5 Health Benefits of Mullein Tea, Tincture, & Supplements for Immune Function, Lung Function, Ear Comfort, & More

Published on February 16, 2024

By Kristen Boye BS, Natural Health

Kristen Boye

Kristen Boye is a natural health expert, writer, copywriter, and editor. Kristen was raised on an organic farm in British Columbia which inspired her life’s work. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Natural Health, is a Certified Natural Foods Chef, co-owner of a medicinal herb farm, and is a natural foods and children’s health advocate. Kristen lives with her husband and two children on their medicinal herb farm in Western North Carolina.

Mullein is legendary in traditional herbalism for supporting normal immune and respiratory function and is used in herbal ear oils.

It also grows all over North America and is easy to spot if you know what to look for.

Although there isn’t substantial research validating Mullein’s traditional uses, studies have revealed how the plant may work to support various aspects of health.

In this article, we’ll compare the historical uses of Mullein with emerging research to shed some light on how it may work to support immune function, respiratory function, skin health, and more.

History & Traditional Use of Mullein

The name “Common Mullein” is given to this plant for good reason: if you pay attention, you’ll see it everywhere. 

Mullein is native to Europe, northern Africa, and Asia. This towering plant grows up to 6 feet tall and has a fuzzy stem with broad wooly leaves at its base with a tall spike littered with yellow flowers that bloom in summer. 

These characteristics are responsible for Mullein’s many names, such as Candlewick Plant, Torches, Our Lady's Flannel, Shepherd's Staff, Beggar's Stalk, Old Man’s Flannel, and over two dozen more! 

Historically, in Europe and Asia, Mullein was said to have magical powers to drive away evil spirits. In particular, this plant was very popular in Ireland, where it was cultivated in gardens on a large scale because of its popular use in supporting respiratory function.REF#3534

Dioscorides, a Greek physician and botanist from the 1st century, wrote extensively in one of the first materia medicas on the Verbascum (Mullein) species and noted Mullein’s diverse benefits to supporting lung function.REF#3535

Mullein has also been used extensively in Spanish Folk medicine to support circulatory, digestive, and respiratory function, as well as skin health.REF#3536

In Turkish medicine, Mulein has also been traditionally used to support respiratory and lung function.REF#3537

Although Mullein is non-native to North America, it grows almost everywhere.

According to the University of Wisconsin-Madison Extension, Mullein “was probably introduced to North America several times as a medicinal herb”REF#3538 by European settlers.

Since then, it has been adopted in North American herbal practice. 

Native Americans mostly used Mullein leaf topically as a poultice to help with pain, swelling, bruises, and wounds and as a smoke smudge for lung support.REF#3539

5 Health Benefits of Mullein Tea, Tincture, Herb, & Ear Oil

Mullein’s historical use and recent resurgence in popularity have made it the subject of several studies.

Analysis of Mullein has revealed many active plant compounds believed to be responsible for its benefits.

Some of Mullein’s primary active plant compounds include:REF#3540

  • Flavonoids, including Agigenin and Luteolin
  • Flavonols like Quercetin, Rutin and Kaempferol
  • Iridoids like Ursolic acid
  • Phenylpropanoid glycosides like Verbascoside
  • Saponins
  • Vitamin C 
  • Minerals

The following are five potential benefits of Mullein based on traditional use and modern research.

1: Mullein May Promote Normal Immune Function

In the previous section, we mentioned one of Mullein’s active plant compounds, iridoid glycosides. 

Although more studies are needed, one study found the iridoid glycosides within Mullein may help promote normal immune function by supporting immune system regulation, which may help the body’s adaptive mechanism.REF#3541 

This emerging research may explain some mechanisms behind Mullein’s traditional use as an immune-supportive herb.

2: Mullein May Support Normal Respiratory Function

Mullein is a common ingredient in natural cough syrups and lozenges because of its reputation as an expectorant.

Expectorants are herbs or other substances that promote clear airways by helping thin out mucus.

Emerging research also suggests Mullein’s expectorant properties may help support normal respiratory and lung function,REF#3542 but more research is needed.

Studies also suggest Mullein may support normal inflammatory response, which may benefit the respiratory and immune systems. 

3: Mullein May Benefit The Skin

Mullein has a long history of use as a skin-supportive herb—topically as a poultice and internally.

Emerging research suggests topical application of Mullein may provide various benefits to the skin, including:REF#3543

More research is needed.

4: Mullein May Support the Musculoskeletal System

Herb lovers typically think of herbs like Comfrey, Turmeric, Boswellia, Boneset, and Arnica for musculoskeletal support. 

However, some research suggests that the phytochemicals in Mullein may potentially enhance the body’s ability to support normal inflammatory processes within the musculoskeletal system. 

