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This article is from the Herb Reference series.


Other Names:

Blanket leaf
Flannel flower
Hedge taper
Velvet dock
flannel leaf
Clown's lungwort
Aaron's rod
Jupiter's Staff
Jacob's Staff
Peter's Staff
Shepherd's staff
Verbascum thapsus : Mullein
V. thapsiforme : Common Mullein
V. blattaria : Moth Mullein
V. bombyciferum : `Arctic Summer'
V. phoeniceum : Purple Mullein
V. phlomoides : Orange Mullein
V. nigrum : Black Mullein
V. dumulsum : Dwarf Mullein

Latin Name:

Verbascum thapsus
V. chiaxii
V. olympicum

An age-old reputed banishing herb and a sharer of garlic's reputation as the plant that guarded Ulysses from Circe's Magic. The Romans used Mullein stems dipped in tallow for torches.

Mullein is found growing in the Himalayas, on the eastern seaboard of the United States and throughout Europe and the British Isles.

Verbascum thapsus : Common Mullein

Stems: Tall, stout, simple, or sometimes branched.

Flowers: flat pale yellow or white sessile flowers are set closely about the stem.

Leaves: Alternate, light green, felt like, thick leaves whose stems are winged by decurrent bases. There is a basal rosette of oblong or obovate - lanceolate leaves.

Height: As some of its other names suggest, it grows tall and straight, frequently to a majestic 5 feet.

Cultivation: Mullein, a hardy biennial, will grow in practically any soil with reasonably little attention and general watering. It does best, however, in full sun. It will often seed itself if left to its own devices.

V. blattaria : Moth Mullein

Flowers: 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 foot spikes of pale yellow or white flowers with purple stamens. Flowers open in the morning.

Leaves: Low clumps of smooth, dark green, toothed leaves.

Height: To 2 1/2 feet.

Cultivation: Biennial

V. bombyciferum : `Arctic Summer'

Stems: Powdery white.

Flowers: 1 1/2 inch yellow flowers.

Leaves: Foot high rosettes of oval, grey green, furry leaves.

Height: To 6 feet.

Cultivation: Biennial

V. phoeniceum : Purple Mullein

Flowers: Purple flowers grow in slender spikes half the height of the plant or more.

Leaves: Smooth on top, hairy on the underside.

Height: 2 to 4 feet.

Cultivation: Perennial

V. dumulsum : Dwarf Mullein

Flowers: Spikes of yellow, purple eyed flowers in midsummer.

Leaves: Velvety white leaves.

Height: To 1 foot.

Cultivation: Perennial

V. chiaxii :

Stems: The flowering spikes are erect, narrow, and often branched.

Flowers: The most common variety `Album' has white flowers with bluish centers.

Leaves: Slightly less furry than V. bombyciferum. Up to 1 foot long.

Height: To 3 feet.

V. olympicum :

Flowers: 1 inch long, bright yellow flowers clustered in long spikes.

Leaves: Large, white, downy leaves grow to 2 feet or more.

Height: To 5 feet.

Cultivation: Perennial

V. nigrum :

Stems: Round and furry.

Flowers: Long, dense spikes of yellow flowers.

Leaves: The basal leaves are downy, pointed, and grow to 1 foot long and 3-4 inches wide.

Height: 4 to 6 feet.

Cultivation: Biennial

Mullein contains mucilage, resin, tannin, an essential oil, and a variety of mineral salts, notably those of potassium, iron, magnesium, and sulphur.
I have no information on whether or not all of the different types of Mullein are interchangeable medicinally. I would suggest using the ones with the most documentation.

The leaves and the flowers, the parts used in herbal medicine, posses the most potency when gathered during the summer months. The decoction is used to soothe coughs and to also relieve the pain of hemorrhoids or in a Poultice for toothaches and neuralgia.

NOTE: As mullein leaves have, to some, a rather pungent odor, it is frequently practiced to include an aromatic spice such as cloves or Cinnamon in recipes where it is to be taken internally.


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