Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)
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The Mulleins (Verbascum) are a genus of about 250 species of flowering plants in the figwort family (Scrophulariaceae). They are native to Europe and Asia, with the highest species diversity in the Mediterranean region.
They are biennial or perennial plants, rarely annuals or subshrubs, growing to 0.5-3 m tall. The plants first form a dense rosette of leaves at ground level, subsequently sending up a tall flowering stem. The leaves are spirally arranged, often densely hairy, though glabrous (hairless) in some species. The flowers have five symmetrical petals; petal colours in different species include yellow (most common), orange, red-brown, purple, blue or white. The fruit is a capsule containing numerous minute seeds.
Various species have been introduced (and in some case naturalised) in the Americas, Australia and Hawaii.
Since the year 2000 a number of new hybrid cultivars have come out that have increased flower size with shorter heights and tend to be longer lived plants. A number have new colors for this genus. Many are raised from seed, both the short lived perennial and biennial types. In the landscape they are valued for their tall narrow stature and for flowering over a long period of time, even in dry soils.
One of the best known species is Verbascum thapsus (Great mullein), which is used as a herbal remedy for sore throat, cough and lung diseases.
Mullein is also the active ingredient in many alternative smoking blends.
Herbalists recommend mullein leaves as one of the safest and most useful herbal lung tonics. The leaves have an expectorant and soothing action on the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract. Take mullein for easing the symptoms of asthma, chronic bronchitis, dry coughs, and laryngitis. Mullein is also a useful lymphatic cleanser, and you may find it effective for helping to relieve skin problems like psoriasis. Use the flower oil in your ears for inflammation, earaches, and infections of the Eustachian tubes, inner ear, and ear canal. See your doctor or herbalist if you have an ear infection.