Botanical name: Verbascum thapsus Family: Scrophulariaceae (Figwort family)
Great Mullein is a very distinctive plant, with an erect leafy stem with a slender woolly spike of many yellow flowers, and with inverted-lanceshaped pale yellowish-grey woolly leaves. Flower-spikes are 10-30 cm long, flowers 2-2.5 cm across, with a short flower-tube and 5 rounded spreading petals; stamens with woolly-hairy filaments; bracts woolly, longer than flowers. Upper leaves with base of blades continuing in a wing down stem, 5-15 cm, basal leaves stalked, up to 30 cm. The stem is unbranched, 1-2 m. Great Mullein is found in the Himalayas, from Afghanistan to SW China, and also Temperate Eurasia, at altitudes of 1800-4000 m. Flowering: May-September.
An old superstition existed that witches used lamps and candles provided with wicks of Mullein in their incantations, and another of the plant's many names, 'Hag's Taper', refers to this. Both in Europe and Asia the power of driving away evil spirits was ascribed to the Mullein. Being a sure safeguard against evil spirits and magic, and from the ancient classics, it was this plant which Ullysess took to protect himself against the wiles of Circe.
Medicinal uses: Great Mullein has been used as an alternative medicine for centuries, and in many countries throughout the world, the value of Great Mullein as a proven medicinal herb is now backed by scientific evidence. Some valuable constituents contained in Mullein are Coumarin and Hesperidin, they exhibit many healing abilities. An infusion is taken internally in the treatment of a wide range of chest complaints and also to treat diarrhoea and bleeding of the lungs and bowels. Mullein oil is a very medicinal and valuable destroyer of disease germs. An infusion of the flowers in olive oil is used as earache drops, or as a local application in the treatment of piles and other mucous membrane inflammations.
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