The regal Mullein demands attention - tall and upright, with bold, furry leaves and an impressive flowering spike it towers above most common herbs and seems to be keeping a watchful eye. The flowering spike is densely covered with bright yellow flowers that greet the weary walker with a myriad of eyes. Dipped in tallow or wax this spike used to be much used as a simple torch. The furry leaves on the other hand, were used to line shoes for extra warmth and comfort. Mullein is an ancient magical herb that played an important role in folk-medicine. It was usually the centrepiece of the '9 herb bundle' around which the other herbs were arranged. Its obvious solar attributes made it a favourite herb for St. John's /midsummer rites. Ceremonial Mullein torches were lit after dark and paraded around the village to scare off evil creatures. Hung in the stables it protected the animals against the evil works of witches and demons and against thunder and lightening.
Mullein is not just soft on the outside - it is also softening by virtue of its inner nature. Applied externally, compresses of the leaves, which contain mucilage properties, are said to soften tumours, hardened swellings and inflammatory conditions of the skin. The leaves and flowers are highly recommended as a cough remedy, especially for a dry, hacking cough, asthma, bronchitis etc. It is also sometimes given for kidney complaints. The tea must be strained through coffee filter paper as the fine hairs can be irritating on the mucous membrane if swallowed. Old herbals often mention mullein leaves as a smoking herb to alleviate lung complaints. An infused oil can be prepared with the flowers which is an effective remedy for earaches.
Mullein is an ancient sacred plant that can be used in the midsummer celebrations. Flares are made with the flowering spikes that serve as a representation of the Sun god. Mullein protects against all evil, and in particular, against lightening. However, bringing Mullein into the house for no good reason is said to cause lightening to strike.