My first experience with Mullein was on a frosty Fall morning. As I walked through the pasture the lush velvety leaves of the first year rosette caught my eye. I bent down to touch the leaves to see if the frost was that thick or if the plant was really that fuzzy. In spite of the frost the leaves were soft to the touch.
Mullen is a plant with a wide variety of uses. Traditionally the yellow flowers are used to make a tea for respiratory problems. One of my reference books suggested adding to flowers to olive oil and using it to treat a stopped up ear. The fuzzy leaves are often cured and used as a tobacco substitute. Although I have concerns that the active ingredient in the leaf , “rotenone”, is not any safer than nicotine. Both are considered insecticides.
(Please remember that I am not a trained expert in any kind of medicine and that any reference to herbalism on my blog are just presented as trivia.)
Mullein is native to Europe and Asia and was used by primitive societies as a fish poison. A practice that is illegal in the United States. The rotenone in the roots and seeds is a narcotic that stupefies fish. Once inebriated a person can simply reach into the water and scoop them out. I first learned about rotenone in my forestry classes and at that time it was pointed out that the DNR used it to take a census of fish population in certain areas.
In late Fall and through the Winter the seedhead is often seen standing up out of the landscape. Primitive survivalists collect these and dip them in rendered fats to make torches. Friction fire is really hard to make in the southeast of North America but Mullein stalks are said to be useful for that purpose. Once the stalk dies and dries out its ridged enough to be spun between the palms of the hands but soft enough to form a “punk” (the technical term for the hot coal formed by friction).
Another little tid-bit about Mullein comes from soil science and permaculture. It’s an indication of soil health. Soil is more than just dirt. Dirt is found on cars and in forgotten corners. But soil is a living thing. God in His wisdom has imparted a certain amount of automation to nature. Sometimes when a “weed” shows up it’s because there’s a condition that needs to be corrected. Mullein has a deep taproot that breaks up compacted soil and pulls nutrients up to the surface. My first experience with Mullein was in a pasture and the hooves of livestock are known to compress the soil. The Mullein was there to loosen up the soil and correct the problem.
It really is amazing how much resource there is in one plant.
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