Scientific Name(s): Verbascum densiflorum Bertol., Verbascum thapsus L.
Common Name(s): Aaron's rod, Adam's flannel, American mullein, Candleflower, Candlewick, Denseflower mullein, European or orange mullein, Gordolobo, Higtaper, Lungwort, Mulleine, Wooly mullein
Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Dec 3, 2018.
Although mullein has been used traditionally, therapeutic applications have not been defined by clinical studies. Animal data has investigated potential antimicrobial, cytotoxic, and anti-inflammatory properties.
No recent clinical evidence supports specific dosage of mullein; however, traditional uses of the herb suggest 3 to 4 g of flowers daily and 15 to 30 mL of fresh leaf or 2 to 3 g of dry leaf.
Contraindications have not been identified.
Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.
None well documented.
Information is limited. Occupational airborne dermatitis has been reported for both American and European mullein.
Information is limited.
- Scrophulariaceae (Figwort)
The common mullein, found throughout the United States, is a woolly-leafed biennial plant. During the first year of growth, the large leaves form a low-lying basal rosette. In the spring of the second year, the plant develops a tall stem that can grow to 1.2 m or more in height. The top portion of the stem develops yellow flowers, each consisting of a five-part corolla. These corollas, along with the stamens, constitute the active ingredient. The flowers bloom from June to September and have a faint, honey-like odor.1 Electron microscopy performed on V. thapsus revealed distinctive pollen grains and trichomes, which may aid in identification.2 Many mullein species exist throughout Asia, Europe, and the United States, with V. densiflorum ("denseflower mullein") associated with European mullein and V. thapsus associated with American mullein products.3, 4, 5
Mullein has a long history as a favored herbal remedy used to treat many disorders. Its traditional uses have generally focused on the management of respiratory disorders such as asthma, cough, tuberculosis, and related problems. The plant has also been used in its various forms to treat hemorrhoids, burns, bruises, and gout. Preparations of the plant have been ingested, applied topically, and smoked. The flowers have been used as a source of yellow hair dye. In the Appalachian region of the United States, the plant has been used to treat colds, and the boiled root has been administered for croup. Leaves have been applied topically to soften and protect the skin, and oil derived from the flowers has been used to soothe earaches.4, 6, 7, 8 Saponins, mucilage, and tannins contained in the flowers and leaves may contribute to the soothing topical effects of the plant and its use as an antitussive.9, 10
Chemical constituents have been described for various Verbascum species and include polysaccharides, iridoid and lignin glycosides, flavonoids, saponins, and volatile oils. There has been some focus on the activity of verbascoside (found in most plant parts of many of the species and also in verbena), mucilaginous constituents, and thapsic acid found in the flower.7, 11, 12, 13 Isolated verbascoside seems to inhibit nitric oxide synthesis, which may be related to antispasmodic effects.14
Uses and Pharmacology
Anti-inflammatory activity has been described for extracts of various Verbascum species.15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21 Activity in wound healing has also been evaluated, with equivocal findings reported.22, 23 Extracts of Viola cheiranthifolium exhibited gastric protective effects against ethanol-induced gastric ulcers in rats.24
There are no clinical studies regarding the anti-inflammatory use of mullein.
Antimicrobial and Anthelmintic
In vitro activity against some viruses (influenza, herpes simplex) and common human pathogens (Klebsiella pneumonia, Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus epidermidis, Escherichia coli) has been described.7, 25, 26, 27 Antitubercular and antiprotozoal activity has also been evaluated.28, 29, 30, 31 Garlic and mullein ear drops have been used to treat ear infections in pets.32 Activity by the plant against certain insects has also been described.28, 33, 34 Anthelmintic activity of V. thapsus methanolic extract was demonstrated with similar time-to-death rates when compared with albendazole.28
There are no clinical studies regarding the antimicrobial use of mullein. A clinical trial investigated the use of naturopathic ear drops in otitis media in children; however, because the preparation contained V. thapsus and 6 other constituents, conclusions about any single agent are not possible.35
In vitro studies have been conducted to determine the cytotoxicity of various Verbascum extracts, with activity demonstrated against various cancer cell lines.7, 12, 36, 37
There are no clinical studies regarding the use of mullein in cancer.
