Down in the mullein meadow
The lusty thistle springs,
The butterflies go criss-cross,
The lonesome catbird sings,
But where the sunshine lingers,
And merry breezes come
To gather pungent perfumes
From the mullein-stalks a-bloom.
--Jean Blewett, 1922
A prince among herbs, the majestic mullein pierces the countryside with its strikingly tall flower stalks, often reaching seven feet.  The flower stalks, when dried, can be used as a sort of tiki torch-- historically they were dipped in tallow and used as a torch. In addition to stalks laden with yellow blossoms, the plant is also remarkable for its large, soft, fuzzy leaves. 
Used more for medicine than food, the first-century Greek physician, Dioscorides, wrote of its use for pulmonary conditions, as an expectorant for coughs, and for fighting streptococcal infections.  Although not native to North America, once it was established here by settlers, it became a favorite of native peoples. Mullein became a  favorite herb smoked by native American peoples medicinally and ceremonially. 
This is a good plant to harvest during the summer months in preparation for the cold and flu season that often accompanies cold weather.  When you think of the soft, fuzzy leaves of the mullein plant, let it remind you of its remarkable demulcent properties. Any mucous membrane in the body needing soothing will benefit from mullein, from the respiratory tract to the digestive tract. It's also an expectorant, excellent for coughs and congestion. It supports the synovial fluid, lubricating joints, and has soothing, anti-inflammatory properties. These qualities make it useful in salves for scrapes, cuts and burns, and as an earache oil.
Mullein and garlic oil has long been a standard in our home for earaches. Garlic is a wonderful antibiotic, and mullein is analgesic, helping soothe the pain. During my kids' swim team season, there are inevitably a few episodes of water-clogged ears. Putting a few drops in at bedtime is soothing and helps soften the wax and let it drain, preventing an ear infection. If an ear infection does occur, nothing is better than a bottle of mullein and garlic oil. To make the oil, simply gather mullein flowers, chop a few cloves of garlic, and cover with a good quality olive oil. After several days, strain through cheese cloth or a coffee filter into a dropper bottle. If the ear is sensitive, especially if it's inflamed, warm the bottle of oil a bit in a bowl of hot water to make it even more soothing.
To make tea, simply pour boiling water over chopped leaves. Steep 15 minutes. Strain and sweeten with honey to soothe a cough and congestion. For a stronger decoction, Dr. John Christopher suggests equal parts mullein leaves and flowers, 4 oz. Boil in 3 pints water for 15 minutes. Then strain, press and return the liquid to a clean pot and reduce it to 1 pint. Add 4 oz glycerin while still hot. Bottle it when cool, and store in a cool place. This can then be used by the tablespoon for adults, by the teaspoon for children, 3-4 times a day for concerns in the respiratory tract, such as bronchitis, coughs and congestion, or to soothe the digestive tract issues, such as for diarrhea, irritable bowel, or hemorrhoids. 
I'd love to hear about your experience if you decide to try mullein this year! 
An avid student of natural health since 1987, Ann is a Missouri native, health coach, triathlete, and collector of rocks and children. She can be reached at ann.hines@gmail.com

Howell County News

110 W. Main St.,
Willow Springs, MO 65793

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