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Mullein flowers have many traditional uses and modern benefits. Here’s an herbalist’s guide for using them safely and effectively. This article also includes directions for making a simple infused oil that you can use for skincare and salves.
Traditional uses of mullein flowers
Traditionally, the flowers of mullein (Verbascum thapsus) are used for respiratory support and soothing inflamed, irritated skin. It’s also famous in folk herbalism as an ingredient in an infused oil used for ear health. If you’d like the full details about mullein’s traditional uses, be sure to read my article mullein uses according to traditional herbalism.
Can you grow your own?
Mullein grows as a weed in many parts of the United States, so you may not need to grow your own! If you do decide to add it to your garden, harvest the flower heads before they go to seed to prevent it from becoming invasive. Alternatively, you can bag the flower stalks to catch all the seeds if you’d like to save some for next year’s garden.
Harvesting your own mullein flowers takes a little patience and planning. Mullein is a biennial and flowers in the second year. It’s a tall plant that takes up a lot of room, so consider growing it as a row crop or in the back of a garden bed.
I prefer buying my mullein flowers rather than growing them. My garden is small. There’s enough room for five or six mullein plants, but that’s not enough to yield many flower petals. It’s perfectly fine for leaves, though! Mullein flowers are a little finicky to dry because they are thin and bruise easily. They also readily develop mold. My favorite place to buy dried mullein flowers is through Mountain Rose Herbs (#affiliate).
You can find all of my favorite online herb shops for bulk dried herbs in my article Best Places to Buy Dried Herbs Online.
Making a mullein infused oil
According to herbalist Ryan Drum, mullein contains a compound that influences the nervous system to provide comfort from painful conditions. This may be part of the reason it’s popular in traditional ear oils. Like most traditional recipes, this is a very easy project but very useful.
- Sunflower oil or grapeseed oil
- Dried mullein flowers
- Half-fill a clean, dry quart canning jar with dried mullein flowers. Pour in enough oil to completely submerge the flowers. There should be an inch of oil above the level of the flowers.
- Use a clean utensil (I like using stainless steel chopsticks) to stir the flowers and make sure there are no air pockets. Then, seal the jar.
- Add water to a ten-quart pot until the pot is half full.
- Place a clean dish towel in the bottom of the pot to protect the glass jar.
- Stand the sealed jar into the pot and bring the water to a boil.
- Allow the water to simmer for 30-45 minutes. Keep an eye on the water level and add more if needed.
- Turn off the heat and let everything cool until it is safe to handle.
- Strain the herbs from the oil and pour the finished oil into a sterilized, dry jar or bottle. Seal, label, and date.
Sometimes I also make my herbal oils in a yogurt maker. You can use the finished infused oil as it is or use it as a base for making a salve.
Another easy recipe
Making tea is one of the easiest ways to use mullein. It has a mild flavor and blends well with other herbs. You can find more recipes for mullein teas at the links below.