Now that'll put hair on your tongue
I was trying to figure out why my mullein tea always seemed, well... "fuzzy", so if anyone else has wondered, here's what I've come up with:

The genus Verbascum contains over 200 species... all of which are pretty fuzzy. On account of this fuzz, they used to be used for making balls of tinder and lamp wicks. They're all hardy perennial plants that are easily grown, and evidently some are grown just for their beautiful yellow or white flowers. And here we all thought they were just good medicine...

Anyway, the Latin name "Verbascum" is supposedly a bastardization of "barbascum", or "barba" (a beard), which was what Linnaeus named this genus in reference to the bearded appearance of its foliage. So I guess it tastes fuzzy, because it is fuzzy. Botanists say that this thick fuzz which covers the leaves and stalks of the plant not only helps protect it from insects, but causes severe irritation to the mouth of any would-be grazer. The dense fuzz leaves the plant susceptible to mould, though, which would also deter anyone wanting to graze, I imagine.

Concerning tea, www.botanical.com says:

"The homely but valuable Mullein Tea, a remedy of the greatest antiquity for coughs and colds, must indeed always be strained through fine muslin to remove any hairs that may be floating in the hot water that has been poured over the flowers, or leaves, for otherwise they cause intolerable itching in the mouth."
I never strained it...(Oops!) It never made me itchy, but then neither does Poison Ivy. Because mullein is a pretty strong emollient, astringent, and demulcent, the tea is really good for people who are congested, or having hacking coughs. I've found it to reduce coughing, but cause the few coughs you have to get more gook out of your lungs. Ironically, the herb retains these properties when burned, so one can smoke the leaves or flowers to help their lungs! I hear that Native Americans used to smoke mullein ceremonially, and that its burning was used to ward off evil spirits. I've personally tried smoking it when I was too lazy to go to the store for more pipe tobacco, and it's quite nice as long as the leaves aren't too dry.

Mul"lein (?), n. [OE. moleyn, AS. molegn.] Bot.

Any plant of the genus Verbascum. They are tall herbs having coarse leaves, and large flowers in dense spikes. The common species, with densely woolly leaves, is Verbascum Thapsus.

Moth mullein. See under Moth. -- Mullein foxglove, an American herb (Seymeria macrophylla) with coarse leaves and yellow tubular flowers with a spreading border. -- Petty mullein, the cowslip. Dr. Prior.

 

© Webster 1913.

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