Waiting patiently will usually get rid of an earache, but they aren’t pleasant. I’ve put together a list of 12 home remedies for earaches for children and adults to help quickly relieve pain. We also have tips to avoid ear infections in the future.…
Sinus pain and nasal congestion are common symptoms during cold and flu season. I’ve gathered together several home remedies for congestion to help relieve your stuffy nose and sinus pressure. I don’t like the side effects of over the counter decongestants (they either make me jittery, knock me out or make my head feel like it’s going to shrivel up like a raisin), so natural decongestants are my option of choice.…
Today’s featured plant is Common Mullein, Verbascum thapsus.
Common Mullein is also known as Great Mullein, Aaron’s Rod, candlewick plant, flannel plant, flannel leaf, lungwort, feltwort, cowboy toilet paper, shepherd’s staff, velvet dock, woolly mullein, torch plant, torches, miner’s candle, big taper, blanket mullein, “Hig candlewick”, “Bullicks lungwort”, “Hare’s-beard”, “Ice-leaf”.”Beggar’s blanket”, “Moses’ blanket”, “Poor Man’s blanket”, “Our Lady’s blanket” or “Old Man’s Blanket”.
(There are more names, but this list is getting pretty long already. Do you get the impression this thing is pretty widespread?) Note: This is not the same plant as Lambs Ears (Stachys byzantina), which also has fuzzy leaves and grows low to the ground.)
Range and Identification of Common Mullein
Common mullein is native to Europe, but it is now found on every continent except Antarctica. (As I said, it gets around…) The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service provides a range map, but it’s really found pretty much everywhere in the U.S..
The plant is known as a colonizer of open disturbed soils. The Wisconsin DNR lists it as an invasive, but they have an awful lot of plants listed as invasive. Okay – non-native – still, it’s been around so long, does it really matter at this point? They do say it can be invasive in the plant detail page, but I haven’t found that to be the case in my area. It prefers dry, sandy soils, but can grow (really HUGE) in rich garden soil, and even grow in marginal soils such as chalk and limestone. It can be found in neglected meadows, forest openings, pastures, fence rows, roadsides, and industrial areas. (WI DNR)
Plant height is 2-6′ (60-180 cm) (the happy monsters in my garden last year were pushing seven feet). The leaves are large, oval and fuzzy. As you can see in the photo below, a large happy specimen in my garden has leaves larger than my shoe, which is a size twelve. Leaves are 12-15 inches long (or longer) and covered with velvety hairs. When the flower stalk emerges, leaves cling directly to the stalk – there are no side branches.
Common mullein is a biennial, which means that it takes two years to reach maturity. The first year, plants form a rosette, as shown above. The second year, plants put up a single tall flower spike. Plants reproduce solely by seed. Here’s a nice one from last year’s garden. The wooden posts next to it were around 4 feet tall, so you can tell it was pretty big.
The plant has many small yellow flowers. They begin opening at the lower end of the flower spike and work there way up to the tip of the spike, not unlike a gladiola. (If you’re collecting flowers to use for herbcrafting you will need to pick over multiple days.) Flowers have five petals. (Wildflowers of Wisconsin) One plant can produce of 100,000 seeds, which can stay viable up to 100 years in the soil, so I don’t generally let them seed out in the garden. I’m sure there are enough seeds hanging around from previous generations.
Common Mullein as Food and Habitat for Wildlife
Fairfax County Public Schools has a beautiful page on mullein with photos and a discussion of how wildlife uses mullein. Their site explains:
Only a few animals use mullein for food. Certain species of thrips, stinkbugs, weevils, and leaf bugs will eat mullein leaves; but these are insects which were brought over from Europe. Short-horned Grasshoppers, such as the Differential Grasshopper, will also eat leaves.
American Goldfinches, Indigo Buntings, and a few other birds eat mullein seeds.
Common Mullein provide shelter for insects in the winter. Since rosettes survive through the cold weather, leaves provide warm and protection for ladybugs, plant bugs, and black bugs, among others.
Hummingbirds sometimes use the soft leaves to line their nests.
Many insects come to mullein flowers for nectar. Bumble bees, honey bees, and hover flies help pollinate these plants.
Several species of fungi become parasites of Common Mullein, including Powdery Mildew.
Medicinal Uses of Common Mullein
The Alternative Nature Herbal discusses the medicinal properties of mullein. (Please visit their site to view the full article.)
