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Verbascum Thapsus


Verbascum Thapsus


No documentation

Vernacular Name

Aaron’s-rod, Adam’s flannel, blanket leaf, Bullock’s lungwort, candlewick, clown’s lungwort, common mullein, cow’s lungwort, feltwort, flannel-leaf, Great mullein, hare’s beard, mullein dock, velvet dock, velvet plant.(1)


Verbascum Thapsus is most easily identified by its large, felt-like leaves that lead to a flower spike, yielding small, yellow, hermaphroditic flowers.  V. thapsus flowers between the months of June until September and covered in velvety hairs that help retain moisture.(2)

Origin / Habitat

V. thapsus is found readily throughout the United States.  Believed to have brought to the North American continent by early European settlers, this roughly four foot tall biennial plant now grows commonly along roads and highways across North America.

Chemical Constituents

Aluminum, Ascorbic Acid, Beta-Carotene, Beta-sitosterol, Coumarin, Crocetin, Hesperidin, Linoleic Acid, Magnesium, Manganese, Mucilage, Niacin, Oleic Acid, Palmitic Acid, Phosphorus, Potassium, Riboflavin, Saponins, Stearic Acid, Thapsic Acid, Thiamin, Verbascose, Verbascoside, Verbasterol, Zinc.(5)

Plant Part Used

Leaves, roots, flowers.(3)

Traditional Use

By the time of its introduction to the North American continent, V. thapsus was already revered by many Europeans as an effective medicinal plant.  The Native Americans discovered their own uses for this plant.

The primary use of V. thapsus by Native American tribes was as a treatment for various respiratory and bronchial disorders.  Decoctions of the leaves of V. thapsus were used internally to treat various respiratory afflictions by the Atsugewi, Creek, and Iroquois tribes.  The Catawba used immature flowers mixed with “plum root” into a cough syrup.  The Delaware tribe used a combination of V. thapsus, “plum root”, Tussilago farfara, and glycerine in their cough syrup.  Another cough syrup used by the Mohegans combined the leaves of V. thapsus steeped in molasses.(3) The Cherokee used a similar recipe using honey or brown sugar in place of molasses.(6) The Navajo used a mixture of V. thapsus and plants of the Nicotiana genus, otherwise known as tobacco, which was smoked to help alleviate coughing fits.  Inhaling this mixture was said to cure mental disorders as well.(3),(6)

V. thapsus was also used for its analgesic effect. Many tribes applied poultices made from the leaves or the leaves themselves externally to wounds to reduce pain and swelling, as well as open wounds.  Use of V. thapsus for its analgesic effects allowed many tribes to provide treatment for rheumatic and other inflammatory conditions. The manner of preparation of the plant differed between tribes (i.e. poultices, decoctions and infusions) but the clinical application remained similar.


3-4 grams of crude herb daily, usually in the form of tea.(4)



There is limited information in the scientific literature that explores the biological activity of V. thapsus and no human clinical studies have been carried out. The limited pre-clinical work that has been conducted seems to validate the traditional use of the plant.

The extract of V. thapsus displays antibacterial activity, according to a 2002 study. V. thapsus inhibited growth of numerous common infective bacteria, including Escherica coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Staphylococcus epidermidis.(7) Additional laboratory studies examined the antiviral activity of V. thapsus against the common influenza virus(8) as well as against a herpes virus strain.(9) Both studies demonstrated some antiviral activity of V. thapsus with the antiviral activity against the herpes viral strain duplicated in a separate analysis.(10)


No documentation

Interaction and Depletions

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation

Interaction with Drugs

No documentation

Precautions and Contraindications

Side effects

There are no published contraindications or side effects associated with standard dosages of V. thapsus.(11)


Not to be used by pregnant or nursing women.(11)

Age limitation

Not to be used by children.(11)

Adverse reaction

No documentation

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  1) Western Herbs


  1. USDA Plants Database. Available from [Accessed on 22 June 2009].
  2. Aromatic and medicinal plants index. Purdue University. Department of Botany. Available from [Accessed on 22 June 2009].
  3. Silverman M. A city herbal: lore, legend & uses of common weeds. Woodstock, NY: Ash Tree Publishing; 1977.
  4. Wichtl M. Herbal drugs and phytopharmaceuticals: a handbook for practice on a scientific basis. CRC Press; 1989. p. 518-519.
  5. Duke, James A. Handbook of phytochemical constituents of GRAS herbs and other economic plants. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 1992.
  6. Moerman D. Native American ethnobotany. University of Michigan. Available from [Accessed on 16 May 2009].
  7. Turker AU, Camper ND. Biological activity of common mullein, a medicinal plant. J Ethnopharmacol. Oct2002; 82(2-3):117-125.
  8. Rajbhandari M, Mentel R, Jha PK, Chaudhary RP, Bhattarai S, Gewali MB, Karmacharya N, Hipper M, Lindequist U. Antiviral activity of some plants used in Nepalese traditional medicine. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 25 Oct2007. [Epub ahead of print]
  9. McCutcheon AR, Roberts TE, Gibbons E, Ellis SM, Babiuk LA, Hancock RE, Towers GH. Antiviral screening of British Columbian medicinal plants. J Ethnopharmacol.1 Dec 1995; 49(2):101-110.
  10. Zanon SM, Ceriatti FS, Rovera M, Sabini LJ, Ramos BA. Search for antiviral activity of certain medicinal plants from Córdoba, Argentina. Rev Latinoam Microbiol. Apr-Jun1999; 41(2):59-62.
  11. McGuffin M, et al. Botanical safety handbook. CRC Press; 2005.

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