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Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)

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Also listed as: Verbascum thapsus, Aaron's rod
Related terms
Background
Evidencetable
Tradition
Dosing
Safety
Interactions
Attribution
Bibliography

Related Terms
  • Aaron's rod, Adam's flannel, beggar's blanket, beggar's flannel, beggar's stalk, big taper, blanket herb, blanket leaf, bullock's lungwort, candlewick plant, clot, clown's lungwort, common mullein, cuddy's lungs, duffle, feltwort, flannel plant, fluffweed, golden rod, great mullein, hag's taper, hare's taper, Jacob's staff, jupiter's staff, molene, mullein, mullein dock, old man's flannel, our lady's flannel, Peter's staff, rag paper, Scrophulariaceae (family), shepherd's club, shepherd's staff, torch, torches, velvet dock, velvet plant, Verbascum densiflorum, Verbascum fruticulosum, Verbascum lychnitis, Verbascum macrurum, Verbascum nigrum, Verbascum nobile, Verbascum phlomoides, Verbascum sinaiticum,Verbascum songaricum, Verbascum thapsiforme, Verbascum thapsus, Verbascum undulatum, white mullein, wild ice, wild ice leaf, woollen, wooly mullein, wooly mullin.
  • Note: The common name mullein is associated with many different species. The following species are covered here: Verbascum densiflorum, Verbascum fruticulosum, Verbascum lychnitis, Verbascum macrurum, Verbascum nigrum, Verbascum nobile, Verbascum phlomoides, Verbascum sinaiticum, Verbascum songaricum, Verbascum thapsiforme, Verbascum thapsus, Verbascum undulatum.

Background
  • Mullein has been used in natural medicine for centuries and is among the oldest known medicinal plants. Mullein was brought to North America from Europe by settlers and was commonly used as a remedy for cough and diarrhea. It is found along roadsides, fields and barren areas in the United States.
  • Traditionally, a poultice made from mullein leaves has been applied to the skin to treat ulcers and hemorrhoids. Mullein is typically used for inflammation in various areas of the body. The most commonly reported use is for respiratory tract conditions such as bronchitis and asthma, and also for ear pain associated with earaches. The proposed mechanism of action is by reducing the amount of mucous formation and as an expectorant.
  • Currently, there are no available scientific studies (animal or human) that examine the efficacy of mullein alone. As of July 2006, the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported that mullein flowers (Verbascum phlomoides L. or V. thapsiforme Schrad.) are likely safe for use as natural flavoring substances and natural adjuvants in food in small amounts. However, mullein is categorized as a food additive for which a petition has been filed and a regulation issued. Further research is required before any recommendations can be made.

Evidence Table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. GRADE *


There are some clinical studies using mullein (Verbascum thapsus) in combination with other herbal products as an eardrop to treat otitis media. It is not clear what effect that mullein alone has on otitis media as the product studied was a combination of different herbal products. Additional study is needed before a firm conclusion can be made.

C
* Key to grades

A: Strong scientific evidence for this use
B: Good scientific evidence for this use
C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use
D: Fair scientific evidence for this use (it may not work)
F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likley does not work)


Tradition / Theory

The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.

  • Analgesic, antibacterial, anti-cancer, antihistamine, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiseptic, antispasmodic, anti-tumor, antiviral, asthma, astringent, bronchitis, catarrh, colds, convulsions, cough (spasmodic), cramps, cystitis, deafness (prevention of), demulcent (soothes irritated tissue), diarrhea, diuretic, eczema (of the ear), estrogenic effects, expectorant, fungicide, hay fever, headache, hemorrhoids, herpes, hoarseness, migraine headache, influenza, nephritis (inflammation of the kidney), neuralgia (nerve pain), orchitis (inflammation of the testicle), pain relief (anodyne), pulmonary problems, pyelitis (inflammation of the renal pelvis), rheumatism, sedative, sore throat, sunburn, toothache, tuberculosis, ulcers, urinary irritation, warts, wound healing.

Dosing

Adults (18 years and older)

  • There is no proven safe or effective dose for mullein in adults.

Children (younger than 18 years)

  • There is no proven safe or effective dose for mullein, and use in children is not recommended.

Safety

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.

Allergies

  • Avoid in individuals with a known allergy or hypersensitivity to mullein (Verbascum thapsus).

