By Tess Pennington
To prepare for the upcoming cold and virus season, I have been searching for herbal ways to boost my family’s immune system this Fall, which is our second allergy and cold season. The children have been back to school for one month, and not only is Covid circulating, but so is strep throat, RSV, a stomach virus, and the common cold. One of the medicinal flowers that I have come to admire is Mullein, which blooms throughout the United States. Overseas it is known as Candlewick, Candle Flower, or Orange Mullein. It is a honey-scented, tall flower with yellow rosettes. This biennial is not only a natural toilet paper alternative (nice to know for emergencies), it also has medicinal properties.
What makes Mullein beneficial? Mullein contains polyphenols – micronutrients that are naturally found in plants. According to WebMD, “(Polyphenols) are regarded as ‘lifespan essentials’ for their potential to reduce your risk of chronic diseases.”( 8 Foods High in Polyphenols and Why You Need Them (webmd.com)) Mullein helps to clean your bloodstream from free radicals, and Dr. Lynne Eldridge explains that
“Free radicals are highly reactive and unstable molecules that are produced in the body naturally as a byproduct of metabolism (oxidation), or by exposure to toxins in the environment such as tobacco smoke and ultraviolet light. Free radicals have a lifespan of only a fraction of a second, but during that time can damage DNA, sometimes resulting in the mutations that can lead to cancer.” Free Radicals: Definition, Cause, and Role in Cancer (verywellhealth.com)
If Mullein can heal or stop damage to DNA, then it is something to have around. While there are numerous benefits to Mullein beyond what this article addresses, I will focus on the benefits to the body’s respiratory system.
Fight Respiratory Infections
Mullein helps to reduce sore throats and coughing that accompany illnesses like bronchitis, flu, and colds. Mullein acts as an expectorant forcing the body to remove mucus and bacteria that may be obstructing the lungs or causing swelling (inflammation). By drinking mullein tea (listed below), the polyphenol compounds create an unwelcoming environment for bacteria, which helps recover from infection quicker and it boosts the immune system.
Treat allergies and asthma
The function of the immune system is to protect the body from bacteria and viruses; however, it protects the body from harmful substances that cause our allergies, e.g., dust, pollen, smoke, animal dander, etc. Because mullein is an anti-inflammatory and has anti-allergenic properties, it can reduce the congestion and inflammation that accompanies allergies and asthma. Kelly Krumrin from myasthmateam.com, states that “allergic asthma is the most common type of asthma, comprising about 60 percent of asthma cases in the United States.” (Types of Asthma | MyAsthmaTeam) The severity of the allergy often increases the severity of an asthma attack. Drinking mullein tea or steaming with mullein essential oil extract may help alleviate some of the symptoms for those who suffer from seasonal allergies. In addition, it may reduce the inflammation that triggers an asthma attack – especially when normal breathing becomes difficult if a person begins to panic, which can lead to someone passing out.
Ease ear infections
Middle ear infections plague our youth every year. They occur when the pus builds up in the cavity behind the eardrum. Most infections resolve on their own within a few days; however, in some cases, medical intervention is necessary to kill the bacteria. Mullein tea and essential oil are effective remedies that help to reduce the inflammation in and the pain on the Eustachian tubes.
Mullein herbal tea
Mullein tea acts as a decongestant. It will loosen mucus in the sinus cavity as well as soothe those with sore throats. Some even gargle with the tea to help alleviate the pain associated with a sore throat. This tea can be consumed every day during allergy season, and it may help to prevent asthma attacks.
Note: As with all medications, check with your doctor to make sure that none of the ingredients interact with anything that they have prescribed. Herbs can have reactions with prescription medications.
While this article did not address the other benefits of mullein, it also has healing properties for skin ailments and intestinal upsets. You can read more about mullein’s health properties here.
When blending tea, it is important to pick the leaves from the mullein plant as soon as the flowers have started to show. Dry the leaves in the sun until they are crisp (this usually takes a few days). Next, crush the leaves and store. A simple mullein tea can be made by just adding 1 tbs mullein leaves, 8-oz of hot water, and honey. The recipe below (adapted from this one) adds additional herbs to combat respiratory infections, allergies and asthma, and ear infections. My family uses the organic herbs found at Frontier.
- 1 tsp dried mullein leaves
- 1 ½ tsp Elecampane root
- 1 tsp marshmallow root
- ½ tsp calendula flowers
- ½ tsp echinacea
- ½ tsp chamomile flowers
- ¼ tsp schisandra berries
- ¼ tsp ginger root
- 1 tsp raw, local honey
Blend the tea leaves well, place the leaves in a tea infuser, and let it steep for about seven minutes. Do not use boiling water in the tea because it will hinder the beneficial polyphenol compounds. This tea can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days, and it can be consumed as an iced tea as well.
With flu season around the corner, now is the time to start amping up your immune system and mullein is a wonderful herb that serves multiple purposes. If you are new to herbal medicine, mullein is an excellent herb to start learning about.