(adapted from Hedgerow MedicineBackyard Medicine, p127)

The conical spires of yellow mullein (Verbascum thapsus) flowers can be 2 metres (7 feet) in height and are a delight of the summer garden. It is said that Roman legionaries would dip mullein flower stalks in tallow to use as tapers, and they had a reputed association with witches’ covens, recalled in the name hag’s taper.

Mullein leaves are soft enough to have a traditional use as a natural toilet paper, for babies’ nappies (diapers) and insoles for shoes. But when dry the leaves are more irritant, earning the name Quaker rouge, as Quaker girls, forbidden the use of any cosmetics, would redden their cheeks by rubbing mullein leaves on them.

Mullein is the only herb known to man that has remarkable narcotic qualities without being poisonous or harmful.
– John Christopher, School of Natural Healing (1976)

Mullein flower oil

Make this oil from mullein flowers gathered on a dry sunny day. Lay them on a sheet of paper to dry more fully overnight. Then put them into a small jar and fill with extra virgin olive oil. Close the jar with a piece of cloth held by a rubber band, which allows any excess moisture to escape.

Put the jar on a sunny windowsill and leave for two weeks. Stir the contents every day so as to keep the flowers submerged in the oil (to avoid mould forming).

When the flowers have faded and become transparent, pour the oil through a sieve into another dry jar. It should keep for up to a year.

Use the flower oil for earache, nerve pain, haemorrhoids and chilblains or as a chest rub.

Mullein poultice

Lay a few mullein leaves in a dish (or for a splinter, just part of a leaf). Pour in a little boiling water to soften the leaves. Leave them until they are cool enough to handle, then place them on the affected part as your poultice.

Hold the poultice in place with a bandage, if possible, and it’s useful to keep it warm by using a hot water bottle pressed against it.

This treatment works for removing splinters, can draw boils, soothe an aching back and forms of lymphatic swelling, especially of the throat. Indeed, mullein is a member of the Scrofulariaceae, a plant family named for its former use in treating scrofula (tubercular swellings of the neck and throat).