There’s so much to say about this plant it’s hard to know where to begin. Not only does it grow all over the US and in many other parts of the world, but it’s one of the easier plants to identify and harvest. It has many valuable actions and can be used in a variety of ways and preparations. If I had to think of one word to describe mullein it would be “versatile”.
However, I’m not going to go into all the ways mullein can be used… you can look that information up for yourself. Instead, I’m going to simplify things and focus on using one part of mullein in one particular way. Today I’m going to teach you about using infused mullein flower oil. I’ll start out by briefly talking about harvesting mullein flowers, prepping them for storage, infusing them in oil, and of course some various ways you can then use that oil in your home.
Harvesting Mullein Flowers
Mullein is one of the easiest herbs to identify for beginners. In fact, it was one of the first herbs I learned to spot in the wild. It grows everywhere and has a distinct look to it. It has large light green leaves with a white fuzz covering them and tall stalks that grow out of the center of each plant. These stalks will be covered in bright yellow flowers in mid to late summer. Mullein prefers dry, rocky, poor quality soils, and many times you’ll find it growing alongside roads and up steep mountainsides.
Mullein flowers are harvested from second-year plants (first-year plants do not produce stalks) usually in July depending upon where you are located. Mullein flowers have a strange smell… not unpleasant, just different. Some people think it smells like vanilla while others can’t quite put their finger on it!
It can be a chore harvesting mullein flowers, not because it’s difficult (you simply pick the flowers from the stalks) but because only a few flowers open on each plant every day. So unless you know of a place where lots of mullein grows and you can collect a bunch in one day, you’ll have to make several trips to collect enough flowers to use for the year. Herbalist Henriette Kress says that if you don’t have time to harvest the individual flowers you can cut the entire mullein seed head off, chop it up, and use it in preparations as the oil found in the flowers is present in the entire seed head and works just as well as the flowers alone.
According to some herbalists, mullein flowers have the same actions as the rest of the plant only to a stronger degree. I personally prefer to collect each of the different parts of the plant (flowers, leaves, and root) and use them in different ways, but the more you use it, the more you’ll know which parts you like best and for what. Seeing as how I mostly use herbs on my family only (as I don’t work with clients right now) my needs are limited.
Prepping Mullein Flowers For Use
So after you’ve collected a good bit of mullein flowers you’ll need to use either use them fresh immediately or dry them for storage.
You can use them fresh for tinctures, teas, and oils, and you can use them dried for all herbal preparations. I personally like to use fresh flowers in my tinctures, wilted flowers in my oils, and then dry the rest for storage in case I need them later.
Now, on to prepping the flowers for an oil infusion!
As soon as you get home from harvesting your mullein flowers, dump them out on a white sheet so the bugs will have a chance to crawl off. Don’t stress about getting every single bug off. You’re going to strain everything out of your preparations in the end anyway… bugs included. I also don’t wash my flowers as I like to leave them as is… pollen and all. Leave this to sit for an hour or so.
Next, gather your flowers and decide if you’re going to use them fresh, wilted, or dried. I’ll go over the process for infusing both fresh and dried below. If you’re going to use them fresh you don’t have anything left to do. If you’re going to use them wilted, simply leave them laying on your sheet for 2-3 hours to reduce their water content some more. If you’re going to dry them completely you can sandwich them between two pieces of the screen (so they get good air circulation and don’t blow away) or you can dry them carefully in the oven.
If I’m in a hurry, I like to dry my flowers in the oven as it’s fairly quick. I take some parchment paper and cover a cookie sheet with it, put my flowers on top, and put another piece of parchment paper on top. Sandwiching the flowers between the two layers of parchment paper helps to keep the essential oils from evaporating out of the flowers and into your oven! I turn my oven on it’s lowest bake setting (170 degrees on my oven), and I use a wooden spoon to prop my door open so some heat can escape and my herbs can dry nice and gently without getting too hot. I check them ever so often and as soon as they crunch like a cracker, I know they’re ready. Once they’re dried, store them in a clean glass jar in a cool, dark spot. Make sure you label them!!
Infusing Mullein Flowers In Oil
When I make mullein flower oil I always use olive oil. Of course, you can use any kind of oil you prefer. I like to use olive oil because it’s easy to find, it has great properties, it isn’t as fragile and prone to rancidity as some other oils are, and it’s relatively cheap.
