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Search Health Information    Mullein



Botanical names:
Verbascum thapsus

Parts Used & Where Grown

Mullein is native to much of Europe and Asia and is naturalized to North America. There are over 360 species of Verbascum with V. thapsus, V. phlomides, and V. densiflorum mentioned most often in herbal texts. The leaves and flowers are both used medicinally.

What Are Star Ratings?

Our proprietary “Star-Rating” system was developed to help you easily understand the amount of scientific support behind each supplement in relation to a specific health condition. While there is no way to predict whether a vitamin, mineral, or herb will successfully treat or prevent associated health conditions, our unique ratings tell you how well these supplements are understood by the medical community, and whether studies have found them to be effective for other people.

For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.

3 Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.

2 Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.

1 Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.

This supplement has been used in connection with the following health conditions:

Used for Why
1 Star
Refer to label instructions
Mullein, which has a soothing effect on bronchioles, has traditionally been used for asthma.

Traditionally, herbs that have a soothing action on bronchioles are also used for asthma. These include marshmallow , mullein , hyssop , and licorice . Elecampane has been used traditionally to treat coughs associated with asthma.3

1 Star
Refer to label instructions
Mullein has been used traditionally as a remedy for the respiratory tract, including bronchitis. It works as an expectorant, meaning it helps expel mucus.

Expectorant herbs help loosen bronchial secretions and make elimination of mucus easier. Numerous herbs are traditionally considered expectorants, though most of these have not been proven to have this effect in clinical trials. Mullein has been used traditionally as a remedy for the respiratory tract, including bronchitis. The saponins in mullein may be responsible for its expectorant actions.4

Anti-inflammatory herbs may help people with bronchitis. Often these herbs contain complex polysaccharides and have a soothing effect; they are also known as demulcents. Plantain is a demulcent that has been documented in two preliminary trials conducted in Bulgaria to help people with chronic bronchitis.5 , 6 Other demulcents traditionally used for people with bronchitis include mullein, marshmallow , and slippery elm . Because demulcents can provoke production of more mucus in the lungs, they tend to be used more often in people with dry coughs.7

1 Star
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
Refer to label instructions
Mullein is traditionally used for its ability to promote the discharge of mucus and to soothe mucous membranes.

Mullein is classified in the herbal literature as both an expectorant, to promote the discharge of mucus, and a demulcent, to soothe and protect mucous membranes. Historically, mullein has been used as a remedy for the respiratory tract, particularly in cases of irritating coughs with bronchial congestion.8 Other herbs commonly used as expectorants in traditional medicine include elecampane , lobelia , yerba santa (Eriodictyon californicum), wild cherry bark, gumweed (Grindelia robusta), anise (Pimpinella anisum), and eucalyptus . Animal studies have suggested that some of these herbs increase discharge of mucus.9 However, none have been studied for efficacy in humans.

1 Star
Common Cold and Sore Throat
Refer to label instructions
Mullein has soothing and mucus-expelling properties, which accounts for its historical use as a remedy for irritating coughs with bronchial congestion.

Herbs high in mucilage, such as slippery elm , mallow (Malvia sylvestris), and marshmallow , are often helpful for symptomatic relief of coughs and irritated throats. Mullein has expectorant and demulcent properties, which accounts for this herb’s historical use as a remedy for the respiratory tract, particularly in cases of irritating coughs with bronchial congestion. Coltsfoot is another herb with high mucilage content that has been used historically to soothe sore throats. However, it is high in pyrrolizidine alkaloids—constituents that may damage the liver over time. It is best to either avoid coltsfoot or look for products that are free of pyrrolizidine alkaloids.

1 Star
Refer to label instructions
Mullein has a long history of use for relieving coughs.

The mucilage of slippery elm gives it a soothing effect for coughs. Usnea also contains mucilage, which may be helpful in easing irritating coughs. There is a long tradition of using wild cherry syrups to treat coughs. Other traditional remedies to relieve coughs include bloodroot , catnip , comfrey (the above-ground parts, not the root), horehound , elecampane , mullein , lobelia , hyssop , licorice , mallow , (Malvia sylvestris), red clover , ivy leaf , pennyroyal  (Hedeoma pulegioides, Mentha pulegium), onion , (Allium cepa), and plantain (Plantago lanceolata, P. major). None of these has been investigated in human trials, so their true efficacy for relieving coughs is unknown.

