Mullein, or Verbascum thapsus, is a traditional herb known for its soft, hairy leaves and its usage in respiratory relief. Its active compounds may offer antiviral and anti-inflammatory benefits. When smoked, mullein imparts a mild flavor and a soothing effect on the lungs, although it’s efficacy and safety through smoking require more research. It’s legal to use, but as a plant, it’s considered a weed in some areas.

Common name(s): Common mullein, woolly mullein, candlewick plant, lungwort
Scientific name: Verbascum thapsus


Life Cycle

mullein, flower, flower wallpaper

Known for its tall, wooly stalk, soothing respiratory effects, and traditional medicinal uses.


Native to Asia and Europe; widely naturalized in North America and parts of Australia.

Natural Habitat

Commonly found in fields, along roadsides, and in waste areas.


Prefers full sun, moderate water, and well-drained soil with a neutral to slightly alkaline pH.

Traditional Usage

Mullein has a storied history of use in various traditional medicine systems. Its applications span from respiratory support to topical treatments. Below are some of the ways that mullein has been traditionally utilized:

  • Respiratory remedies: Mullein has been employed to ease coughs and sore throats due to its soothing effects on the respiratory system.
  • Ear infections: It’s been used for its potential to address ear-related issues.
  • Anti-inflammatory purposes: Due to its believed anti-inflammatory properties, mullein has found a place in treating inflammatory diseases.
  • Alcoholic beverages: Not only for its medicinal properties but also for its flavor, mullein has been integrated as a flavoring agent in alcoholic drinks.
  • Wound healing: The use of mullein in creams for wound healing has been supported by its active compounds.
  • Antiviral applications: Based on research, mullein contains compounds that might have antiviral activities against various microbes.

Though traditionally valued for these benefits, one should always consider the clinical evidence and consult healthcare providers before using mullein for medicinal purposes.

Historical Usage

Used in traditional medicine for respiratory ailments, as a sleep aid, and for soothing mucous membranes.

Common Usage

Currently used to treat respiratory conditions, ear infections, and inflammatory diseases, and as a flavoring in alcoholic beverages.


Mullein, a plant with a long history of medicinal use, is renowned for its ability to alleviate various respiratory ailments. Let’s dive deeper into the potential health benefits of this remarkable herb:

  • Respiratory Relief: Mullein has been utilized for centuries to provide relief from coughs and sore throats. As a demulcent, it helps to soothe inflammation and irritation in the throat and lungs, offering a comforting effect.
  • Potent Compounds: The therapeutic properties of mullein can be attributed to its rich content of saponins, flavonoids, and phenylethanoid glycosides. These active compounds work synergistically to deliver the herb’s health-promoting effects.
  • Inflammation Reduction: Mullein exhibits anti-inflammatory properties, making it a potential ally in managing various inflammatory conditions. By reducing inflammation, it may help alleviate discomfort and promote overall well-being.
  • Antiviral Potential: Studies have shown that mullein possesses antiviral activity, suggesting its potential in supporting the treatment of urinary tract infections (UTIs) and possibly other viral infections. Further research is needed to fully understand its antiviral capabilities.
  • Wound Healing Support: When applied topically in the form of creams or ointments, mullein may aid in the wound healing process. Its beneficial properties can help promote the regeneration of damaged tissues and support the body’s natural healing mechanisms.
  • Ear Infection Treatment: Mullein has been traditionally used to address ear infections, and some contemporary applications still employ this herb for this purpose. Its soothing and potentially antimicrobial properties may provide relief and support the healing process.

While mullein’s effects are supported by traditional knowledge and some scientific research, it is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional before incorporating it into your health regimen. They can provide personalized guidance, ensuring that mullein is suitable for your specific health needs and advising on safe and effective usage methods.4

mullein, plant, yellow

Renowned for its comforting effect on the respiratory system and its ability to soothe irritated mucous membranes.