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. Research indicates some of the uses as analgesic, antihistaminic, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, antioxidant, antiviral, bacteristat, cardio-depressant, estrogenic, fungicide, hypnotic, sedative and pesticide are valid.
An infusion is taken internally in the treatment of a wide range of chest complaints and also to treat diarrhea and bleeding of the lungs and bowels. The leaves, root, and the flowers are anodyne, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, demulcent, diuretic, emollient, expectorant, nervine, and vulnerary.
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. This infusion is a strong antibacterial. The oil being used to treat gum and mouth ulcers is very effective. A decoction of the roots is used to alleviate toothache and also relieve cramps and convulsions. It is also used in alternative medicine for the treatment of migraine headaches accompanied with oppression of the ear.
The whole plant possess slightly sedative and narcotic properties. The seeds are considered toxic. They have been historically used as a narcotic and also contain saponins.
The dried leaves are sometimes smoked to relieve the irritation of the respiratory mucus membranes, and the hacking cough of consumption. They can be employed with equal benefit when made into cigarettes, for asthma and spasmodic coughs in general. Externally, a medicinal poultice of the leaves is applied to sunburn, ulcers, tumors and piles.
I have used a tea made from the dried leaves to calm a cough. We haven’t had any ear aches or other ear problems since I started harvesting mullein, so I can’t vouch for other uses. You can view how to dry the flowers and leaves in the post Wildcrafting 101. Mullein also contains coumarin and rotenone – a naturally occurring pesticide. For more ideas on how to use mullein medicinally, visit kingdomPlantea.net.
Other Uses of Common Mullein
The dried flower stalks were dipped in tallow and used as torches by Roman soldiers (and probably others as well). The leaves were placed in footwear as extra padding and to help keep feet warm. The leaves produce a mild irritation/redness when rub against the skin, which led to the plant being used in the Victorian age as rouge. Supposedly it’s one of the best leaves to use to wipe your backside when you’re out squatting in the woods, but I haven’t yet tried this. 🙂
Mullein can also be using for dying. KingdomPlantae states that, “The flowers make a bright yellow dye, which can be used to dye hair or cloth. The addition of sulfuric acid will produce a color-fast green. If you then add an alkali, to raise the Ph, the dye becomes brown.”
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. If so, please pass it along.
Are those “real” healing potions?
My boys are RPG (role playing game) enthusiasts. The younger generally enjoys giving a good thumping to something that sincerely deserves it or growing things (he is a dirt lover on and off the computer). The elder enjoys designing scenarios, cities, potions – he’s always creating something.
Lately, my favorite herb book, the Holistic Herbal, has been left out on the counter or kitchen table a lot as I am researching the properties of all the vegetation I’ve been gathering (this is my first season of doing more than dabbling). Number one son is a compulsive reader – books, magazines, packaging, over my shoulder while I’m typing – so of course he noticed “the book”.
“Mom”, he inquires, “are these recipes for REAL healing potions?”
“Yep – and most of what you need to make them is growing out in the back yard.”
He is enthralled, and sets off immediately to gather odds and ends to brew his first concoction. We settle on steeping nasturtium leaves, as I figure they should be pretty harmless as people eat nasturtium as a salad green. I warn him not to experiment without checking with me first, as medicinal herbs are medicine. More is not necessarily better and they can have side effects. He is a pretty responsible kid, and has a near-photographic memory, so I’m glad to have him on board with my latest project. It’s a nice tie-in to our botany and Latin studies as well.
While he is steeping his brew, I wash up my latest round of herbs – yarrow, plantain and red clover. I lost my first batch of red clover due to improper drying – it fermented. I was impressed by the fumes coming out of the jar – wow! I talked about the properties of red clover in an earlier post. Things have been getting a little dusty in the garden, so I did do a cold water rinse, a ride in the salad spinner, and a pat dry with a towel before loading bits in the dehydrator. Note to self: badly overgrown lawn desperately in need of mowing very good for harvesting clover.
The yarrow got the same treatment. I initially planted a couple of patches of yarrow four years ago. Now it’s popped up all over the place, so I have more than enough for my needs and sharing with others.
The plantain was washed and divided between the dryer and an olive oil infusion.
