The great Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) grows freely in England on dry banks and waste places, but somewhat sparingly in Scotland. It belongs to the scrofula-curing order of plants, having a thick stalk, from eighteen inches to four feet high, with large woolly mucilaginous leaves, and with a long flower-spike bearing plain yellow flowers, which are nearly sessile on the stem. The name "Molayne" is derived from the Latin, mollis, soft.
In most parts of Ireland, besides growing wild, it is carefully cultivated in gardens, because of a steady demand for the plant by sufferers from pulmonary consumption. Constantly in Irish newspapers there are advertisements offering it for sale, and it can be had from all the leading local druggists. The leaves are best when gathered in the late summer,
just before the plant flowers. The old Irish method of administering Mullein is to put an ounce of the dried leaves, or a corresponding quantity of the fresh ones, in a pint of milk, which is boiled for ten minutes, and then strained. This is afterwards given warm to the patient twice a day, with or without sugar. The taste of the decoction is bland, mucilaginous, and cordial. Dr. Quinlan, of Dublin, treated many cases of tubercular lung disease, even when some were far
advanced in pulmonary consumption, with the Mullein, and with signal success as regards palliating the cough, staying the expectoration, and increasing the weight.
Mullein leaves have a weak, sleepy sort of smell, and rather a bitter taste. In Queen Elizabeth's time they were carried about the person to prevent the falling sickness; and distilled water from the flowers was said to be curative of gout.
The leaves and flowers contain mucilage, with a yellowish volatile oil, a fatty substance, and sugar, together with some coloring matter. Fish will become stupefied by eating the seeds. Gerard says "Figs do not putrifie at all that are wrapped in the leaves of Mullein. If worn under the feet day and night in the manner of a sock they bring down in young maidens their desired sicknesse."
The plant bears also the name of Hedge Taper, and used to be called Torch, because the stalks were dipped in suet, and burnt for giving light at funerals and other gatherings. "It is a plant," says the "Grete Herball", "whereof is made a manner of lynke if it be tallowed."
According to Dodoeus the Mullein was called "Candela." Folia siquidem habet mollia hirsuta ad lucernarum funiculos apta. "It was named of the Latines, Candela Regia and Candelaria." The modern Romans style it the "Plant of the Lord," Other popular English names of the plant are "Adam's flannel," "Blanket," "Shepherd's club," "Aaron's rod," "Cuddie's lungs"; and in Anglo-Saxon, "Feldwode." Gower says of Medea:
"Tho' toke she feldwode, and verveine, Of herbes ben nought better tweine."
The name Verbascum is an altered form of the Latin barbascum, from barba, "a beard," in allusion to the dense woolly hairs on both sides of the leaves; and the appellation, Mullein, is got from the French mol?, signifying the "scab" in cattle, and for curing which disease the plant is famous. It has also been termed Cow's Lung Wort, Hare's Beard, Jupiter's Staff, Ladies' Foxglove, and Velvet Dock from its large soft leaves. The Mullein bears the title
"Bullock's lung wort," because of its supposed curative powers in lung diseases of this animal, on the doctrine of signatures, because its leaf resembles a dewlap; and the term "Malandre" was formerly applied to the lung maladies of cattle. Also the "Malanders" meant leprosy, whence it came about that the epithet "Malandrin" was attached to a brigand, who, like the leper, was driven from society and forced to lead a lawless life.
An infusion of the flowers was used by the Roman ladies to tinge their tresses of the golden color once so much admired in Italy; and now in Germany, a hair wash made from the Mullein is valued as highly restorative. A decoction of the root is good for cramps and against the megrims of bilious subjects, which especially beset them in the dark winter months. The dried leaves of the Mullein plant, if smoked in an ordinary tobacco pipe, will completely control the hacking cough
of consumption; and they can be employed with equal benefit, when made into cigarettes, for asthma, and for spasmodic coughs in general.
By our leading English druggists are now dispensed a succus verbasci (Mullein juice), of which the dose is from half to one teaspoonful; a tincture of Verbascum (Mullein), the dose of which is from half-a-teaspoonful to two teaspoonfuls; and an infusion of Mullein, in doses of from one to four tablespoonfuls. Also a tincture (H.) is made from the fresh herb with spirit of wine, which has been proved beneficial for migraine (sick head-ache) of long standing, with
oppression of the ears. From eight to ten drops of this tincture are to be given as a dose, with cold water, and repeated pretty frequently whilst needed.
Mullein oil is a most valuable destroyer of disease germs. If fresh flowers of the plant be steeped for twenty-one days in olive oil whilst exposed to the sunlight, this makes an admirable bactericide; also by simply instilling a few drops two or three times a day into the ear, all pain therein, or discharges there from, and consequent deafness, will be effectually cured, as well as any itching eczema of the external ear and its canal. A conserve of the flowers is employed on
the Continent against ringworm. Some of the most brilliant results have been obtained in suppurative inflammation of the inner ear by a single application of Mullein oil. In acute or chronic cases of this otorrhoea, two or three drops of the oil should be made fall into the ear twice or thrice in the day. And the same oil is an admirable remedy for children who "wet the bed" at night. Five drops should be put into a small tumblerful of cold water; and a teaspoonful of the
mixture, first stirred, should be taken four times in the day.
Flowers of Mullein in olive oil, when kept near the fire for several days in a corked bottle, form a remedy popular in Germany for frost-bites, bruises, and piles. Also a poultice made with the leaves is a good application to these last named troublesome evils. For the cure of piles, sit for five minutes on a chamber vessel containing live coals, with crisp dry Mullein leaves over them, and some finely powdered resin.
The Primitive Simplers presented here show the way of life in other generations, it is not suggested or recommended trying them yourself.
History of Herbs
Herbs for Beginners
Drying & Preserving Herbs
Indoor Herb Gardening
Hints & Tips
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