1 Star
Ear Infections
Refer to label instructions
Ear drops with mullein, St. John’s wort, and garlic in an oil or glycerin base are traditional remedies used to alleviate symptoms, particularly pain, during acute ear infections.

Ear drops with mullein , St. John’s wort , and garlic in an oil or glycerin base are traditional remedies used to alleviate symptoms, particularly pain, during acute ear infections. No clinical trials have investigated the effects of these herbs in people with ear infections. Moreover, oil preparations may obscure a physician’s view of the ear drum and should only be used with a healthcare professional’s directions.

Traditional Use (May Not Be Supported by Scientific Studies)

Mullein leaves and flowers are classified in traditional herbal literature as expectorants (promotes the discharge of mucus) and demulcents (soothes irritated mucous membranes). Historically, mullein has been used by herbalists as a remedy for the respiratory tract, particularly in cases of irritating coughs with bronchial congestion.1 Some herbal texts extend the therapeutic use to pneumonia and asthma .2 Due to its mucilage content, mullein has also been used topically by herbalists as a soothing emollient for inflammatory skin conditions and burns.

How It Works

Botanical names:
Verbascum thapsus

How It Works

Mullein contains approximately 3% mucilage and small amounts of saponins and tannins.10 The mucilaginous constituents are thought to be responsible for the soothing actions on mucous membranes. The saponins may be responsible for the expectorant actions of mullein.11 Human clinical trials are lacking to confirm the use of mullien for any condition, however.

How to Use It

A tea of mullein is made by pouring 1 cup (250 ml) of boiling water over 1–2 teaspoons (5–10 grams) of dried leaves or flowers and steeping for ten to fifteen minutes. The tea can be drunk three to four times per day. For the tincture, 1/4–3/4 teaspoon (1–4 ml) is taken three to four times per day. As a dried product, 1/2–3/4 teaspoon (3–4 grams) is used three times per day.12 Mullein is sometimes combined with other demulcent or expectorant herbs when used to treat coughs and bronchial irritation. For ear infections , some doctors apply an oil extract directly in the ear. If the eardrum has ruptured, nothing should be put directly in the ear. Therefore, a qualified healthcare professional should always do an ear examination before mullein oil is placed in the ear.


Botanical names:
Verbascum thapsus

Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds

At the time of writing, there were no well-known supplement or food interactions with this supplement.

Interactions with Medicines

As of the last update, we found no reported interactions between this supplement and medicines. It is possible that unknown interactions exist. If you take medication, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a new supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.
The Drug-Nutrient Interactions table may not include every possible interaction. Taking medicines with meals, on an empty stomach, or with alcohol may influence their effects. For details, refer to the manufacturers’ package information as these are not covered in this table. If you take medications, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.

Side Effects

Botanical names:
Verbascum thapsus

Side Effects

Mullein is generally safe except for rare reports of skin irritation. There are no known reasons to avoid its use during pregnancy or breast-feeding.


1. Hoffman D. The Herbal Handbook: A User's Guide to Medical Herbalism. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 1988, 67.

2. Grieve M. A Modern Herbal, vol 2. New York: Dover Publications, 1971, 562-6.

3. Leung AY, Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1996, 222-4.

4. Foster S, Tyler VE. Tyler's Honest Herbal. New York: Haworth Press, 1999, 2265-6.

5. Koichev A. Complex evaluation of the therapeutic effect of a preparation from Plantago major in chronic bronchitis. Probl Vatr Med 1983;11:61-9 [in Bulgarian].

6. Matev M, Angelova I, Koichev A, et al. Clinical trial of Plantago major preparation in the treatment of chronic bronchitis. Vutr Boles 1982;21:133-7 [in Bulgarian].

7. Mills S, Bone K. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2000, 209.

8. Hoffman D. The Herbal Handbook: A User's Guide to Medical Herbalism. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 1988, 67.

9. Boyd EM. Expectorants and respiratory tract fluid. Pharmacol Rev 1954;6:521-42 [review].

10. Wichtl M. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1994, 18-9.

11. Tyler VE. The Honest Herbal, 3d ed. Binghamton, NY: Pharmaceutical Products Press, 1993, 219-20.

12. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 173.

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