I didn’t always have an interest in plants and gardening- that only began about 15-20 years ago when a friend shared some houseplants with me and showed me how to split perennials. When I was growing up, I barely gave plants a passing glance, let alone take the time to learn their names. I do recall, however, on many occasions when my father would stop and point out a weed growing along the side of the road. “See that?” he’d ask, “That’s a Mullin plant.” Ok, dad- whatever, that’s cool…
Over the years, I’ve learned that the correct spelling of this herb is actually the Mullein plant, and it grows quite prolifically all over our region. Once you know what you’re looking at, you see them everywhere. When my instructor at TIOSN told us to choose one herb and one vegetable for our long term research papers, I knew exactly which herb to pick- the family herb, Mullein.
Turns out, this is an extremely useful and highly medicinal wild plant. It’s a biennial, and the first year only grows as a low, fuzzy-leaved rosette. The second year, it shoots a stalk up to 8 feet tall, covered in little yellow flowers. All parts of the plant are useful in different ways- mostly this herb is used in teas for respiratory issues. Both the leaves and the flowers contain mucilage, an expectorant which is soothing to irritated membranes and can make coughs more productive. Additionally, warm oil infused with Mullein flowers, applied with a Q-tip, can help clear up an ear infection, easing pain and speeding recovery time. So that’s what I’ve read, in a nutshell, now time for some investigative research.
Friday before last, I began feeling a weight on my chest, and a wheezy cough developed by the end of the day. You know, the kind that creeps up on you when you’re laughing and you can’t take a deep breath anymore. So I gathered my little loose tea brewer, and my bag of organic dried Mullein leaf I ordered from Mountain Rose Herbs, and I drank tea like it was my job. Cup after warm cup, it was mild tasting and comforting, and you know what? It worked! By midday, stuff was coming up when I coughed, and it was becoming easier to breathe. I kept it up all weekend, and my symptoms had mostly subsided by Monday. I do find it necessary, however, to include a note about it being a bit of a relaxant… Saturday evening, after drinking the tea all day, we headed out for a family trip to Home Depot, and I actually had to pull over and let my husband drive. After two wrong turns (I knew where I was supposed to be going!), and a near collision with a bus, I found that I was better off as the passenger- so be careful!
So that’s it so far, for my investigative research on the family herb. I have some oil prepared and ready to go, but as I am not prone to earaches, I may need a volunteer to gauge its effectiveness. I look forward to planting the seeds I’ve harvested, and working with the fresh leaves, as they can be used topically as well. As I learn more about the Mullein plant and its healing qualities, I am thankful my dad took the time to point it out. I’ll be sure to keep you posted on any more interesting findings, and seriously- call me if your ear hurts!