Effects when smoking

When smoked, mullein is praised for its potential to soothe and relax the respiratory system. This traditional use aligns with the plant’s historical applications in addressing respiratory issues. Below are some of the reported effects experienced when smoking mullein:

  • Mild Relaxant: Users often describe a mild relaxing effect on the lungs, which may help ease breathing difficulties.
  • Respiratory Relief: Known for its soothing properties, mullein may relieve symptoms associated with respiratory conditions such as coughs and sore throats.
  • Light Flavor: The smoke from mullein is typically mild and slightly aromatic, providing a light herbal experience without a strong or overpowering taste.
  • Mucilaginous Properties: Mullein’s natural mucilage content can calm irritated mucous membranes within the respiratory tract.

Despite these potential benefits, it’s essential to consider that the scientific evidence around the safety and efficacy of smoking mullein is somewhat limited. Smoking any plant material, including mullein, may pose risks to respiratory health. Allergic reactions or irritation are also possible due to the fine hairs on mullein leaves.

Always consult with a healthcare professional before adopting new herbal practices, particularly those that involve smoking, to ensure they align with your health needs and conditions4.

Flavor Profile

Light, slightly bitter flavor, with mild, aromatic smoke when inhaled.

Edible Parts

The flowers and leaves of mullein are known to be edible when cooked properly to remove the fine hairs.

Effects when Smoked

Said to exert a mild relaxant effect on the lungs, potentially aiding in respiratory relief.

User Experiences

User experiences with mullein are diverse, ranging from improvements in respiratory health to its use as a remedy for skin conditions, though these experiences are subjective and not universally recorded.

Medicinal Benefits

Mullein has been valued in traditional medicine for its potential healing properties, and its use continues today with a focus on respiratory health. Here are some of the potential medicinal benefits attributed to mullein:

  • Respiratory Support: Soothes the respiratory system, potentially easing coughs and sore throats due to its mucilaginous properties.
  • Antiviral Activity: Contains compounds like saponins and flavonoids that may fight against various microbes, possibly useful in treating respiratory infections.
  • Anti-inflammatory: May reduce inflammation, helping with conditions like ear infections.
  • Wound Healing: When used in creams, mullein might promote the healing of minor wounds due to its phenylethanoid glycosides.
  • Urinary Tract Health: Could be beneficial in treating urinary tract infections.

It’s important to note that while mullein can be smoked for its mild relaxant effects on the lungs, the safety and efficacy of smoking any herb, including mullein, should be approached with caution. Always consult a healthcare provider before using herbal remedies, particularly when considering dosage and to be mindful of potential risks4.

History and Folklore

The use of mullein in traditional medicine dates back centuries, with applications for a variety of ailments. In Europe, this herb has been widely employed for respiratory problems and skin conditions. Native Americans also found the soft leaves of mullein useful, integrating them into their healing practices for similar issues. Its reputation for easing the symptoms of coughs and inflammations made it a well-regarded natural remedy across cultures. Today, people still look to mullein for its potential health benefits, though it’s always wise to consult with healthcare professionals before incorporating it into any treatment regimen.

mullein, nature, botany

Centuries-old mullein: a trusted herbal ally for respiratory health and skin healing across various cultures.

Side Effects and Contraindications

  • Consuming mullein may lead to allergic reactions for some individuals.
  • Direct contact or inhalation of the fine hairs on mullein leaves can cause irritation.
  • Smoking mullein, like smoking any substance, runs the risk of respiratory system harm.
  • People with a history of respiratory issues or those taking medication for lung conditions should consult a healthcare provider before use4.

Legal Status

Mullein is generally considered legal and is not regulated under controlled substances laws. However, it is identified as a noxious weed in certain regions such as Colorado, Hawaii in the USA, and Victoria in Australia 5. This classification is due to its invasive nature rather than its use as a smoking herb or medicinal plant. As a result, the use of mullein for personal herbal practices, including smoking, is typically not prohibited, but cultivation and distribution might be regulated to prevent its spread in ecosystems where it is considered invasive. Always check local regulations to ensure compliance.


1. US Forest Service. “Verbascum thapsus – US Forest Service.”
2. Missouri Botanical Garden. “Verbascum thapsus – Plant Finder.”
3. CABI Compendium. “Verbascum thapsus (common mullein).”
4. The Botanical Institute. “Mullein: 5 Key Benefits, Dosage, & Safety.”
5. Wikipedia. “Verbascum thapsus.”