Mullein Flower Infusion using Fresh Flowers
When making a mullein flower infusion with fresh flowers you’ll need to fill your jar with flowers, barely cover them in oil, and place the jar in a warm place over low heat. A crockpot or a saucepan on a low setting works great. You’ll leave the lid off so moisture from the flowers can escape and let it sit like this for 3 days. This is a great way to infuse herbs into oils if you’re in a hurry. The heat really helps to draw the properties out of the plant material and into the oil.
Mullein Flower Infusion using Dried Flowers
If you’re using wilted or dried mullein flowers in your oil you’ll simply fill your jar with flowers, barely cover them in oil, and place them in a dark, cool cabinet for 4-6 weeks to sit. You can wrap your jar in a cloth and let it sit in a window seal as well as this will make a solar infusion.
One method is no better than the other really… at least not that I can tell. It all comes down to how quickly you need your oil and what you prefer. I try to stay prepared and give myself 6 weeks for all my macerations (oils and tinctures) as I just personally like to let things follow moon cycles. I have no evidence that it makes a better end product. That’s just what I feel is best personally. God gave us the moon, planets, and stars for signs and wonders, and I just enjoy using those things when I make herbal preparations. Plus I love going about things nice and slowly. It makes me appreciate things more.
Once your oil has infused as long as you want it to, it’s very important that you strain it well. I normally triple strain most of my oils just to be sure they’re free of all particles and herb matter. I start by warming the oil over low heat to help thin it. This helps it pass through filters better. First, pour your oil through a fine-mesh sieve. This should catch all the flowers and larger particles. Next, pour your warm oil through a clean piece of muslin cloth to catch finer particles, and lastly, you can pour it through a coffee filter to make sure your oil is extra clean.
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5 Ways To Use Mullein Flower Oil
Mullein flower oil has many great herbal actions and uses which we’ll look at below. Plus it’s non-toxic and safe to use on all ages.
It has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties which make the oil great to have around for a variety of uses.
Using mullein flower oil for earaches is probably the most well-known use it has. In fact, it’s shown great results in several scientific studies. Thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties it helps to reduce swelling and decrease pain in children with acute and chronic ear infections. It also has anti-bacterial properties which makes it even more beneficial.
You can use mullein flower oil on its own or combine it with other herbs to create a powerhouse herbal earache formula. Only 2-3 drops in each ear are needed 3-4 times a day to bring relief.
2. Mouth Ulcers
Mullein flower oil can be used for all sorts of inflammations including gum and mouth ulcers. It’s soothing and strongly antibacterial which will help the body to heal itself in no time.
3. Skin Issues
Bug bites, sunburn, rashes, bruises, cuts & scrapes, wounds… mullein flower oil can be used for it all. Simply dip a cotton swab or cotton ball in it and gently apply it to the needed area several times a day to soothe inflammation and pain and to discourage infection from forming. You can also take this oil and make it into a salve if that’s more convenient.
Herbalist Kiva Rose Hardin says that mullein is an ancient wound herb and soothes inflammation and pain while preventing infection, reducing swelling, and aligning tissue for the best possible healing. It is specifically indicated where is a hard swelling of some kind and/or where there is a jagged wound unlikely to knit back together without significant scarring.
4. Massage Oil
Seeing as how mullein flower oil is well-known for its anti-inflammatory properties, it can be very beneficial for inflamed joints. You can apply the oil to the joint and gently massage it to stimulate blood flow, move lymph, warm the area, and promote absorption. Got a sprained ankle, a broken bone, arthritic hands, or swollen joint? You may find mullein flower oil to be of great help!
Mullein flower oil can be used to decrease genital swelling and promote healing of lacerations after vaginal births, reduce pain and chance of infection after c-section deliveries, and to help with hemorrhoids if those are postpartum issues as well. I think it would also be safe to say that mullein flower oil would be great to use on varicosities as well.
So there you go… how to harvest mullein flowers, prep them for use, infuse them into oil, and 5 ways you can use them in your home.
So tell me… have you ever made your own mullein flower oil? If so, how do you use it? If you’ve never made it, tell me one way you would use it if you did make it?
Herb Mentor. (n.d.). Retrieved June 11, 2015, from http://herbmentor.com
The Herbarium at HANE. (n.d.). Retrieved June 11, 2015.
Sarrell, E., Mandelberg, A., & Cohen, E. (2001, July). Efficacy of naturopathic extracts in the management of ear pain associated with acute otitis media. Retrieved June 11, 2015, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11434846
Sarrell, E., Cohen, H., & Kahan, E. (2003, May). Naturopathic treatment for ear pain in children. Retrieved June 11, 2015, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12728112