M for Mullein
Proudly erect, growing up to two metres high, mullein is a striking weed that is hard to miss in the wild with its woolly leaves and tall solitary stem studded in golden flowers.
Much loved in folk medicine to assist breathing, the leaves are a beneficial respiratory remedy for toning the mucous membranes and treating lung congestion.
The flowers are famous for their use as an external earache remedy when infused in oil.
More than 2000 years ago mullein was described as a treatment for ‘old coughs’ by the Greek physician, botanist and author of De materia medica, Dioscorides.
Similarly, in 19th century Ireland, it was considered a leading remedy for tuberculosis (TB), which plagued the population, and large amounts of it were cultivated for this particular purpose.
At the time Dr. Quinlan, of St. Vincent's hospital (Dublin, Ireland), reported positive findings in six out of seven cases where mullein was used to treat tuberculosis (also known as consumption) patients.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared tuberculosis a global emergency and, as antibiotic resistance increases, the hunt for new treatments continues.
A recent Irish study called “What's in a Name? Can Mullein Weed Beat TB Where Modern Drugs Are Failing?” found that mullein has a large number of synonyms, and old local nicknames, which connect the plant with mycobacteria (notoriously tough microorganisms, known to cause tuberculosis and leprosy, that have an intrinsic resistance to many antibiotics).
The authors concluded the study by saying “Whether the link is coincidental, or rooted in true antimycobacterial actions, it merits investigation. An ancient plant, an ancient infection, an ancient link and a modern-day cure?”
Mullein’s demulcent and relaxant properties give it a strong soothing action, so it is widely used to treat dry, irritating coughs, influenza, asthma and bronchitis.
It also supports people who have inhaled irritants such as pollution and bush fire smoke.
United States herbal educator, and bestselling author, Maria Noel Groves sums up mullein exquisitely: “With soothing softness, mullein brings moisture, strength, resiliency and tone to tissues that have become dry, irritated or inflamed.” (Christine Thomas, Herbalist and Technical Writer, September 2021, The Herbal Extract Company)
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