encyclopedia

Mullein Leaves and Flowers

Scientific Names:

Verbascum densiflorum Bertoloni (syn. V. thapsiforme Schrad.), V. phlomoides L. and V. thapsus L. [Fam. Scrophulariaceae]

Forms:
Infusion, extract, and tincture of the leaves and flowers of Verbascum species.

Traditional Usage:
– Antiviral

– Bronchitis

– Catarrh of the Respiratory Tract

– Colds and Flu, Bronchitis, Sore Throat

– Cough

– Ear Health Maintenance

– Eczema

– Expectorant

– Herpes simplex Infection

– Poultice

– Respiratory Health Maintenance

– Skin Disorders

– Sore Throat

Overview:
Large-flowered mullein, Verbascum densiflorum Bertoloni (syn. V. thapsiforme Schrad.), orange mullein, V. phlomoides L. and great mullein, V. thapsus L. [Fam. Scrophulariaceae], are biennial plants indigenous to Europe, India, Asia, Egypt, North Africa and Ethiopia. Great mullein is now also a Eurasian weed widely established across temperate North America. Both the leaves and flowers of mullein species have been used medicinally for thousands of years owing to their demulcent, expectorant, and astringent properties. Historically, Ulysses was said to have used mullein as protection from evil spirits. Mullein tea is primarily given to treat influenza and respiratory conditions such as catarrh, bronchitis, and tracheitis. Mullein tea is also recommended for treating chills and coughs and is thought to be effective due to the mucilage content of the plant, which coats and soothes irritated mucous membranes (covering epithelial damage) and the mild expectorant action of saponins also present within the plant extracts. In folk medicine, mullein flowers tea was used as a diuretic, antirheumatic, and for treating wounds, gout, piles, cramps, convulsions, skin conditions, and ear problems. The German Commission E recognizes mullein flowers for treating catarrh of the respiratory tract, although some clinical studies have also shown the flowers to have antiviral action against fowl plague virus, influenza A and B, and the Herpes simplex virus. Mullein is a component of many prepared teas and herbal remedies, particularly cough and bronchial teas. Mullein was also given to tuberculosis patients in Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States towards the end of the nineteenth century. According to Blumenthal and others (2000), naturopathic physicians and many medical herbalists still prescribe mullein today as a treatment for chronic otitis media and eczema of the ear. The soft, padded leaves of mullein can also be used as natural bandages or insoles for sore-footed hitchhikers.

Active Ingredients:
Mullein contains 3% mucilage, after hydrolysis yielding 47% D-galactose, 25% arabinose, 14% D-glucose, 6% D-xylose, 4% L-rhamnose, 2% D-mannose, 1% L-fucose, and 12.5% uronic acids, comprising several components, including a xyloglucan, an arabinogalactan. Iridoids: aucubin, 6b-xylosylaucubin, catalpol, 6b-xylosylcatalpol, methylcatalpol, isocatalpol, etc; saponins (haemolytic index, ca. 350), including verbascosaponin, 1.5-4% flavonoids, among them apigenin and luteolin, and their 7-O-glucosides, kaempferol, rutin, etc.; phenol-carboxylic acids, such as caffeic, ferulic, protocatechuic acids, etc.; sterols; digiprolactone; 11% invert sugar (fructose + glucose). A new iridoid ester glycoside acylated with p-coumaric acid was isolated from the flowers of Verbascum phlomoides, together with one known one, specioside. Caffeic acid esters, verbascoside and forsythoside B were found as minor constituents. A new saponin was also obtained and identified as desrhamnosylverbascosaponin. Phenylethanoid triglycoside acylated with caffeic acid was isolated from the inflorescences of V, lychnitis and identified as verbascoside 6′-0-beta-D-apiofuranoside (forsythoside B). It has also been found, that forsythoside B is one of the major constituents in the inflorescences of V. lychnitis and V. nigrum, whereas in the flowers of V. phlomoides and V. densiflorum it was hardly detectable.

Suggested Amount:
Mullein leaves and flowers may be taken as an infusion, extract, or tincture. According to the German Commission E monograph, the recommended daily dose of mullein is 3-4 g.

Tea: Pour boiling water over 1.5 – 2 grams (1 teaspoon = 0.5 grams) of finely chopped mullein, steep 10-15 minutes, then strain. Drink two cups per day.

Fluidextract 1:1 (g/ml): 1.5-2 ml twice daily.

Tincture 1:5 (g/ml): 7.5-10 ml twice daily. May also be diluted in warm water.

Drug Interactions:
None known.

Contraindications:
None known.

Side Effects:
None known. However, the leaf hairs (trichomes) of mullein species can cause skin irritation in susceptible persons. Also, according to Foster and Duke (1990) in the book, Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants (Peterson Field Guide), the leaves contain rotenone and coumarins, neither viewed with great favor by the FDA.

References:

Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J 2000. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Copyright American Botanical Council. Publ. by Integrative Medicine Communications, 1029 Chestnut Street, Newton, MA 02464. Pp. 270-272.

Klimek B. Hydroxycinnamoyl ester glycosides and saponins from flowers of Verbascum phlomoides. Phytochemistry. 1996 Dec; 43(6): 1281-4.

Klimek B. 6′-0-apiosyl-verbascoside in the flowers of mullein (Verbascum species). Acta Pol Pharm. 1996 Mar-Apr; 53(2): 137-40.

Wichtl M and NG Bisset (eds). 1994. Verbasci flos – Mullein. In Herbal Drugs and Phyto-pharmaceuticals. (English translation by Norman Grainger Bisset). CRC Press, Stuttgart, pp. 517-519.

Zgorniak-Nowosielska, I., J. Grzybek, N. Manolova, J. Serkedjieva, B. Zawilinska. 1991. Anitviral activity of flos verbasci infusion against influenza and Herpes simplex viruses. Arch Immunol Ther Exp (Warsz) 39(1-2): 103-108.