Verbascum thapsus L.

Last updated: 10 Feb 2017

Scientific Name

Verbascum thapsus L.


Leiosandra cuspidata Raf. [Unresolved], Thapsus linnaei Opiz [Unresolved], Thapsus schraderi Opiz [Unresolved], Verbascum lanatum Gilib. [Invalid], Verbascum simplex Hoffmanns. & Link. [1]

Vernacular Name

English Aaron’s rod, common mullein, cow’s lungwort, flannel mullein, flannel plant, flannelleaf, great mullein, hag-taper, mullein, torches, velvet dock, velvet plant, woolly mullein [2]
India Akkalveer, akulbir, ban tambacoo, ban tambaku, bantamaku, bhamakhu, bhootlankra, bhotiya-chi, buda-budhi, gaddi tamaku mullein, gidar-tamakhu, gidar tamaku, gidar tobacco, gidar tobacoo, giddar tamaku, gyamsar menthok, jangli tambaku, jawarna-loudi, kaadu hogesoppu, kakri tamakhu, mahi zehraj [2]
Bhutan Shing-gi-gser-bye [2]
Nepal Ganapuchhre, guna puchhare, hikusan. [2]

Geographical Distributions

Verbascum 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. [3]

Botanical Description

V. thapsus is a member of family Scrophulariaceae. [1] This plant is a densely woolly, sturdy biennial that may reach more than 7 feet (2 m) tall in its flowering year. [4][5]

Basal leaves are simple, measure 3 to 20 inches (8-50 cm) long, and may be persistent. Stem leaves are alternate, and their size is reduced toward the inflorescence. [4]

The flowers are yellow, densely arranged on a spike-like, terminal inflorescence. [4][5]

The seeds are small, 0.4 to 0.8 mm long, average 0.064 mg. Seeds are wingless and not adapted for long-distance dispersal. [4]

The rod-like spike of fruits often persists through the winter. [4]

Thick, deep taproots with fibrous lateral roots are produced in the firt year of rosette growth. [4]


No documentation.

Chemical Constituent

V. thapsus has been reported to contain aluminum, ascorbic acid, β-carotene, β-sitosterol, coumarin, crocetin, hesperidin, linoleic acid, magnesium, manganese, mucilage, niacin, oleic acid, palmitic acid, phosphorus, potassium, biboflavin, saponins, stearic acid, thapsic acid, thiamin, verbascose, verbascoside, verbasterol, and zinc. [6]

Plant Part Used

Leaves, roots, and flowers. [7]

Traditional Use

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. [7]

The Cherokee used a similar recipe using honey or brown sugar in place of molasses. [8]

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. [7][8]

Preclinical Data


Antimicrobial activity

The extract of V. thapsus has been reported to exhibit antibacterial activity. This plant inhibited growth of numerous common infective bacteria, including Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Staphylococcus epidermidis. [9]

Methanolic extract of V. thapsus has been reported to exhibit antiviral activity against the common influenza virus [10] as well as against a herpes virus strain [11].

Alcoholic extract of V. thapsus has been demonstrated antiviral activity In Vero celís-pseudorabies virus strain RC/79 (herpes suis virus) system in which it can inhibit at least 2 log of the viral infection. [12]


No documentation.

Clinical Data

Clinical findings

No documentation.

Side effects

No documentation.

Pregnancy/Breast Feeding

Not to be used by pregnant or nursing women. [13]

Age limitation

Not to be used by children. [13]

Adverse reaction

No documentation.


Dosage Range

V. thapsus should be takes 3-4 g of crude herb daily. [14]

Most Common Dosage

No documentation.


No documentation.

Poisonous Management

No documentation.

Line drawing

No documentation.


  1. The Plant List. Ver1.1. Verbascum thapsus L. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013 [updated 2012 Mar 26; cited 2017 Feb 10]. Available from:
  2. Quattrocchi U. CRC world dictionary of medicinal and poisonous plants: Common names, scientific names, eponyms, synonyms, and etymology. Volume V R-Z. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press, 2012; p. 716.
  3. USDA Plants Database. Verbascum thapsus L. (common mullein). [homepage on the Internet]. No date [cited 2017 Feb 10]. Available from:
  4. Gucker CL. Verbascum thapsus. In: Fire effects information system. [serial online]. 2008 [cited 2017 Feb 10]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory. Available:
  5. Siever AF. Mullein (Verbascum thapsus L.). In: The herb hunters guide. In: Center for New Crops & Plants Products. Soursoup. [homepage on the Internet]. West Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue University; c2016 [updated 1998 Apr 3; cited 2017 Feb 10]. Available from:
  6. Duke JA. Handbook of phytochemical constituents of GRAS herbs and other economic plants: Herbal reference library. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press, 2000; p. 623.
  7. Silverman M. A city herbal: Lore, legend & uses of common weeds. Woodstock, New York: Ash Tree Publishing; 1977.
  8. Moerman DE. Native American ethnobotany. University of Michigan: Timber Press; 1998.
  9. Turker AU, Camper ND. Biological activity of common mullein, a medicinal plant. J Ethnopharmacol. 2002;82(2-3):117-125.
  10. Rajbhandari M, Mentel R, Jha PK. Antiviral activity of some plants used in Nepalese traditional medicine. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2009;6(4):517-522.
  11. McCutcheon AR, Roberts TE, Gibbons E. Antiviral screening of British Columbian medicinal plants. J Ethnopharmacol. 1995;49(2):101-110.
  12. Zanon SM, Ceriatti FS, Rovera M, Sabini LJ, Ramos BA. Search for antiviral of certain medicinal plants from Cordoba, Argentina. Rev Latinoam Microbial. 1999;41(2):59-62.
  13. Gardner Z, McGuffin M. Botanical safety handbook. 2nd ed. Boca Raton, London: CRC Press; 2005.
  14. European Medicines Agency. Evaluation of medicines for human use. Assessment report on Verbascum thapsus L., V. densiflorum Bertol., V. philomoides., flos with traditional use. London, UK. 2008.