Verbascum thapsus

A biennial that grows to 2m (6ft) in height, erectly. The leaves near to the base of the stem are large and numerous but become smaller as they ascend the stem. They are arranged on alternate sides, broad but simple and covered thickly with hairs to retain moisture and protect the plant from visiting insects. The hairs actually cover the stem giving the whole plant a whitish/grey appearance. The flowers are stalkless, bright yellow, and densely cover the flower stalk.

Family: Scrophulariaceae

Which probiotic is it in?: Mullein is a key herb in Breathe

Habit and cultivation: Native to Europe and Western Asia, naturalised in North America. It grows along hedgerows, roadsides, and on waste land in gravel, sand and chalk soils. The flowers are collected in summer during dry weather and the leaves are collected in midsummer before they turn brown.

Actions (known for): Internally: expectorant, demulcent and diuretic. Externally: emollient and vulnerary.


The Latin name Verbascum is thought to be bastardised from barbascum, which is the Latin for beard. Mullein has been credited with magical powers along with its medicinal properties as a cough medicine. The leaves and stem make excellent tinder when dry and were used as lamp wick before the introduction of cotton. It was also used as a cough remedy for cows during the 16th century.

Parts used:

Leaves and flowers.

Constituents (bio available chemicals):

Flavonoids including hesperidin and rutin, mucilage and gum, volatile oil, bitter, resins and saponins.

Nutritional constituents:

Vitamins: A, B complex and D. Minerals: high in iron, magnesium, potassium and sulphur.


Bronchitis, whooping cough, persistent coughs, common cold, respiratory, anti-spasmodic, catarrh, ear ache (prepared in olive oil with crushed garlic gloves), influenza, tracheitis, topically for wounds.


Liquid extract: (1:2) 30-60ml per week. Decoction of dried herb: 0.5 – 4g 3 x daily.

British Herbal Pharmacopoeia

Bronchitis with hard cough and soreness.

Cautions for therapeutic doses

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