Mullein (Verbascum Thapsus)
Everywhere I go in the valley, there is sunny mullein, hugging road sides, popping up in dry, disturbed soil, her soft, fuzzy light green leaves forming a rosette close to the ground. This is mulleins first year growth; in the second year it grows a long stem that can reach up to 5’feet tall, covered in yellow individual flowers.
Mullein takes me back to ancient days with its size and many old ways of use. The Greeks and Romans would dip the dried flower stalk in oil and carry as a torch to light their way, Native Americans have used the dried leaf in a ceremonial smoke mixed with tobacco. It is known for being a healer of mucous membranes and drank as a tea to ease bronchial congestion, as an oil to ease inflammation and as an antibacterial, as well as a dye for fabrics and soaps and as a topical insecticide. The whole plant is a mild sedative when ingested, so please do so with caution.
My favourite way to use mullein is as an oil. I collect individual flowers and leaves from many different plants where ever I go. I chop my collection roughly and place in a mason jar, covering them in olive oil. Cover with a paper towel or cheese cloth held in place with an elastic band and place in a sunny spot for a week, stirring gently daily. Stain this mixture before use to remove any fine hairs from the leaf and it is ready to use! The oil is said to be calm inflammation, heal mild infections, calm the nervous system and have anti-tumour properties.
When harvesting, an important part about collecting wild plant materials is to never take more than you intend to use and to harvest a small amount from many plants in many different locations. This will ensure healthy plants that can reproduce and offer food and pollen to many species of insects and animals. Harvesting while wandering in the wild is a wonderful way to celebrate the gifts our native plants have to offer and to observe what role the plants play in the complex eco system.