Using Wildcrafting for Herbal Healing
Here’s a little more info on the yarrow and plantain from Alternative Nature Online Herbal:
Other Names: Milfoil, Old Man’s Pepper, Soldier’s Woundwort, Knight’s Milfoil, Thousand Weed, Nose Bleed, Carpenter’s Weed, Bloodwort, Staunchweed
Habitat: Yarrow is a perennial herb, native to Europe and Asia and naturalized in North America and most other countries throughout the world. Yarrow is very common along roadsides and in old fields, pastures, and meadows in the eastern and central United States and Canada.
Cultivation: Yarrow is easily cultivated, will survive in poor soil. Prefers a well-drained soil in a sunny position. A very good companion plant, it improves the health of plants growing nearby and enhances their essential oil content thus making them more resistant to insect predations also improves the soil fertility.
Description: Yarrow grows from 10 to 20 inches high, a single stem, fibrous and rough, the leaves alternate, 3 to 4 inches long and 1 inch broad, larger and rosette at the base, clasping the stem, bipinnatifid, the segments very finely cut, fern-like, dark-green, giving the leaves a feathery appearance. The flowers are several bunches of flat-topped panicles consisting of numerous small, white flower heads. Each tiny flower resembling a daisy. The whole plant is more or less hairy, with white, silky appressed hairs. Flowers bloom from May to August. Gather stem, leaves and flower heads in bloom, dry for later herb use. Dry herb edible as a spice or flavoring, strong sage flavor.
Properties: Yarrow is a very valuable medicinal herb, with much scientific evidence of use in alternative medicine as an antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, carminative, diaphoretic, digestive, emmenagogue, stimulant, and tonics, vasodilator and vulnerary. Yarrow is used against colds, cramps, fevers, kidney disorders, toothaches, skin irritations, and hemorrhages, and to regulate menses, stimulate the flow of bile, and purify the blood. Medicinal tea is a good remedy for severe colds and flu, for stomach ulcers, amenorrhea, abdominal cramps, abscesses, trauma and bleeding, and to reduce inflammation. The main constituents are volatile oils including linalool, camphor, sabinene, and chamazulene, sesquiterpene lctones, flavanoids, alkaloids including achilleine, polyacetylenes, triterpenes, salicylic acid, coumarins, and tannins which prove these uses in alternative medicine to be effective. Extracts of yarrow exhibit antibiotic activity and may also act as anti-neoplastic drugs. Externally for treating wounds and stopping the flow of blood. Yarrow oil has been traditionally used in hair shampoos. Some caution is advised , large or frequent doses taken over a long period may cause the skin to be more sensitive to sunlight.
Folklore: It was one of the herbs dedicated to the Evil One, in earlier days, being sometimes known as Devil’s Nettle, Devil’s Plaything, Bad Man’s Plaything, and was used for divination in spells.
Recipe: An aromatic tea: To 1 tsp. dried herb add 1 cup boiling water, steep for 10 min. sweeten to taste. Take at bedtime.
Article by Deb Jackson & Karen Bergeron
Other Names: Common Plantain, Broadleaf Plantain, Great Plantain, Greater Plantain, Ripple Grass, Plantago Asiatica, Waybread, Waybroad, Snakeweed, Cuckoo’s Bread, Englishman’s Foot, White Man’s Foot, Che Qian Zi (China), Breitwegerich (German), Tanchagem-maior (Portuguese), Llantén común (Spanish), Llantén major (Spanish)
cluster of plantain herb in wild Plantain Habitat
Plantain is a perennial herb, thought to be of Eurasian origin and now naturalized throughout the world. Plantain is considered a common and noxious weed by some and a miracle plant by others.
Plantain is very easy to cultivate, it succeeds in any soil and prefers a sunny position, some forms have been selected for their ornamental value. It is an important food plant for the caterpillars of many species of butterflies. Plantain grows from a short, tough rootstock or rhizome, which has a large number of long, straight, yellowish roots, is a basal, rosette of large, broadly oval, dark green, leaves. The 4 to 10 inch long smooth, thick, strong and fibrous leaves have 3 to 7 or more ribbed veins, abruptly contracting into a long, petiole (leaf stalk) which is reddish at the base. The leaf margin is of Plantain is entire, or unevenly toothed. The flower stalks, are erect, long, slender, densely-flowered spikes. Each tiny flower is brownish and bell-shaped with four stamens and purple anthers. Flowers bloom most of the summer. The fruit is a two-celled capsule and containing four to sixteen seeds. Harvest fresh young edible leaves in spring. Gather Plantain after flower spike forms, dry for later herb use.
