Colorado mullein before flowering

The Holistic Homestead.org is way more than a blog – it’s a resource. We have cataloged literally hundreds of articles covering everything from health policy, the vaccine debate, herbalism, spirituality and health, and first aid…if there’s a topic that intersects with “holistic” and “homesteading” anywhere on the internet, you can be it’s here!

That’s why I get so excited when posts like this one suddenly get thousands of views, even a year after it’s been published! Read on to see what everybody was talking about in 2016: “4 magical mullein recipes”:

Every year I try to learn more about a few of my favorite herbal allies. This year I’ve been inundated with mullein after a big harvest…and she is teaching me so much about her soft, pliable and absorbent ways. She is so absorbent, in fact, she doesn’t dry well in wet climates – and we’ve been inundated with rain for weeks now. The drying process is taking twice as long as I’d planned for, and taking up twice as much space! She really likes to s p r e a d – o u t !

She hung upside down from the ceilings in my living room, kitchen and cellar from the root. Then I noticed the heart of each mullein plant was a juicy reservoir of moisture, so the next step was to peel off each individual leaf (saving the very best and composting the ones that started to brown or look bug-eaten). The leaves hung from twine and lay out on paper towels until every flat surface in the house was a pillowy green sanctuary of mullein leaves!

mullein in the last stage of curing before it’s ready for long term storage in glass jars

The final step involved cutting the large, broad leaves into thin strips. Even after drying for several weeks she doesn’t crumble or crush easily, hence the scissors. Each strip is then allowed to cure in stacked bamboo baskets until they are crunchy enough to process in an electric mill and store in glass jars.

One harvest yielded over 2 lbs of dried mullein! So, what to do with all this mullein?

 

 

 

Mullein Infusion

ready to use mullein infusion sachets

Steep 1 oz (by weight) of mullein leaves in 1 quart of boiling water, approximately 1 hour. Unadorned, mullein infusion tastes “like hay” (according to one client, who found it unpalatable)! Sweetened by the cup with honey and milk, I found it a delightfully nourishing drink.

The benefits of regularly drinking mullein infusion include strengthening and clearing the lungs – especially in cases of long-standing irritations, coughs that are hot, dry and spasmodic and deep congestion. Mullein will bring up all sorts of colorful expectoration from years of smoking or pollution. As always, mullein’s actions are soft, slow and moisturizing, and takes several months of regular use to see lasting improvement.

John Lust, in The Herb Book, describes the medicinal action of mullein:

“Mullein tea makes a good remedy for coughs, hoarseness, bronchitis, bronchial catarrh, and whooping cough. It can also be used for gastrointestinal catarrh and cramps in the digestive tract. The flower tea will help relieve pain and induce sleep…For nasal congestion or other respiratory problems, breathe the vapor from hot water with a handful of flowers added.” (p. 286)

Mullein Cough Drops

close up of herbal cough drops hardening in powdered sugar molds
close up of herbal cough drops hardening in powdered sugar molds

Mullein is the main ingredient in my popular cough drops followed by mint and horehound. Horehound is the original cough drop and mint lends a relaxing flavor while mullein is there to do most of the work: regenerating, clearing, and strengthening the airways.

I make an infusion by steeping 1 oz (by weight) of 2 parts mullein, and 1 part each mint and horehound in 1 quart of water. Strain out the herbs and pour the infusion into a large pot with 1 pound organic cane sugar and one teaspoon cream of tartar. Heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Stop stirring and watch the liquid closely (so it doesn’t boil over) until it reaches approximately 280 degrees Fahrenheit on a candy thermometer.

In lieu of using a candy thermometer, you can also do the “drop text” by dropping some of the boiling hot liquid sugar into a small cup of ice water. It should crystallize immediately – then you know it’s ready.

homemade herbal cough drops with mullein, mint and horehound
homemade herbal cough drops with mullein, mint and horehound

While you’re waiting for the syrup to get up to temperature, prepare the cough drop molds by pouring powdered sugar into cake pans, baking pans or Pyrex pie plates – about half an inch deep. Press your thumb into the sugar (or use the back of a baby spoon) to create the mold shapes.

As soon as the liquid sugar is at the “hard crack” stage, immediately (but slowly) pour into molds. It will be messy! It should cool to a hard candy within 15 minutes.

Earache Oil

Mullein flowers are famous for helping with ear infections and earaches. The recipe is so simple and effective everyone should try this at home!

Brigitte Mars and flowering mullein

Harvest mullein flowers by pinching off just the flowering part when in full bloom. Gather enough to fill a small jar. Leave flowers out on a paper towel to dry overnight to prevent molding. The next day, fill a clean, dry and sterile jar with flowers and pour oil over the top. Brigitte Mars likes to add raw garlic to the mix for it’s antiviral and antibacterial properties – what a great idea! Store jar in a cool, dark and dry place for 4 to 6 weeks.

Strain out the flowers and use by dabbing a q-tip in your homemade Earache Oil.

Quitter’s Blend

My latest mullein experiment is in a smoking blend to help alleviate chronic asthma, deep, hacking coughs and to help beat tobacco cravings. I blend three parts mullein with two parts mugwort and one part lobelia in a coffee grinder until it becomes a uniform, fluffy consistency. One pinch in a pipe or a couple grams worth rolled into a joint can be safely enjoyed as an herbal alternative to smoking tobacco. ***While there are no contraindications for long-term use of mullein, ingestion of mugwort and lobelia in any form should be limited to one week at a time taking extended breaks in-between. Inhaling burnt plant material of any kind leaves tar in the lungs and is not recommended as a lifetime theraputic. Rather I use this blend for a limited window of time, long enough to help the transition away from commercial tobacco products.***

What is YOUR favorite way to use mullein?

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