ingredient(s): Saponins, glycosides, flavonoids, minerals

●     Alternate Name(s): Common mullein, mullein leaf, Verbascum, Verbascum thapsus

●     Legal Status: Legal in the US, available over-the-counter

●     Suggested Dose: Dosage varies and may depend on use, age, gender, and other factors.

●     Safety Considerations: Few side effects of mullein have been reported.

Uses of Mullein

Supplement use should be individualized and vetted by a healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian, pharmacist, or healthcare provider. No supplement is intended to treat, cure, or prevent a disease.

The list of mullein's purported uses is long. However, much of the evidence supporting these uses is weak.

Many studies evaluating mullein have been performed in vitro (i.e., in a test tube) rather than in humans. While we can learn many things from in vitro studies, we won't know the full effects of mullein until more human trials are completed.

Nevertheless, mullein has been used as an herbal remedy for:

Sometimes, mullein is applied directly to the skin to help treat burns or wounds. Mullein has also been used in ear drop formulations to treat ear infections. Additionally, mullein is thought to have anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antioxidant, antibacterial, and anticancer properties. However, these claims are not well supported by scientific evidence.

One of the only human trials available on mullein looked at the herb's use for episiotomy wounds. In the study, new mothers used a mullein cream preparation on their episiotomy wounds twice a day for 10 days. The mullein cream was found to enhance the healing of episiotomy wounds.

Mullein's effectiveness at treating any condition is not well-supported by scientific data. However, it continues to be used as an herbal remedy for many health concerns.

What Are the Side Effects of Mullein?

There are no common or severe side effects associated with the use of mullein.

According to one review of various herbs, mullein has no reported side effects. In another study, participants who used mullein for episiotomy wounds did not experience side effects after using it for 10 days.

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.

It is difficult for the FDA to effectively evaluate all supplements on the market; therefore, many products out there are unregulated and haven't been tested for safety. This means the actual content of some products may not match their product labels. It's also important to keep in mind that some supplements may not be safe for children, people who are pregnant or nursing, or people with certain medical conditions.

Mullein capsules
Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Precautions

There are few precautions for the use of mullein. It is generally recognized as a safe supplement as side effects are low.

However, certain populations of people should take precautions when using mullein. Always speak with a healthcare provider prior to starting a new supplement to make sure it is safe for you. There is not enough information regarding the safety of mullein for people who are pregnant or lactating. We also do not know how using mullein affects small children.

If you have any health conditions or are taking medication then talk with your healthcare provider about whether mullein is right for you.

Dosage: How Much Mullein Should I Take?

Always speak with a healthcare provider before taking a supplement to ensure that the supplement and dosage are appropriate for your individual needs.

There is not enough scientific data to determine a recommended dose of mullein for most people. This is because few human trials have been completed on mullein.

Researchers from one study looking at mullein's effects on episiotomy wounds found that creams containing 7.5% mullein extract were beneficial for wound healing.

Aside from this study, we do not have sufficient evidence to recommend mullein dosage.

The correct dose for you may depend on your age, gender, body weight, and any present medical conditions. Mullein should be used as directed. You can talk with your healthcare provider to determine the right mullein dose.

What Happens If I Take Too Much Mullein?

Mullein is not thought to be toxic, and an overdose is unlikely. It is typically recognized as a safe supplement. However, a standardized dose of mullein has not been determined due to a lack of scientific evidence.

Instances of mullein toxicity or overdose have not been reported. Regardless, you should only take mullein as directed and avoid taking more than has been recommended.

Interactions

It is unknown whether mullein interacts with drugs, foods, herbs, or supplements. We need more research to know if any interactions exist.

Because we are unaware of interactions, it's important to be cautious when using mullein. This is especially true if you have any health conditions, are taking any medications or other supplements, or are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Mullein supplements may contain other ingredients. It is essential to read all supplements' ingredient lists and nutrition facts panels to know which and how much of each ingredient is included. Please review this supplement label with your healthcare provider to discuss potential interactions with foods, other supplements, and medications.

How to Store Mullein

Mullein supplements should be stored in a cool, dry place and out of direct sunlight. It's best to keep mullein supplements in their original container to avoid spoiling.

If you are using mullein leaves or tea, these should also be kept out of direct sunlight. Mullein creams and oils do not need to be refrigerated but should be stored in a dry location.

Regardless of the form of your mullein supplements, protect them from becoming overly hot or cold temperatures. Discard your mullein supplements once they reach their expiration date as listed on the packaging.

Similar Supplements

You may wonder if there are supplements on the market similar to mullein.

Many supplements claim to have similar benefits as mullein. For instance, like mullein, vitamin C is thought to improve wound healing. This is because vitamin C contains antioxidants and other substances important to all phases of wound healing.

Zinc, an important mineral, may also be used to help heal wounds, especially leg ulcers.

Other supplements that may be used in similar ways as mullein include:

Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider before starting new supplements or taking multiple supplements. They can advise you on potential interactions with medications or other supplements.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is mullein a weed?

    Although many call mullein a plant, it is technically a weed. It grows and spreads quite easily in many parts of the U.S. and other countries. Various parts of mullein are used to make herbal remedies, including its roots and flowers.

  • What are the benefits of mullein?

    Research on mullein is limited. However, mullein has been used for many years in herbal medicine.

    It's thought to be useful in treating inflammation, asthma, wounds, earaches, cough, and migraines. However, to date, there is weak evidence for these uses. More research is needed.

  • Can you grow your own mullein?

    It is possible to grow your own mullein, but you may want to be cautious.

    Mullein can grow to be very large. If not tended correctly, you could find yourself with more mullein plants than expected.

    There are several species of mullein, so be sure to grow the right one. Verbascum thapsus is the mullein species most commonly discussed in the context of supplemental use.

Sources of Mullein & What to Look For

Because mullein is not found in foods, the best method to get it is through supplements. Mullein supplements come in many forms.

Mullein Supplements

You can find mullein supplements as tinctures, creams, capsules, lozenges, oils, powders, and ear drops. Mullein tea is also available. Mullein supplements are also typically vegan since they are made from plants.

With so many supplement forms available, the best one for you may depend on your preference. Due to limited research, it's too soon to recommend mullein as a treatment for any condition. If you're considering mullein, talk to your healthcare provider to weigh the potential risks and benefits.

Remember that alternative medicine should not be used as a substitute for standard care. Self-treating a condition while avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. Be wary of any products claiming to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease; supplement manufacturers are not allowed to make such health claims.

Summary

For some people, herbal supplements like mullein may relieve various symptoms. Although mullein appears to be fairly safe, it has not been proven effective in treating any health condition.

Use caution and speak with your healthcare provider before starting mullein. When buying herbal products, look for brands whose products are tested by third parties such as USP, ConsumerLabs, or NSF.

11 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Additional Reading

By Brittany Lubeck, RD
Brittany Lubeck, RD, is a nutrition writer and registered dietitian with a master's degree in clinical nutrition. 

Originally written by
Cathy Wong
Cathy Wong

Cathy Wong is a nutritionist and wellness expert. Her work is regularly featured in media such as First For Women, Woman's World, and Natural Health.

Learn about our editorial process