Home My Blog Herb Profiles Botanical Names Glossary Treatments Recipes Other stuff HERB SHOP Books & Equipment Useful Links

Verbascum thapsus (L)


Synonyms: Aaron's rod, lady's foxglove, cow's lungwort, clown's lungwort, bullock's lungwort, donkey's ears, torches, mullein dock, velvet plant, velvet dock, Our Lady's flannel, Adam's flannel, old man's flannel, woollen, rag paper, candlewick plant, wild ice leaf, Jupiter's staff, Jacob's staff, Peter's staff, shepherd's staff, shepherd's clubs, beggar's stalk, beggar's blanket, golden rod, clot, cuddy's lungs, duffle, feltwort, fluffweed, hare's beard, hag's taper, great mullein

Order: Scrophulariaceae

Description: Verbascum is an erect biennial herb, common on waste ground in Europe and Britain, and naturalised in the USA. It consists of a rosette of very large, elongated, woolly, pale leaves, from the centre of which arises a thick, tough stem in the second year, producing a dense terminal spike of five-petaled yellow flowers. It can reach a height of 3.5m. 

Parts used: leaves and stems; flowers

Collection: The leaves are collected in summer before they turn brown, the flowers between July and September. 

Constituents: mucilage, gum, trace of volatile oil, resin, saponins (especially in the flowers), flavonoids (including hesperidin and verbascoside), bitter glycosides (including aucubin), tannins

Actions: relaxing expectorant, demulcent, mild laxative, mild diuretic, emollient, vulnerary, mild sedative

Indications: bronchitis, tracheitis, influenzal cold with respiratory catarrh. Topically in olive oil for inflamed mucosa. Specifically indicated in bronchitis with hard cough and soreness.

Therapeutics and Pharmacology: Verbascum is a valuable remedy for most conditions affecting the respiratory system. It tones the mucous membranes, reducing inflammation and stimulating fluid production, thus facilitating expectoration. Its anti-inflammatory and demulcent action give it a useful role in tracheitis and associated conditions. It is a relaxing expectorant for dry, chronic, hard coughs such as in whooping cough, tuberculosis, asthma and bronchitis. The leaves of Verbascum were once made into herbal 'tobacco' and smoked for asthma and tuberculosis. The flowers are also effective for throat inflammations.  Steeped in olive oil, they make very good eardrops, and the oil can be rubbed into rheumatic joints to ease the pain. A tea of the flowers is reported to be sedative and may be used for insomnia. Verbascum is also diuretic, helping to allay inflammation of the urinary system and countering the irritating effects of acid urine. The leaves make an excellent poultice for boils and sores

Combinations: Combines well with Marrubium, Tussilago and Lobelia in acute or chronic bronchitis.

Caution: Infusions of the leaves should be strained through a cloth to remove the fine hairs which cover the plant as these may irritate the throat.

Preparation and Dosage: (thrice daily)

Regulatory Status GSL

Dried leaves: 4-8g or by infusion

Dried flowers: 1-2g or by infusion

Liquid Extract: 1:1 in 25% alcohol, 4-8ml

Additional Comments: Dioscorides recommended Mullein for scorpion stings, eye complaints, toothache tonsillitis and coughs. It was also traditionally taken for wasting diseases such as tuberculosis. An infused oil made from the flowers was a standby in many parts of Europe for ailments such as haemorrhoids and ear infections. Traditionally, the plant was regarded as antiseptic and the large leaves produced in the second season were wrapped around fruit to preserve it. The tall stems of mullein were once burned as tapers in funeral processions. 



BHMA 1983 British Herbal Pharmacopoeia, BHMA, Bournemouth.

Grieve, M. 1931 A Modern Herbal, (ed. C.F. Leyel 1985), London.

Hoffmann, D. 1990 The New Holistic Herbal, Second Edition, Element, Shaftesbury.

Lust, J. 1990 The Herb Book, Bantam, London.

Mabey, R. (ed.) 1991 The Complete New Herbal, Penguin, London.

Mills, S.Y. 1993 The A-Z of Modern Herbalism, Diamond Books, London.

Ody, P. 1993 The Herb Society's Complete Medicinal Herbal, Dorling Kindersley, London.

Weiss, R.F. 1991 Herbal Medicine, Beaconsfield Arcanum, Beaconsfield.

Wren, R.C. 1988 Potter's New Cyclopaedia of Botanical Drugs and Preparations, C.W.Daniel, Saffron Walden.


Back to top

Previous herb Back to Index Next herb


Contact: [email protected] Please complete the 'Subject' heading or your email will be assumed to be spam and automatically deleted. Before you contact me, I'd be grateful if you would please check to see if this website has the answer to your question (search box at the top of the homepage) - I have time to answer only a few of the many emails that arrive in my inbox every day. See also the statement below:

For your safety I am prohibited from giving specific medical advice to individuals over the internet or telephone so please do not waste your time or mine by emailing or calling me with detailed information about your health problems - I can only undertake face-to-face consultations for what should be obvious reasons. Diagnoses cannot be made remotely, and I am unable to offer any advice or treatment until I am completely satisfied that I know what I'm dealing with!  The herb profiles and treatment suggestions on this website will help enable you to choose which herbs might be appropriate for minor ailments. For more serious or chronic conditions you should seek professional advice. This is particularly important if you are taking medication from your doctor or pharmacist, as some herbs can interact adversely with other drugs. If you would like to have a consultation with a medical herbalist then you should click here  then scroll to 'Professional Organisations' at the bottom of the page to find a qualified practitioner in your area.

Christine Haughton, MA MNIMH MCPP FRSPH

Wold Farm, West Heslerton, Malton, North Yorkshire YO17 8RY, UK

Last updated 27th November 2014     ęPurple Sage Botanicals