Diuretic action of Verbascum nigum extracts has been demonstrated in rats.38
V. thapsus demonstrated relaxant activity in vitro.28 Inhibition of cholinesterase has also been described,39, 40 as well as antioxidant activity.39, 40, 41
No recent clinical evidence supports specific dosage of mullein; however, traditional uses of the herb suggest 3 to 4 g of flowers daily and 15 to 30 mL of fresh leaf or 2 to 3 g of dry leaf.4
Pregnancy / Lactation
Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.
None well documented.
Information is limited. Occupational airborne dermatitis has been reported for both American and European mullein.42
Information is limited. One toxicity study suggests mullein extracts to be toxic in radish seed and brine shrimp at high concentrations (2,500 to 10,000 mg/L).7
1. Bisset NG, trans-ed. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals: A Handbook for Practice on a Scientific Basis
. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 1994.
2. Filippini R, Cappelletti EM, Caniato R. Botanical identification of powdered plant drugs. Verbascum
flowers. Int J Crude Drug Res
3. Verbascum thapsus
L. USDA, NRCS. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov
, 9 August 2015). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA. Accessed October 30, 2015.
4. Duke J, Bogenschutz-Godwin M, duCellier J, Duke P. Handbook of Medicinal Herbs
. 2nd ed. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2002.
5. Georgiev MI, Ali K, Alipieva K, Verpoorte R, Choi YH. Metabolic differentiations and classification of Verbascum
species by NMR-based metabolomics. Phytochemistry
6. Boyd EL, Shimp LA, Hackney MJ. Home Remedies and the Black Elderly: A Reference Manual for Health Care Providers
. Ann Arbor, MI: Institute of Gerontology and College of Pharmacy, University of Michigan; 1984.
7. Turker AU, Camper ND. Biological activity of common mullein, a medicinal plant. J Ethnopharmacol
8. Rodriguez-Fragoso L, Reyes-Esparza J, Burchiel SW, Herrera-Ruiz D, Torres E. Risks and benefits of commonly used herbal medicines in Mexico. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol
9. Bisset N. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals
. Stuttgart, Germany: CRC Press; 1994:517-519.
10. Tyler V. The New Honest Herbal
. GF Stickley Co; 1987.
11. Duke J. Handbook of Biologically Active Phytochemicals and Their Activities
. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, Inc.; 1992.
12. Zhao YL, Wang SF, Li Y, et al. Isolation of chemical constituents from the aerial parts of Verbascum thapsus
and their antiangiogenic and antiproliferative activities. Arch Pharm Res
13. Alipieva K, Korkina L, Orhan IE, Georgiev MI. Verbascoside – a review of its occurrence, (bio)synthesis and pharmacological significance. Biotechnol Adv
14. Bozkurt TE, Tatli II, Kahraman C, Adkemir ZS, Sahin-Erdemli I. Inhibitory effect of the methanolic extract of Verbascum iatisepalum
Hub.-Mor. on endothelium-dependent relaxation in rate thoracic aorta. Z Naturforsch C
15. Speranza L, Franceschelli S, Pesce M, et al. Anti-inflammatory properties of the plant Verbascum mallophorum
. J Biol Regul Homeost Agents
16. Tatli II, Akdemir ZS, Yesilada E, Küpeli E. Anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive potential of major phenolics from Verbascum salviifolium
Boiss. Z Naturforsch C
17. Akkol EK, Tatli II, Akdemir ZS. Antinociceptive and anti-inflammatory effects of saponin and iridoid glycosides from Verbascum pterocalycinum
var. mutense Hub.-Mor. Z Naturforsch C
18. Dimitrova P, Kostadinova E, Milanova V, Alipieva K, Georgiev M, Ivanovska N. Antiinflammatory properties of extracts and compounds isolated from Verbascum xanthophoeniceum
Griseb. Phytother Res
19. Grigore A, Colceru-Mihul S, Litescu S, Panteli M, Rasit I. Correlation between polyphenol content and anti-inflammatory activity of Verbascum phlomoides
(mullein). Pharm Biol
20. Georgiev M, Pastore S, Lulli D, et al. Verbascum xanthophoeniceum
-derived phenylethanoid glycosides are potent inhibitors of inflammatory chemokines in dormant and interferon-gamma-stimulated human keratinocytes. J Ethnopharmacol