Plantain Medicinal Properties and Herbal Use: Plantain is edible and medicinal, the young leaves are edible raw in salad or cooked as a pot herb, they are very rich in vitamin B1 and riboflavin. The herb has a long history of use as an alternative medicine dating back to ancient times. Being used as a panacea (medicinal for everything) in some cultures, one American Indian name for the plant translates to “life medicine.” And recent research indicates that this name may not be far from true! The chemical analysis of Plantgo Major reveals the remarkable glycoside Aucubin. Acubin has been reported in the Journal Of Toxicology as a powerful anti-toxin. There are many more highly effective constituents in this plant including Ascorbic-acid, Apigenin, Baicalein, Benzoic-acid, Chlorogenic-acid, Citric-acid, Ferulic-acid, Oleanolic-acid, Salicylic-acid, and Ursolic-acid. The leaves and the seed are medicinal used as an antibacterial, antidote, astringent, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antitussive, cardiac, demulcent, diuretic, expectorant, haemostatic, laxative, ophthalmic, poultice, refrigerant, and vermifuge. Medical evidence exists to confirm uses as an alternative medicine for asthma, emphysema, bladder problems, bronchitis, fever, hypertension, rheumatism and blood sugar control. A decoction of the roots is used in the treatment of a wide range of complaints including diarrhoea, dysentery, gastritis, peptic ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, haemorrhage, haemorrhoids, cystitis, bronchitis, catarrh, sinusitis, coughs, asthma and hay fever. It also causes a natural aversion to tobacco and is currently being used in stop smoking preparations. Extracts of the plant have antibacterial activity, it is a safe and effective treatment for bleeding, it quickly stops blood flow and encourages the repair of damaged tissue. The heated leaves are used as a wet dressing for wounds, skin inflammations, malignant ulcers, cuts, stings and swellings and said to promote healing without scars. Poultice of hot leaves is bound onto cuts and wounds to draw out thorns, splinters and inflammation. The root is said to be used as an anti-venom for rattlesnakes bites. Plantain seeds contain up to 30% mucilage which swells in the gut, acting as a bulk laxative and soothing irritated membranes. The seeds are used in the treatment of parasitic worms. A distilled water made from the plant makes an excellent eye lotion.
Plantain Herbal Folklore and History: Native Americans carried powdered roots of Plantain as protection against snakebites or to ward off snakes. Plantain was called Englishman’s Foot or White Man’s Foot as it was said to grow where ever their feet touched the ground – this is referred to in Longfellow’s ‘Hiawatha.’. Some old European lore states that Plantain is effective for the bites of mad dogs, epilepsy, and leprosy. In the United States the plant was called ‘Snake Weed,’ from a belief in its efficacy in cases of bites from venomous creatures.
“Medicinal” herb tea: For colds and flu use 1 tbls. dry or fresh whole Plantain (seed, root, and leaves) to 1 cup boiling water, steep 10 min. strain, sweeten. Drink through the day.
Healing salve: In large non-metallic pan place 1lb. of entire Plantain plant chopped, and 1 cup lard, cover, cook down on low heat till all is mushy and green. Strain while hot, cool and use for burns, insect bites, rashes, and all sores. Note: used as night cream for wrinkles.
Article by Deb Jackson & Karen Bergeron
Here are the trays, loaded and ready to go. Aren’t they pretty?
The infusion goes into the kitchen window with the clary sage, mullein and St. John’s wort.
I’ve also dried some more mullein and clover.
The dehydrator is running a lot lately. I think I’m about halfway through my wish list, but if time allows I may stash more of things I have already harvested, just in case (and to try more recipes in the winter when I have more time). I’m especially interested in trying out different healing salves for my mom, who has s skin condition that has been resistant to all treatments that have been tried on it.
It’s official – I have begun my first major foray into wildcrafting. After spending a morning with Earthheart, I came home with an abundance of St. John’s wort, mullein, and red clover from her Mullein mania patch. So – what to do with the haul?
Let’s start with mullein AKA “Great Mullein, Aaron’s Rod, candlewick plant, flannel plant, lungwort, shepherd’s staff, velvet dock and torches”.
Therapeutic uses cough
* Internal use
o The saponins contained in the herb help to loosen and remove mucus from the lungs, while the mucilage soothes the mucus membranes and the iridoid glycosides help to fight inflammation.
o Internally, it is used for coughs, whooping cough, bronchitis, laryngitis, tonsillitis, tracheitis, asthma, influenza, tuberculosis, urinary tract infections, nervous tension, and insomnia.
o Although it is particularly effective to loosen mucus in the lungs it also shows some success with reducing water retention.
o Historically it was also used for genito-urinary tract infections.
