The healing power of mullein or mullein

Mullein used to be a sacred plant. With the help of this one could avert sorcery. In the Middle Ages, the plant was given the royal name to endorse its dignity. Mary is often depicted in paintings with the mullein candle. It is said to play a magical role in healing. One only had to touch a sick spot or part of the body with the mullein and say: Our Lady passes over the land three times. She carries the heavenly fire in her hand, and then one would be healed. Skybrand was another name for mullein. In the Middle Ages, ‘fire’ had the meaning of something high (hence, for example, the name Brenner Pass for a high mountain road). NB! This article is written from the personal view of the author and may contain information that is not scientifically substantiated and/or in line with the general view.

Botanical drawing mullein / Source: Carl Axel Magnus Lindman, Wikimedia Commons (Public domain)


  • Mullein naming
  • Mullein among the ancient Greeks
  • Mullein among the ancient Romans
  • Folk medicine mullein
  • Active substances mullein
  • Mullein for the respiratory tract
  • Other medicinal effects of mullein
  • External medicinal applications of King’s candle
  • Consult a herbal therapist


Mullein naming

The plant names all have official, scientific names in Latin. Scientists, biologists, botanists and herbalists use the Latin name so that they are 100% sure that everyone is talking about the same plant. The Latin name for mullein is ‘ Verbascum Thapsus ‘. Verbascum is most likely a corruption of ‘barbascum’ which means ‘beard’. This refers to the hairiness of the leaves of this plant. ‘Thapsus’ comes from the peninsula ‘Thapsus’ which is attached to Sicily. The mullein is common on that peninsula. In Dutch we know a number of alternative names for this medicinal plant: Mullein, Mullein, White woolwort, Wool blisters, Cotton flower, Lemmekensblaren, Cat heads, Wild tobacco, Zokklap, Begijnentea, Aron’s staff, Sky brand, Zachtlap, Cherrywort, Easter cherry, Night candle and King’s candlestick.

Mullein among the ancient Greeks

In ancient Greece, the woolly part of the mullein was used to make lamp wicks. The entire mullein was stuck in the pitch to serve as a torch. It also had medicinal uses

Mullein / Source: Stan Shebs, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)

against swelling. The plant was crushed, root and all, and mixed with wine. This mixture was placed on one of the woolly leaves. The leaf was then heated in the hot ash after which it was placed on a swelling.

Mullein among the ancient Romans

Plinus confirmed the excellent anti-swelling effect of the ancient Greeks. He also reported that the plant works well against colds, bronchitis and tonsillitis. Pliny was one of the ancient Romans who adopted much of the wisdom of the Greeks. A Greek who worked in ancient Rome was Dioscorides, pioneer of medicine and herbal science. He in turn confirmed Pliny’s findings and added that it is an excellent remedy for eye problems, bites and toothache.

Folk medicine mullein

In addition to its medicinal effect, mullein had a cosmetic function. An infusion of this plant was used to lighten the hair a shade. In folk medicine, mullein was used to make a cough syrup and for colds, liver disorders, and spleen diseases. For treatments with this medicinal plant, a tea was made from the leaves and flowers. In homeopathy, macerations of mullein were used to make medicines used to treat hemorrhoids and earache.

Active substances mullein

The petals and stamens of mullein are preferably used for medicinal purposes. The rest of the plant can also be used, but it is not as strong. The root is rarely used. Instead of mullein, you can also use mullein or Verbascum densiflorum , a very related plant. This yellow-flowered plant contains no fewer than 12 different types of mucilages or gums. Furthermore, it contains six types of iridoids. It also contains a number of saponins and a number of types of flavonoids. To a lesser extent, the plant contains phenolic acids, glycosidic yellow dyes, phenolpropane glycoside esters, beta-carotene, vitamin C, tannins, lignan glycosides, carbohydrates, bitter substances, essential oil, sterols and free fatty acids.

Mullein for the respiratory tract

Mullein loosens the mucus. The saponins in the plant play a key role in this. The mucilages provide a soothing effect on the mucous membranes. Harpagoside is a phytonutrient that provides anti-inflammatory properties. A special effect is that it has an anti-allergic effect. Aucuboside, hesperidin and verbascoside contribute to this. It is also an antibacterial plant due to a multitude of flavonoids in mullein that support each other synenergistically. Furthermore, the plant has a despasmodic effect. All these effects together make it a cough-relieving natural medicine. Because of this wide range of medicinal activities, a herbal therapist may decide to use it for the following indications:

Flowers mullein / Source: 4028mdk09, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)

  • Mild respiratory diseases,
  • Acute and chronic bronchitis, tracheitis (with cough),
  • Cough, dry cough, irritating cough, painful cough,
  • Harsh cough and croup-like cough, whooping cough,
  • stuck mucus,
  • Laryngeal inflammation, hoarseness,
  • Sore throat, tonsillitis,
  • Hay fever,
  • Colds and grippy conditions affecting the respiratory tract,
  • Chronic bronchitis with asthmatic factor,
  • Adjuvant for asthma.

Mullein is mainly used in herbal mixtures with other expectorant and soothing herbs.

Other medicinal effects of mullein

  • Because mullein is diaphoretic, it is used for grippal disorders,
  • Since it has an analgesic, antispasmodic and soothing effect, it is used for head, nerve, facial and rheumatic pain.
  • Because of its diuretic, uric acid and blood purifying effect, it is given for arthritis, gout and increased uric acid levels.


External medicinal applications of King’s candle

The soothing property can be applied externally to the skin and in the mouth and throat. It has a wound healing effect, which means that the healing process of a wound is accelerated. It is also an analgesic for external use. These medicinal applications compel herbalists to prescribe mullein for the following indications:

Mullein / Source: Anneli Salo, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)

Lotion, medicated oil

  • Chilblains,
  • Burns,
  • Hemorrhoids.


In olive oil

  • Earache,
  • Rheumatic pain
  • facial pain,
  • Bruises.



  • A sore throat,
  • Hoarse voice.


Eye bath compresses

  • conjunctivitis,
  • Eyelid inflammation.


Consult a herbal therapist

Anyone who wants to use mullein as a medicinal remedy is recommended to consult a herbal therapist. Mullein extracts and medicines in the form of mother tincture, powder, nebulisate, liquid extract, ointment, cream and capsule should only be used on the prescription of authorized persons. A herbal therapist can tell you more about this, as well as about possible side effects and interactions with other medicines or herbs. There are also beneficial combinations with herbs. Some herbs can enhance each other’s effects; that’s called synergy. All medicinal effects of this medicinal herb mentioned in this article are based on scientific research and come from Geert Verhelst’s Large Handbook of Medicinal Plants, a standard work in the field of healing plants. The book is used in phytotherapy.

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