Common Mullein – Verbascum thapsus

Common Mullein flowers
Common Mullein flowers

A Flower of Mullein


I am too near, too clear a thing for you,

A flower of mullein in a crack of wall,


The villagers half see, or not at all;

Part of the weather, like the wind or dew.


You love to pluck the different, and find

Stuff for your joy in cloudy loveliness;


You love to fumble at a door, and guess

At some strange happening that may wait behind.


Yet life is full of tricks, and it is plain,


That men drift back to some worn field or roof,

To grip at comfort in a room, a stair;


To warm themselves at some flower down a lane:

You, too, may long, grown tired of the aloof,


For the sweet surety of the common air.

By Lizette Woodworth Reese

Very early in the 18th century this native of Europe was imported and cultivated specifically for its medicinal properties. By 1818 it was mistaken for a native plant here! By 1839 it could be found in Michigan and by 1876 in California. It has become one of the most common plants growing beside the roadways and other disturbed areas. It reproduces prolifically, but is not aggressive. In Colorado and Hawaii it is listed as a noxious weed.

Since antiquity this plant has been recognized as a treatment for skin, throat, and breathing problems. Pliny the Elder described it in his Naturalis Historia. The entire plant has slight narcotic and sedative properties. It is the seeds that have the narcotic properties, so they are considered toxic by some.

Su la e u ste (the Cherokee name) was used by the Cherokee for treating colds, bronchitis, and asthma by using a tea made of the leaves or flowers. The oil in the flowers was squeezed and used in the ear for children’s earaches when they had what we today call swimmers ear. The leaves would also be placed in moccasins, like inner soles, for comfort.

It used to be carried as a talisman for protection. If Mullein is worn on the person it is to keep wild animals away, it also encourages courage to the bearer. When carried it can also attract love!


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