Fig. 254. Verbascum thapsus. Photo: Verbascum thapsus 9. Preparations: Fluid Extract of Verbascum

The leaves and tops of Verbascum Thapsus, Linné (Verbascum Schraderi, G. Meyer).
Nat. Ord.—Scrophulariaceae.

Botanical Source.—Mullein is a biennial plant, with a straight, tall, stout, woolly, generally simple stem, occasionally with 1 or 2 branches above, winged by the decurrent bases of the leaves, and from 3 to 5 feet high. Its leaves are alternate, oblong, acute, decurrent, indented at the margin, rough, and densely tomentose on both sides. The flowers are of a golden-yellow color, rotate, nearly sessile, in a dense, spiked, club-shaped raceme; calyx 5-parted and downy; corolla 5-lobed, rotate, lobes broad, rounded, and somewhat unequal; stamens 5, the two lower smooth, the rest downy. Capsule or pod ovoid-globose, 2-valved, and many-seeded (W.—G.).

History, Description, and Chemical Composition.—Mullein is common to the United States, growing in recent clearings, along the sides of roads, in uncultivated fields, etc., flowering from June to August. Some botanists consider it to have been introduced from Europe. The leaves and flowers are the parts used. They have a faint, rather pleasant odor, resembling that of a mild narcotic, and a somewhat bitterish, albuminous taste, and yield their virtues to boiling water. The leaves of V. Thapsus contain a trace of volatile oil, wax, some tannin, resin soluble in ether (0.78 per cent), resin insoluble in ether (1 per cent), sugar, etc., and an amorphous, non-glucosidal, bitter principle, soluble in water, ether, alcohol, and chloroform (A. Latin, Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1890, p. 71). The flowers, according to E. L. Janson (ibid., p. 600), besides mucilage, dextrose, etc., contain glucosidal coloring matters, mixed with resins; the seeds, which have a somewhat acrid taste, yielded 20.75 per cent of a green, fatty oil; their acrid principle is soluble in alcohol, water, and petroleum ether. The corolla of Verbascum phlomoides, Linné, and Verbascum thapsiforme, Schrader (Verbascum Thapsus, G. Meyer), are the official species of the German Pharmacopoeia.

Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Mullein is demulcent, diuretic, anodyne, and antispasmodic. It is likewise said to possess marked antiperiodic virtues. Besides, it is mildly nervine, controlling irritation, and favoring sleep. Upon the upper portion of the respiratory tract its influence is pronounced, particularly where the larynx and trachea are involved. The infusion is useful in coughs, protracted colds, catarrh, hemoptysis, diarrhoea, dysentery, and piles. It is applicable to dry, hoarse coughs, which occur chiefly at night, as well as to cough associated with an abundant catarrhal discharge. Its diuretic properties are rather weak, yet it is very useful in allaying the acridity of urine, which is present in many diseases. It may be boiled in milk, sweetened, and rendered more palatable by the addition of aromatics, for internal use, especially bowel complaints. A fomentation of the leaves also forms an excellent local application for inflamed piles, ulcers, and tumors. The leaves and pith of the stalk form a valuable cataplasm in white swellings, and when infused in hot vinegar or water it makes an excellent poultice to be applied to the throat in tonsilitis, malignant sore throat, and mumps. The seeds, it is said, will rapidly pass through the intestines, and have been successfully used in intestinal obstructions. They are narcotic, and have been used in asthma, infantile convulsions, and to poison fish. The infusion may be drank freely. The flowers, placed in a well-corked bottle, and exposed to the action of the sun, are said to yield an excellent relaxing oil. This oil is also valuable in some cases of deafness, used locally for its effect upon the membrane tympani, and upon the secretion of cerumen. The same oil, in doses of 1 to 10 drops, is said to give excellent results in nocturnal enuresis and in vesical irritation, caused by alkaline urine; it is also reputed a good agent to control painful micturition, in lithaemia, chronic cystitis, and urinary calculus. The leaves, dried and smoked like tobacco, are often useful in asthma and laryngeal affections. The dose of specific verbascum is from 1 to 30 drops.

Specific Indications and Uses.—To quiet nervous irritation, bronchial irritation and cough, and urinary irritation with painful micturition.

King's American Dispensatory, 1898, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., and John Uri Lloyd, Phr. M., Ph. D.