An old superstition claims that witches used mullein wicks in their candles and lamps when making incantations; hence, the herb is sometimes called “Hag’s Taper,” one of its many appellations. Lungwort, flannel plant, candlewick, Aaron’s rod, and velvet plant are several other names for mullein. Its power to drive away evil spirits was well-known throughout Europe and Asia, Ulysses taking it to protect himself against the wiles of Circe. Mullein’s versatile array of uses, according to recommendations from the Edgar Cayce readings, may make this herb seem like a magic potion.
At least five species of the plant grow wild in the U.S., though all have been naturalized from Europe. It is easily recognizable in the summer for its velvety broad leaves and golden yellow flowers on tall spikes. Over 140 readings mention mullein, most often describing its use as a tea, a stupe or poultice, less often as a hand rinse. Some of the physical conditions for which it was recommended include varicose veins, phlebitis, kidney stones, pain, swelling, injuries, and inflammation.
The origin of varicose veins, for which mullein tea and stupes were particularly valuable, is unknown, though they are probably due to a weakness in the walls of the superficial veins, which in turn causes loss of elasticity. Eventually the veins become elongated, stretched, and enlarged. Because the vein is abnormally widened, its valves can’t close correctly, causing blood to flow in the wrong direction. Puffiness and swelling are its resultant, noticeable trademarks. It affects nearly fifty percent of middle-aged adults, women about four times as frequently as men.
A stupe or poultice is a type of pack, usually heated, that involves a mass of some healing substance (like herbs or mustard) that is spread on a cloth to be applied to sores, inflamed areas, or other lesions on one’s body, generally for the purpose of supplying a moist warmth, to relieve pain, or to act as a counter-irritant or an antiseptic.
In mullein’s case fresh green-not dried-leaves are preferable, if in season. “Gather the mullein leaves, bruise these and pour boiling water over them (in an enamel pan or glass container, not aluminum nor tin). Then place over the affected areas.” (Cayce) The leaves are put, then, either directly onto the skin or with “only a thin gauze between the skin and the Mullein, you see, so it may be held in place.” (Cayce)
Once the boiling water has cooled, another reading states, so that you can place your hands into it to retrieve the leaves, “Do not squeeze all of the juice out of same, for it should be sufficient to dampen the cotton that is laid upon the gauze, see?” (Cayce) Dr. Harold Reilly mentions applying mullein on his varicose veins and being grateful for its prompt relief (Handbook for Health Through Drugless Therapy, rev. ed., p. 238). Several readings mention using three to four thicknesses of the boiled leaves for the stupe. Some recommend placing towels or heavy cloths on top of the leaves “to keep the heat in” (Cayce) or using an electric heating pad to maintain warmth. How long and how frequent the application depend upon the severity of the condition.
While other areas of the body may receive the stupe, this criterion was used to determine the proper location: “We would apply the Mullein Stupes now more to those areas that are the sources from which the limbs receive their circulatory activity, and those portions about the limb to reduce the swelling.” (Cayce) So for kidney stones, swelling, abrasions, or other injuries, potential regions of application, as described in the readings, could include the back of the neck, the abdomen, liver, shoulder, knee, along the thigh, or the lumbar, sacral, and coccyx areas. Following use, the skin can be cleansed with an antiseptic solution.
What Does the Mullein Do?
It reduces swelling and excess fluid, relieves pain and soreness; “it is not only an absorbent but will make for a relaxing of the system” (Cayce), and in the case of kidney and bladder conditions will increase eliminations. “The heat from the very activity or applications of the stupes, to be sure, opens-as it were-the pores. And the very nature of the Mullein is to absorb poisons from the body itself; relieving pain and causing the accumulations to be thrown off through the respiratory system.” (Cayce) Another reading states simply: “…these stupes will relieve and keep the alimentary canal working properly.” (Cayce)
Besides using stupes for certain conditions, such as varicose veins, drinking a cup of mullein tea is also advised, using either the fresh or dried leaves. While the amounts vary slightly, here are the directions as given out by Gladys Davis, Cayce’s secretary:
“Take 2 ounces of the Mullein Leaves and bruise very thoroughly, if the green leaves are used (which would be preferable, if possible), or 3 ounces of the Mullein Leaves if the dried leaves are used, and put into a quart of nearly cold waterâ€”in an enamel or glass container, not aluminum or tin or metal. Let come to almost a boil, but very slowly. As it comes to the boil, take off. About two ounces of this would be taken each day. Keep in cool place and make fresh every two or three days.” (Cayce)
Some readings suggest drinking the tea before breakfast; several recommend in the evening before retiring. Frequency included once daily, several times a day, every other day, or once a week, again depending upon the severity of the condition.
As to its purpose, one reading states: “… it will aid in the circulation, in the elimination of the character of acid in system, and aid in the circulation through the veins – that are disturbing.” (Cayce) It would also provide “an exhilaration to the cleansing of the general circulation through the organs of the central system, as the liver and kidneys.” (Cayce) Weak mullein tea would reduce “the tendencies for the accumulation of lymph through the abdomen and the limbs.” (Cayce) It would also help “the general condition of the inflammation throughout the intestinal system.” (Cayce) Finally mullein tea would act “as an assistant in eliminating those poisons that are being naturally thrown into the system by the allaying of the disturbances through the lymph and emunctory circulation; as well as the infectious forces.” (Cayce)
Since the readings at times suggest dried leaves, at other times fresh, some may wonder about the importance of this distinction. Note the following rather humorous question-and-answer exchange:
“(Q) Does it make any difference whether the Mullein is dried or fresh?
“(A) Does it make any difference whether cabbage is wilted before it is boiled? It should indeed be fresh, not as in people, but as in the vegetable kingdom; not applying to people being fresh, but plants used for medicinal purposes, the fresher, the more active the better. And there is quite a variation between green Mullein and dried Mullein, but whichever you use, use the same all the while.” (Cayce)
One person was told to make a tea using mullein flowers (instead of leaves), one level teaspoon to a pint of water, taking one ounce of the tea twice daily; it would help with dizziness “and aid in the activity of the kidneys to expel – and the channels through the system for expelling stone.” (Cayce)
For fresh mullein, some people asked where to obtain it. “Grows in most fence corners,” he answered one man (Cayce). “Wherever cows graze in Florida or anywhere else, mullein grows. It is one of the mosses that comes from feeding cattle – cows especially.” (Cayce)
In one woman’s particular case – she was taking pain pills on a regular basis – the combination of the tea and stupes was addressed: “Taking of the Mullein Tea and administering the Mullein Stupes should enable the body to keep away from the sedatives.” (Cayce)
A final note: “[Mullein tea] taken occasionally is not bad for anybody…” (Cayce) Considering its broad beneficial purposes, mullein can provide relief for a number of ailments, especially for varicosity, though, as with other remedies, used in conjunction with healthful lifestyle and dietary changes.
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Elaine Hruska is a therapist at the A.R.E. Houston Spa and former teacher at the Cayce/Reilly* School of Massotherapy. This article is reprinted with permission by Venture Inward Newsletter, Virginia Beach, VA.