Of particular note, verbascoside, a compound found in high quantities in the Verbascum species of the plant, was found to promote normal inflammatory response to support the health of cartilage.REF#3544

More research is needed; however, these findings are encouraging.

5. Mullein May Help with Minor Ear Pain Management

Mullein is a popular ingredient in DIY and prepared herbal ear oils, most of which contain Garlic, Mullein, and a carrier oil.

This popular herbalist formula is designed to support normal inflammatory response in the ear and help with minor pain management.

The theory is Garlic helps support the ear microbiome and immunity, while Mullein is believed to help promote drainage.

The use of Mullein/Garlic oil is somewhat controversial, with many herbalists, integrative medicine practitioners, and individuals swearing by it, while others say it doesn’t work or isn’t a good idea to put oil in your ears. If an ear infection is suspected, see your healthcare practitioner for advice.

But, is there any evidence to back up this age-old theory? Possibly.

Animal studies suggest the plant compound apigetrin, found in Mullein, may support normal inflammatory response in the ear due to its ability to reduce oxidative stress.REF#3545 REF#3546

More robust research is needed. However, its long history of traditional use—past and present—does suggest a potential benefit for minor ear pain management.

Interested in Garlic Mullein ear oil? Check out these Herbal DIY Ear Drops Recipes for Kids.

Side Effects & Possible Contraindications of Mullein Tinctures, Teas, and Herb

Mullein leaves and flowers have been used by millions and are considered safe. 

According to the “The Botanical Safety Handbook” published by the American Herbal Products Association, Mullein has a safety class of 1, meaning that there is a history of safe use, there are no case reports or probability of adverse events, and no innately toxic phyto-compounds. 

As for interactions, the same book rates this herb as a class A, which are designated for herbs that have no case reports of suspected interactions and no clinically relevant interactions in human studies.REF#3547

As with all things related to taking herbs, always check with your doctor or healthcare practitioner for individual recommendations.

Should You Take Mullein as a Tincture, Tea, Compress, or Capsule?

It is usually a matter of preference for internal consumption of tea or tincture, but you get something a little different in each.

The benefit of a tea is they are more palatable in some cases. 

However, hot water isn’t the best way (solvent) to pull out the broadest range of herbal compounds, which means teas may tend to be weaker. 

Since some of these compounds can have bitter or pungent tastes, a tea can be milder, and you can add honey or your favorite sweetener. 

Since teas are also considered expectorants, a tea may be especially beneficial for supporting respiratory function.

Tinctures can be a much stronger, more condensed version of what you get from tea. 

The label should tell you how much herb equivalent you are taking in, say one dropper full. Keep in mind that the more concentrated the tincture, the stronger it will taste.

Another thing to consider about tinctures is they are extracted with a combination of water, alcohol, and/or glycerin. 

Different families of phytochemicals are more dissolvable in various types of liquids. So, some herbal compounds will dissolve better in water rather than alcohol or glycerine, and the other way around. 

With a tincture or liquid phyto capsule, you will likely get a more well-rounded range of herbal constituents closer to the natural balance of what the plant has versus using only hot water in tea.

Tinctures can be diluted in a small amount of water or juice to take the edge off.

Capsules are often a favorite choice as they’re easy to swallow without tasting anything.

A liquid capsule, which is typically an encapsulated version of a tincture, is often an ideal choice if you prefer capsules to tinctures or teas.

How to Make Mullein Tea

Tea or infusions are the easiest way to consume any herb. And as noted above, they are also considered expectorants.

To make Mullein tea, scoop approximately one tablespoon of the leaf or flower into a tea ball or strainer and steep in hot (not boiling) water for 5-10 minutes.

Sweeten with honey and/or lemon, and enjoy.

Your Mullein Recap

We’ve covered a lot about Mullein, let’s recap the highlights:

  • Mullein has been used for centuries to support immune function, respiratory function, circulatory function, skin health, and as a poultice for minor irritations and insect bites
  • Analysis have shown Mullein contains several active plant compounds, such as flavonoids including Agigenin, luteolin; flavonols like Quercetin, Rutin and Kaempferol; and iridoids like ursolic acid believed to be responsible for its potential health benefits
  • Research on Mullein is in its infancy, however studies suggest a possible benefit for: 
    • Immune function
    • Respiratory function (Mullein is considered an expectorant)
    • Skin health
    • Musculoskeletal function
    • Minor management of ear pain
  • Mullein is considered safe to take and is available as a tea, tincture, capsule, ear oil, and in skin care products.

Although more research is needed to understand how Mullein works, we can learn a lot from its traditional uses in Asia, North Africa, Europe, and North America that may help us support our health.


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