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How to Make a Mullein Glycerite for Respiratory Support

You may have spotted a mature Mullein plant while driving along the highway. Commonly found across North American roadways, its tall, yellow flowers catch the eyes of many travelers every year.

Perhaps you’re even familiar with it’s first year appearance, speckling prairie lands as fuzzy, low-growing rosettes. Or, your first meeting with mullein may be happening now as you take a look at the pictures below. Whether you’re a seasoned mullein-spotter or are newly acquainted with its presence, I’d like to explore a simple way you can bring its gentle medicine into your home. With only three ingredients, you can create a mullein glycerite to treat and support the lungs, among other systems!

After my fiancé and I caught covid in December, he suffered from a bad cough that he couldn’t shake. It was most often very dry and disruptive, especially when he was sleeping. To help heal his lungs and assist in his coughing, we made use of this glycerite. I dispensed 10 ml of the glycerite every 4 hours for about 3-4 weeks, then at the sign of cough for another week or so. His coughing has decreased dramatically since then, mainly popping up once in a while at night! I’d say it successfully treated the cough and has helped him recover from covid itself. I’m proud of how well it worked for him, and happy he was willing to try it!

Disclaimer and precautions: It’s a good idea to consult an herbalist or other medical practitioner before using mullein. As with any herb, keep in mind that it may interact with medications, although mullein does not have any known contraindications in this area. if you are on any medications or have concerns, consult a medical professional before use. Not enough research has been done on the safety of mullein in pregnant and breastfeeding people or children, so it is best to avoid it. Mullein is generally considered safe, but it’s always wise to approach any kind of medicine with respect and caution. Mullein seeds contain the poisonous compound rotenone, and should be avoided when making this glycerite. Instead, use either dried or fresh leaves and/or flowers.

Mullein is commonly used to treat respiratory issues, earaches, and a variety of acute illnesses. As a glycerite, it can be taken orally to help with sinus problems, respiratory illnesses, the flu, and head colds. Many people find it beneficial after years of allergy-triggered coughs, asthma, and congestion, and take it daily as a supplement for such problems. According to the Modern Herbal Dispensatory, Mullein soothes the lungs and helps expel mucus, working to hydrate the lungs with compounds called saponins; this makes it particularly useful for dry coughs. It can also be formulated as a tea for the same effects. Its fresh flowers can be infused into oil (traditionally with garlic) to treat earaches. It has a variety of uses, giving it a prominent place in many household apothecaries.

In terms of energetics, it is a demulcent/mucilant with moistening and cooling properties (Easley and Horne).

To create a glycerite, also called a glycerin/glycerine extract, you have a couple options at your disposal. Each one will leave you with a sweet, syrupy substance that can treat various illnesses, as mentioned above!

Following the traditional/folk method, you can create a heat-less glycerite by filling a jar about halfway with mullein and adding a menstruum of 1 part water to 3 parts glycerin over it. Shake well everyday for several weeks and store in a dark, cool place. Strain out all of the mullein before use. I recommend using at least two filters such as cheesecloth, a strainer, and/or a coffee filter. I use a metal coffee filter and a paper one to strain my glycerites. For a thorough explanation on how to make glycerites this way, check out Mountain Rose Herb’s wonderful post here.

A quicker, often more potent option for creating your glycerite involves using a double boiler. In my case, I place a glass container in a pot of water, add my herbs and glycerin-water menstruum, and simmer on my stovetop on low for a few hours. Again, double straining is a good idea with mullein, as its little hairs can be irritating if left in the glycerite. Steven Horne, a co-author of The Modern Herbal Dispensatory, has an excellent article detailing exactly how to create a potent sealed simmer glycerite. You can check out his article here, which I highly recommend! If you want to keep as much medicine in your glycerite as possible, his method is exceptionally effective.

Before signing off, I would like to make a quick note about the ethics of glycerin and how it is harvested. Some glycerin is harvested from animal fats, however, it can also be plant-derived, typically coming from coconut, palm, corn, or soy. That said, palm-derived glycerin is concerning due to its highly unsustainable nature and the social injustice associated with harvesting it, so many herbalists, formulators, and consumers opt for palm-free glycerin whenever possible. Some people turn to organizations like the RSPO, a non-profit group that certifies companies using sustainable palm harvesting methods. You can read more about them and their process here.

Making this mullein glycerite can help prepare your home for any respiratory illness that may cause coughing and discomfort. I highly recommend trying out this recipe for yourself and even treating conditions such as asthma and COPD with it under the care of a medical professional! Herbs can offer incredible support to those who know how to use them. Let me know if you try this out or have your own experiences with mullein!

Sources Cited and More Reading Materials:

“MULLEIN: Overview, Uses, Side Effects, Precautions, Interactions, Dosing and Reviews.” WebMD, WebMD, 2020, https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-572/mullein.

Easley, Thomas, and Steven H. Horne. The Modern Herbal Dispensatory: A Medicine-Making Guide. North Atlantic Books, 2016.

Alieta. “How to Make Glycerine Extracts.” Mountain Rose Herbs Blog, 6 Oct. 2014, https://blog.mountainroseherbs.com/make-glycerin-extracts-glycerites.

Ellis, Cat. “How to Make Glycerites and Why You Should.” Herbal Prepper, 25 May 2015, https://www.herbalprepper.com/how-to-make-glycerites-and-why-you-should/.

“About.” RSPO, 2020, https://rspo.org/about.

Horne, S. (2008, April 3). Sealed simmer glycerites. Article – Stevenhorne.com. Retrieved January 29, 2022, from https://stevenhorne.com/article/Sealed-Simmer-Glycerites

Image Credits:

Open Circle Seeds’ Organic Mullein

Dr. John Meade

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