* External use
o Externally, mullein is used to treat earache, specifically chronic otitis media (the flowers are macerated in olive oil), sores, eczema (especially around the ear), wounds, boils, rheumatic pain, hemorrhoids and chilblains.
On the the St. John’s wort.
Therapeutic uses promote healing
* Internal use
o St. John’s Wort is used internally for anxiety, mild to moderate depression, nervous tension, insomnia, menopausal disturbances, premenstrual syndrome, shingles, sciatica and fibrositis.
o It is also used to treat inflammation of the stomach and intestines and against internal worms.
o Not to be taken by people suffering from severe depression.
o It is also used in homeopathy for pain relief and to combat inflammation caused by nerve damage.
* External use
o It is used locally for its anti-septic and analgesic effect on burns, bruises, sores and deep wounds with nerve damage, as well as sprains, tennis elbow and cramps.
* Aromatherapy and essential oil use
o A macerated oil is normally made by steeping the dried material in a carrier oil such as wheatgerm or olive oil, and this macerated oil is then used to treat wounds and burns.
Finally, the red clover (from herbwisdom.com).
Bee-bread, Cow Clover, Meadow Clover, Purple Clover, Red Clover, Trefoil, Wild Clover
Hot flashes/flushes, PMS, Lowers cholesterol, helps prevent osteoporosis, reduces possibility of forming blood clots and arterial plaques, can limit development of benign prostate hyperplasia. Breast enhancement and breast health. Improve urine production, circulation of the blood and secretion of bile. They also act as detergent, sedative and tonic. Red clover has the ability to loosen phlegm and calm bronchial spasms. The fluid extract of red clover is used as an antispasmodic and alterative.
I split the mullein and St.John’s wort flowers about 50/50 – half went into the dryer and half went into an oil infusion. The mullein flowers looked very much like buttery popcorn as I loaded them in the dehydrator. I’m so glad I purchased the extra inserts for fine or sticky materials. Without them the flowers would fall right through the racks as they dry.
I used a big ole knife to mince up the flowers before they went into old coconut oil jars (reduce, reuse, recycle). They are then covered with olive oil. This infusion is then covered, LABELED (it’s amazing how all the jars start to look alike after brewing a while, not to mention keeping track of the dates so you know when they are done) and placed in a sunny area and stirred or shaken several times a day for a 2-6 weeks. Sunlight encourages the release of the plant oils. At the end of infusions time, the oil is strained through a cheesecloth and placed in a dark, sealed container. It can be used “as is” or made into a salve alone or with other oils.
I dried all of the clover. Every reference I found seemed to focus on taking it internally as a tea (preferably fresh, but dried will do when fresh is not available). I now have about a quart of clover blossoms (stored in a jar from grape jelly).
I also put some clary sage flowers to infuse in some coconut oil. I like using coconut oil as a general skin softener and clary sage is supposed to be relaxing, so hopefully this will be a good combo. I only made a small amount this time around to give it a try. It is amazingly fragrant, and quite pleasant.
BTW, the clary sage is from my garden, not wildcrafted. I removed all seed heads from the plants and will likely burn them, as the plant has been known to become invasive. I planted it once several years ago and it has self-sown around the garden since that time (the flowers don’t all mature at the same time, so even though I did cut off the seed heads, some seeds escaped).
Once the rains stop (we’ve just received more rain this weekend than we have all summer), I plan to harvest yarrow, dill, hyssop, some more chamomile, lemon balm, borage – the garden is in full bloom. Nettle, plantain and tansy are on the list, too. I’ve been inspired by Handmaiden’s Kitchen and EarthHeart, among other things. I’m very concerned about the whole government health care situation, and have had the feeling for some time now that I need to learn as much as possible about natural healing alternatives.
I’m finding I have less and less faith in Big Pharma and the health care status quo, especially as I see their continued lack of solutions for the health problems of my aging loved ones. It seems that the only solution is more pills, more pills, more pills. Have you looked at the lists of possible side effects on most medications lately? Yes, herbs have side effects, too, and should never be used carelessly, but used wisely I believe they offer a safer, gentler alternative. I want to take a proactive approach to my family’s health, not a reactive one.