21. Kupeli E, Tatli II, Akdemir ZS, Yesilada E. Bioassay-guided isolation of anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive glycoterpenoids from the flowers of Verbascum lasianthum
Boiss. ex Bentham. J Ethnopharmacol
22. Süntar I, Tatli II, Küpeli Akkol E, Keleş H, Kahraman Ç, Akdemir Z. An ethnopharmacological study on Verbascum
species: from conventional wound healing use to scientific verification. J Ethnopharmacol
23. Akdemir Z, Kahraman C, Tatli II, Küpeli Akkol E, Süntar I, Keles H. Bioassay-guided isolation of anti-inflammatory, antinociceptive and wound healer glycosides from the flowers of Verbascum mucronatum
Lam. J Ethnopharmacol
24. Gürbüz I, Ozkan AM, Yesilada E, Kutsal O. Anti-ulcerogenic activity of some plants used in folk medicine of Pinarbasi (Kayseri, Turkey). J Ethnopharmacol
25. Escobar FM, Sabini MC, Zanon SM, Tonn CE, Sabini LI. Antiviral effect and mode of action of methanolic extract of Verbascum thapsus
L. on pseudorabies virus (strain RC/79). Nat Prod Res
26. Rajbhandari M, Mentel R, Jha PK, et al. Antiviral activity of some plants used in Nepalese traditional medicine. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med
27. Mothana RA, Abdo SA, Hasson S, Althawab FM, Alaghbari SA, Lindequist U. Antimicrobial, antioxidant and cytotoxic activities and phytochemical screening of some yemeni medicinal plants. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med
28. Ali N, Ali Shah SW, Shah I, et al. Anthelmintic and relaxant activities of Verbascum Thapsus
Mullein [published online March 30, 2012]. BMC Complement Altern Med
29. McCarthy E, O'Mahony JM. What's in a name? Can mullein weed beat TB where modern drugs are failing [published online September 19, 2010]? Evid Based Complement Alternat Med
30. Kozan E, Çankaya IT, Kahraman C, Akkol EK, Akdemir Z. The in vivo anthelmintic efficacy of some Verbascum
species growing in Turkey. Exp Parasitol
31. Mothana RA, Al-Musayeib NM, Al-Ajmi MF, Cos P, Maes L. Evaluation of the in vitro antiplasmodial, antileishmanial, and antitrypanosomal activity of medicinal plants used in Saudi and Yemeni traditional medicine [published online May 21, 2014]. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med
32. Lans C, Turner N, Khan T. Medicinal plant treatments for fleas and ear problems of cats and dogs in British Columbia, Canada. Parasitol Res
33. Alba C, Bowers MD, Blumenthal D, Hufbauer RA. Chemical and mechanical defenses vary among maternal lines and leaf ages in Verbascum thapsus
L. (Scrophulariaceae) and reduce palatability to a generalist insect. PLoS One
34. Hammad EA, Zeaiter A, Saliba N, Talhouk S. Bioactivity of indigenous medicinal plants against the cotton whitefly, Bemisia tabaci
[published online August 1, 2014]. J Insect Sci
35. Sarrell EM, Cohen HA, Kahan E. Naturopathic treatment for ear pain in children. Pediatrics
. 2003;111(5 pt 1):e574-579.12728112
36. Talib WH, Mahasneh AM. Antiproliferative activity of plant extracts used against cancer in traditional medicine. Sci Pharm
37. Lin LT, Liu LT, Chiang LC, Lin CC. In vitro anti-hepatoma activity of fifteen natural medicines from Canada. Phytother Res
38. Kalinina SA, Elkina OV, Kalinin DV, Syropyatov BY, Dolzhenko AV. Diuretic activity and toxicity of some Verbascum nigrum
extracts and fractions. Pharm Biol
39. Georgiev M, Alipieva K, Orhan I, Abrashev R, Denev P, Angelova M. Antioxidant and cholinesterases inhibitory activities of Verbascum xanthophoeniceum
Griseb. and its phenylethanoid glycosides. Food Chem
40. Kahraman C, Tatli II, Orhan IE, Akdemir ZS. Cholinesterase inhibitory and antioxidant properties of Verbascum mucronatum
Lam. and its secondary metabolites. Z Naturforsch C
41. Moein S, Moein M, Khoshnoud MJ, Kalanteri T. In vitro antioxidant properties evaluation of 10 Iranian medicinal plants by different methods. Iran Red Crescent Med J
42. Castro AI, Carmona JB, Gonzales FG, Nestar OB. Occupational airborne dermatitis from gordolobo (Verbascum densiflorum
). Contact Dermatitis
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