In light of the toilet paper crisis COVID-19 (I prefer calling it Kung flu) has induced, I felt the need to share a nifty herb called Mullein, or as I like to call it–Nature’s Toilet Paper. Humans have lived thousands of years without the modern commodity everyone is freaking out over recently, but convenience in today’s society outweighs people’s want learn something new, for the most part. But where some would freak out, I find joy in knowing that I can live perfectly fine without toilet paper if I needed to. Of course you will not always be able to find this herb, dish cloths work just as well, FYI.
You can buy Mullein seeds online, but at this point, if you don’t have it growing, it’s a little too late. That does not mean in certain areas that you cannot find it in the wild, just make sure you do extensive research before wiping your bum with a wild-crafted plant. I don’t need to explain how things could go south very quickly if you get the wrong plant. Luckily Mullein is pretty easy to recognize.
Mullein is a biennial plant, which means it takes 2 years to grow, go to seed, and die. In it’s first year, it grows as a rosette (circular arrangement of leaves that sit near the soil) of downy leaves, and sends up a tall spike with yellow flowers in its 2nd summer. The flower spires can reach 6 feet tall, so it is hard to miss when you know what you are looking for. It grows on roadsides, dry ground, and on the edge of fields. Great Mullein–the species generally talked about when discussing herbal medicine–is native to Europe, northern Africa, and Asia, and naturalized in parts of North America, Africa, and Australia. The leaves and flowers are mostly used, but sometimes the root can be used as well–although I do not have any info on using the root.
Mullein leaves have been used to make make natural toilet paper, diapers, food wrappers, and soothing insoles for shoes for centuries. The leaves can be irritating when used completely dry because of all the little hairs, so be mindful of that, but they are also part of what makes it so effective at wiping. This attribute gave the plant the name Quaker rouge, as Quaker girls were said to redden their cheeks by rubbing them with the dry leaves.
The plant is medicinal as well, and you know I can’t help myself with information overload. One use is a cure for hoarseness, with mullein and fennel in equal parts cooked into wine, that goes back to Hildegard in Bingen in the 1100s. John Parkinson (1640) recommends a decoction of the leaves, along with sage, marjoram, and chamomile (applied externally) for cramps. He also mentions that country men gave a broth of mullein to cattle that had coughs and used a poultice of the leaves for horses’ hooves injured in shoeing. Victorian doctor, Dr. Quinlan, publicized a traditional Irish TB treatment where one handful of fresh mullein leaves was boiled with two pints of milk, strained and sweetened with honey, and drunk twice a day.
Mullein is an herb for the lungs and throat and can be consumed in any rational quantity needed, being basically free of toxicity.Moore, 1979
Mullein is the only herb known to man that has remarkable narcotic properties without being poisonous and harmful.Dr. Christopher, 1976
Mullein tea is great for easing throat and chest problems, especially dry and irritable coughs, as well as quickly soothing tickling at the back of the throat. It has an affinity for the respiratory system, but also calms and strengthens the nerves, digestion, and urinary system. Good for swollen glands, and helps relieve pain in general. Historically, a useful remedy to ease the foot pain from plantar fasciitis is to put a fresh mullein leaf in your shoe, replacing with a new one when the first has dried out. The leaves can also be used in smoking blends to loosen phlegm in the lungs.
Poultices are excellent to draw out splinters and boils, but like the tea, also work at deeper bodily levels for backaches, lymphatic swellings, and even broken bones.
Mullein flower infused oil is the best natural remedy for earache, and can be used externally for any kind of swelling and irritation.
Harvesting Mullein: leaves are best picked before the plant sends up its flower spike. Dry the leaves whole and then crumble for storage. Flowers are quite soft, so pick carefully to avoid bruising. Spread in a single layer on a sheet of paper or mesh screen to dry.
Mullein Tea: leaves can be used on their own, or you can add flowers. Use a tablespoon of dried herb, or slightly more if fresh, according to taste. Pour a mugful of boiling water over it, cover, and steep for 15 minutes. Strain through muslin or fine sieve to remove any loose leaf hairs. Drink freely.
- dry irritable coughs
- swollen glands
Mullein Flower Oil: pick flowers on a dry, sunny day, and lay on a sheet of paper to dry a little overnight. Moisture can make you oil go rancid. Place in jar, and cover with extra virgin olive oil. Close jar with piece of cloth held on with a rubber band rather than using a lid, so any moisture can escape.
- nerve pain
- hemorrhoids & piles
- chest rub
**Don’t use a bottle with a pipette top for long-term storage of mullein oil. Volatile oils from the mullein destroy the rubber bulb after a while, and the oil loses it potency.
Mullein Poultice: lay leaf, or leaves, in a bowl and pour a little boiling water on them to soften. Leave until cool enough to handle, then place on affected area. Poultice can be held on with a bandage, and kept warm by holding a hot water bottle against it.
- swollen glands
- broken bones
*Most information has been taken from “Backyard Medicine” by Julie Bruton-Seal & Matthew Seal, with some of my own embellishments.
**When wild-crafting ANY herb make sure you know what you are looking for. One blog post is not enough to pull from. Know your herbs! Google is wonderful, and even better would be talking to the older generation that has first hand experience, or an herbalist if you have one of those in your back pocket.
_________________________________________________________________________________I also have a surprise for you guys today. An interlude, bridging Part 1 and Part 2 of Blood 4 Honor!
Blood 4 Honor: Interlude (offline-in editing process)