Side Effects and Warnings

  • There is a discrepancy in the literature regarding the FDA's (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) stance on the safety of mullein. As of July 2006, the FDA reported that mullein flowers (Verbascum phlomoides L. or V. thapsiforme Schrad.) are likely safe for use as natural flavoring substances and natural adjuvants in food in small amounts. However, mullein is categorized as a food additive for which a petition has been filed and a regulation issued.
  • There are reports of mullein containing coumarin derivatives, which may cause liver toxicity. This adverse effect, however, cannot be confirmed by current scientific research. There are also reports that mullein contains a sapotoxin called rotenone, which is an insecticide, but again human scientific evidence is lacking. Nonetheless, use cautiously in patients taking anticoagulants due to a theoretical additive effect due to coumarins that may be contained in mullein.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

  • Mullein is not recommended in pregnant or breastfeeding women due to a lack of available scientific evidence.

Interactions

Interactions with Drugs

  • Mullein may contain coumarin, and may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with drugs that increase the risk of bleeding. Some examples include aspirin, anticoagulants ("blood thinners") such as warfarin (Coumadin®) or heparin, anti-platelet drugs such as clopidogrel (Plavix®), and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®) or naproxen (Naprosyn®, Aleve®).

Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements

  • Mullein may contain coumarin, and may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with herbs and supplements that are believed to increase the risk of bleeding. Multiple cases of bleeding have been reported with the use of Ginkgo biloba, fewer cases with garlic, and less cases with saw palmetto. Numerous other agents may theoretically increase the risk of bleeding, although this has not been proven in most cases.

Attribution
  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).

Bibliography
  1. Abougazar H, Bedir E, Khan IA, et al. Wiedemanniosides A-E: new phenylethanoid glycosides from the roots of Verbascum wiedemannianum. Planta Med 2003;69(9):814-819.
  2. Aligiannis N, Mitaku S, Tsitsa-Tsardis E, et al. Methanolic extract of Verbascum macrurum as a source of natural preservatives against oxidative rancidity. J Agric.Food Chem. 12-3-2003;51(25):7308-7312.
  3. Bom I, van Wassenaar D, Boot J. Hybrid affinity chromatography of alpha-galactosidase from Verbascum thapsus L. J Chromatogr A 5-29-1998;808(1-2):133-139.
  4. Klimek B. Hydroxycinnamoyl ester glycosides and saponins from flowers of Verbascum phlomoides. Phytochemistry 1996;43(6):1281-1284.
  5. Lin LT, Liu LT, Chiang LC, et al. In vitro anti-hepatoma activity of fifteen natural medicines from Canada. Phytother Res 2002;16(5):440-444.
  6. Magiatis P, Spanakis D, Mitaku S, et al. Verbalactone, a new macrocyclic dimer lactone from the roots of Verbascum undulatum with antibacterial activity. J Nat.Prod. 2001;64(8):1093-1094.
  7. McCutcheon AR, Roberts TE, Gibbons E, et al. Antiviral screening of British Columbian medicinal plants. J Ethnopharmacol 12-1-1995;49(2):101-110.
  8. Miyase T, Horikoshi C, Yabe S, et al. Saikosaponin homologues from Verbascum spp. The structures of mulleinsaponins I-VII. Chem Pharm Bull.(Tokyo) 1997;45(12):2029-2033.
  9. Sarrell EM, Cohen HA, Kahan E. Naturopathic treatment for ear pain in children. Pediatrics 2003;111(5 Pt 1):e574-e579.
  10. Sarrell EM, Mandelberg A, Cohen HA. Efficacy of naturopathic extracts in the management of ear pain associated with acute otitis media. Arch Pediatr Adolesc.Med 2001;155(7):796-799.
  11. Serkedjieva J. Combined antiinfluenza virus activity of Flos verbasci infusion and amantadine derivatives. Phytother Res 2000;14(7):571-574.
  12. Tadeg H, Mohammed E, Asres K, et al. Antimicrobial activities of some selected traditional Ethiopian medicinal plants used in the treatment of skin disorders. J Ethnopharmacol 8-22-2005;100(1-2):168-175.
  13. Turker AU, Camper ND. Biological activity of common mullein, a medicinal plant. J Ethnopharmacol. 2002;82(2-3):117-125.
  14. Zanon SM, Ceriatti FS, Rovera M, et al. Search for antiviral activity of certain medicinal plants from Cordoba, Argentina. Rev Latinoam.Microbiol. 1999;41(2):59-62.

Copyright © 2011 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)


The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.

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