Verbascum – Mullein
Mulleins are stout, biennial, non-native herbaceous plants, which can reach a height of 2 meters (6 feet). The flowers have 5 regular parts. They are usually yellow, first appearing in early summer and continuing into late fall. The flowers grow in tall, narrow spikes. The leaves are basal and alternate. The basal leaves grow during the first year and the stem leaves during the second year of the life of the plant. Mulleins are common in dry areas like fields, waste places, roadsides and disturbed areas and are found throughout temperate North America.
The flowers of some Mulleins have been used for centuries to make dye. The women of ancient Rome used it to dye their hair a golden color and it is still used in cosmetics and to flavor some liqueurs. Few plants boast such a variety of medicinal uses. Mullein contains large amounts of mucilage, making it soothing to mucous membranes. It is also an expectorant and an anti-inflammatory. Leaf tea has been used to treat coughs, colds, asthma and bronchitis. In Europe the root extract has long been used to treat toothache and there are accounts of Native Americans tying the roots around the necks of children who where toothing. Oil extract of the flowers is used for earache. The leaves have been used externally to treat various wounds and sores. Warning: The plants may contain Coumarin which was banned by the FDA as a food additive in 1940, due to studies showing liver toxicity. There is also some evidence that they may be carcinogenic. The seeds contain rotenone which is an insecticide and fish poison.
Guide to Identify Presented Species of Genus Verbascum
V. thapsus – Great Mullein
Stout plants, 40-200 cm tall. Disturbed ground, plains to subalpine. Flowers yellow, 1-2 cm wide, with 5 equal lobes, numerous in tall, dense spikes. Leaves basal and alternate, broadly lance-shaped, 10-40 cm long, stalkless.
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