Wild Edible Wednesday!
It's that time again; another day another fun fact filled foraging foray! Today we will be discussing a fuzzy little plant that many people mistake for a common landscaping perennial called 'lamb's ear'. However, this wild version covers your health from top to bottom...literally! Commonly found throughout the US with the exception of the hottest and coldest areas, and known under such names as "Flannel plant", Aaron's Rod", "Torch plant", and Velvet plant, you will be amazed at the variety of uses. I am talking about:
Scientific name Verbascum thapsus
While it actually belongs to the snapdragon family, Mullein stands out as the much cooler distant cousin. It typically grows in meadows, by roadsides, and on waste ground; especially gravel and sand. If the ground has been disturbed, graded, mowed or frequently traveled upon, you will find Mullein. Again, I harken back to my original post on "manna". God will provide! Notice in this next photo how Mullein is growing in hard, gravel covered ground with it's friend: common plantain.
These are 1st year plants, still immature and gaining a foothold in this area. They will not bloom for another year, so I was careful to only harvest a few mid-level leaves, allowing the plants to continue growing good root systems. Easy to identify, it is a soft, velvety, biennial plant with a basal rosette. In its 2nd year, Mullein has a flowering spike that can reach 8-10 feet in height! Each flower is about 3/4" across with five pale petals that grow from the base to the tip of the stem.
So what is Mullein actually good for? Oh, my friend, buckle up for this information ride.
It is edible, although most people prefer to use it in a tea.
Medicinally, it is a powerhouse. The leaves and flowers are anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, anti-spasmodic, astringent, demulcent, diuretic, emollient, expectorant, anodyne (pain killing), and vulnerary (wound-healing). Mullein is most commonly used to treat asthma, bronchitis, and laryngitis, but can also relieve symptoms of emphysema and tuberculosis by reducing the formation of mucus. In extract form, it prevents and relieves UTIs. In asthma patients, in particular, dried Mullein is rolled and smoked. Yes, you heard that right...smoked. This cure has been used for centuries by ancient Europeans and Native Americans. For children it is recommended that the leaves be burned and the smoke inhaled from a heat proof container so as not to introduce them to the idea of smoking. Good plan.
Externally, the green leaves can be crushed and used as a poultice to heal wounds, skin ulcers, tumors, and even hemorrhoids, especially when infused in oil. The flowers can also be oil-infused, and are commonly used this way for ear infections. Got a sunburn? Rub some Mullein oil on it. Have muscle cramps? Mullein oil. Gastrointestinal issues? Well, that's a different remedy...Mullein root. Infused in oil, the roots can actually get rid of intestinal worms! By drying and powdering the roots, you have a homemade remedy for warts. Just rub it in several times a day until the wart is gone and the skin is healed. The juice of the plant can also be used this way.
Here are a few more fun facts about this awesome edible.
Since ancient times, the leaves of Mullein have been used as toilet paper.
Native Americans put the fuzzy leaves in their shoes as cushioning and warmth.
By boiling the yellow flowers, a yellow dye can be produced.
My favorite: the dried flower stalks can be dipped in liquid tallow or wax and used as torches!
I harvested a bunch of stalks this year just for that purpose. Now to find me some beef tallow...
Knowing this is a prolific wild plant, and is incredibly easy to identify and harvest, I almost choked on my herbal tea this morning as I researched supplements and powders. For a simple 2oz package/30 bags of dried Mullein leaf tea, sold through Amazon, it will set you back $14.99. If you would rather have capsules of powdered Mullein leaf, those are available for $21.44 through eBay. Personally, I would rather walk in my back yard or across the street and harvest a pound or two...for free. Lastly, not to be a fearmonger, but over the counter cold and flu remedies are being taken off the shelf. Just last week, 7 more common brands were removed, and more are expected. Put the knowledge you are gaining from these posts in your back pocket...you WILL need it one day.
I hope you found this as interesting as I did. I will include the recipes for both infused oil and water infusion/tea at the end. If any of you have used Mullein for a home remedy or have other uses I have not listed here, drop a comment below and let me know!
Until then, as always, happy farming my friends. God bless you all.
Mullein infusion/tea: 1/2 tsp powdered Mullein root or 1 tsp dried Mullein leaf in 1 cup boiling water. Simmer for 10 minutes. Strain through a tea ball or fine mesh. Enjoy.
Mullein infused oil: 2 cups organic olive oil, 1 1/2 cups Mullein flowers fresh or dried. Place flowers in a glass pint jar with a tight fitting lid. Pour oil over the flowers and allow them to infuse for 3-4 weeks. Filter the oil then store it in a dark bottle in a cool, dry place. (You can also make a tincture this same way using 80 proof vodka)
Sources: https://botanicalinstitute.org/mullein/, https://www.drweil.com/vitamins-supplements-herbs/herbs/mullein/, The Lost Book of Herbal Remedies: Nicole Apelian, ph.D, https://thelostherbs.com/mullein/