Mullein (pronouced Mull-un), with its towering golden spikes and soft, velvety leaves, is a plant that captures the heart of many herbal enthusiasts. Revered in herbalism for its array of uses, mullein is not just a plant; it’s a symbol of gentle yet powerful natural healing. In this post, we’ll explore the delightful journey of identifying and utilizing mullein, particularly emphasizing the wonders of second-year mullein.

How to forage for mullein. Using mullein in herbalism. Herbal properties of mullein. How to identify mullein.

Identifying Mullein

Mullein (Verbascum thapsus), known for its distinctive appearance, can be found gracing fields, roadsides, and open spaces with well-drained soil. It’s easy to identify, making it a fantastic starting point for novice foragers.

First-Year Mullein:

In its first year, mullein grows a rosette of basal leaves. These leaves are thick, soft, and have a fuzzy texture, often compared to flannel. They are light green and can grow quite large, forming a low-lying rosette on the ground.

Second-Year Mullein:

The second year is when mullein truly comes into its glory. The plant sends up a tall, erect stem that can reach up to 8 feet in height. This stem is crowned with a dense spike of yellow flowers, blooming from the bottom up. Second-year mullein is what herbalists often seek for its mature flowers and leaves, which are believed to be at their peak in medicinal qualities.

The Magic of Second-Year Mullein

While first-year mullein leaves can be used for herbal preparations, the second-year plant is often preferred for a few reasons:


  1. Potency: The concentration of active compounds in the leaves and flowers is believed to be higher in the second year.
  2. Ease of Harvest: The tall stalk of second-year mullein makes it easier to harvest without stooping.
  3. Flowers: Only second-year mullein produces the lovely yellow flowers that are prized in herbalism for their soothing properties.
mullein tea

Uses of Mullein in Herbalism

Mullein has been used for centuries in various traditional healing practices. Here are some of the ways to use this versatile plant:

Respiratory Health

Mullein leaves and flowers are most commonly used for supporting respiratory health. They can be used to make a soothing tea, which is enjoyed for its comforting effect on the throat and as a support for respiratory well-being.

Ear Oil

The flowers of the mullein plant are sometimes infused in oil to create a soothing ear oil. This traditional preparation is cherished for its comforting properties.

Skin Care

The soft leaves of mullein have been used as a natural emollient. A poultice made from mullein leaves can be applied to the skin for its soothing properties.

Herbal Infusions and Teas

Mullein can be dried and used in infusions and teas. Its mild, pleasant flavor makes it a popular choice for herbal blends.

Syrups and Tinctures

For a more concentrated herbal preparation, mullein can be made into syrups and tinctures, harnessing the full strength of its beneficial properties.

mullein tincture

Harvesting and Preparing Mullein

When harvesting mullein, always do so from clean, unpolluted areas. Gently remove the leaves and flowers, being mindful to leave plenty for the plant to continue its growth cycle and for wildlife to enjoy.

To prepare mullein, dry the leaves and flowers thoroughly before use. They can be stored in airtight containers for later use in teas, infusions, or other herbal preparations.

In embracing the beauty and gifts of mullein, we connect with a long lineage of herbal wisdom. This humble yet majestic plant serves as a reminder of nature’s abundant generosity and the gentle power of plants in supporting wellness and balance. So next time you spot a mullein plant, take a moment to appreciate its unique contribution to the herbal world.