No doubt you’ve seen this striking plant along roadsides, and perhaps wondered if it has any uses. Although it’s not something you’ll be serving at your next family dinner, its tremendous medicinal value combined with its easy availability makes it worth discussing in this column. 
Easily recognizable by its large, fuzzy leaves, mullein is a biennial plant, growing only a beautiful rosette of leaves the first year. The second year it shoots up a stalk that can be several feet tall and is covered in small, simple yellow flowers. Although a single stalk, it may branch into several arms at the top. This amazing plant can produce 100,000 seeds, which are loved by pollinating insects and some of Missouri’s most colorful birds, the indigo bunting and American goldfinch. 
It’s been smoked by native peoples, and reportedly used as a bandage, used to line shoes, and the flower stalk has been used as a torch. But the most impressive qualities are its affinity for the lungs and other mucous linings of the body.  With its mucilaginous and expectorant properties, think of mullein when you have a cough or any upper respiratory affliction. To make a tea, simply simmer the leaves or flowers in boiling water and then strain. The steam can be inhaled to ease congestion. Combined with garlic and olive oil, it has eased many earaches in our family. Simply simmer chopped garlic and chopped mullein leaf or flowers in olive oil, strain and pour into a dropper bottle. It offers quick pain relief and helps fight infection. Studies show it has antibacterial properties against several common disease-causing bacteria such as E. coli and staph. Due to its strong anti-inflammatory properties, ear drops containing mullein have been shown to be just as effective as an anesthetic one for pain relief. Its astringent and emollient properties make it a soothing remedy for skin conditions, wound care, and sore throats.  
While it feels soft to the touch and is good-naturedly referred to as “cowboy toilet paper” the hairs on the leaves can be irritating and vasodilating to the delicate parts for some people. 
Now when you see this unique plant along the roadsides, you can tell your friends all about its amazing qualities. Be sure to write and tell me about your experiences with foraging!

Howell County News

110 W. Main St.,
Willow Springs, MO 65793

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