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
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.
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. 1990;28(2):129-133.3. 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. 2011;72(16):2045-2051.218073906. Boyd EL, Shimp LA, Hackney MJ. Home Remedies and the Black Elderly: A Reference Manual for Health Care Providers. 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Verbascoside – a review of its occurrence, (bio)synthesis and pharmacological significance. Biotechnol Adv. 2014;32(6):1065-1076.2504870414. 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. 2014;69(5-6):219-225.2506916015. Speranza L, Franceschelli S, Pesce M, et al. Anti-inflammatory properties of the plant Verbascum mallophorum. J Biol Regul Homeost Agents. 2009;23(3):189-195.1982809616. Tatli II, Akdemir ZS, Yesilada E, Küpeli E. Anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive potential of major phenolics from Verbascum salviifolium Boiss. Z Naturforsch C. 2008;63(3-4):196-202.1853346117. 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. 2007;62(11-12):813-820.1827428318. 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