Battling Colds with a Common Ditch Weed

by Ryan Moeggenberg

Mullein is a common Central Oregon weed that many people do not know as a valuable pharmaceutical replacement. It has large, velvety leaves, small yellow flowers at the top and can reach up to six feet in height. The velvety leaves earned it its nickname ‘cowboy toilet paper.’ Historically, it was known as the candle wick plant because, when dried, it burns easily so it was dipped in wax and used as the candle wick.

As a medicinal herb it is used as an expectorant. This means that it helps the body remove excess mucus helping it to treat bronchitis, coughs, colds, flu and asthma. The medicinal properties of mullein can be extracted in a tea, through infusion, in a syrup or a tincture. The flowers can also be made into an extract that is effective at easing ear pain using drops in the ear canal.

Harvesting the leaves of your mullein plant should be done prior to flowering in the early morning before they are baked by the sun. I grab the upper leaves as they tend to be less dirty and don’t require much washing. Poke a needle and string through the leaves and hang them until they are dry. Then crush them and place them in a mason jar to be used when cold and flu season invades your household.

Make mullein tea by steeping one to two teaspoons dried leaves per cup of boiling water for five to ten minutes. Drink every few hours as needed. A word of caution, mullein is not the tastiest tea. I made some for my teenage daughter once and forgot to add mint for flavor. I was upset that she did not drink very much as I knew it would make her feel better. Until her mother tasted it and scolded me for trying to poison our daughter! Fresh leaves can also be boiled, enabling you to inhale the steam relieving coughs and congestion.

Always consult your doctor before using medicinal herbs as they could react with medicines, affect pregnancies or nursing babies.

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