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Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)
Natural Standard Bottom Line Monograph, Copyright © 2011 (www.naturalstandard.com). Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.
While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy.
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.
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.
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.
Earache (associated with acute otitis media)
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.
*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 against this use (it may not work);
F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likely does not work).
The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. 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 health care professional.
- 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.
The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.
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.
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.
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.
Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. 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.
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.
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).
Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.
- 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. View Abstract
- 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. View Abstract
- 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. View Abstract
- Klimek B. Hydroxycinnamoyl ester glycosides and saponins from flowers of Verbascum phlomoides. Phytochemistry 1996;43(6):1281-1284. View Abstract
- 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. View Abstract
- 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. View Abstract
- McCutcheon AR, Roberts TE, Gibbons E, et al. Antiviral screening of British Columbian medicinal plants. J Ethnopharmacol 12-1-1995;49(2):101-110. View Abstract
- 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. View Abstract
- Sarrell EM, Cohen HA, Kahan E. Naturopathic treatment for ear pain in children. Pediatrics 2003;111(5 Pt 1):e574-e579. View Abstract
- 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. View Abstract
- Serkedjieva J. Combined antiinfluenza virus activity of Flos verbasci infusion and amantadine derivatives. Phytother Res 2000;14(7):571-574. View Abstract
- 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. View Abstract
- Turker AU, Camper ND. Biological activity of common mullein, a medicinal plant. J Ethnopharmacol. 2002;82(2-3):117-125. View Abstract
- 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. View Abstract
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.