(Healthline) – Mullein tea is a flavorful beverage that has been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments, including chronic coughs, colds, and asthma (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source).
It has a rich, aromatic taste and is made from the leaves of the common mullein (Verbascum thapsus), a flowering plant native to Europe, Africa, and Asia.
This article examines the uses, benefits, and side effects of mullein tea — and tells you how to make it.
Potential benefits and uses of mullein tea
Mullein tea has been linked to several potential health benefits.
May treat respiratory conditions
Mullein has been used for thousands of years to treat respiratory conditions.
It may be especially effective at relieving asthma, which causes your airway to swell and results in symptoms like coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath (4Trusted Source).
Animal and human research suggest that mullein tea works by reducing inflammation, thereby helping relax the muscles in your respiratory tract (5, 6Trusted Source).
The flowers and leaves of the plant are also used to treat other respiratory ailments, such as tuberculosis, bronchitis, tonsillitis, and pneumonia. However, no human research has studied whether mullein combats these conditions (3Trusted Source).
May help fight viral infections
Some test-tube studies suggest that mullein may possess powerful antiviral properties.
For instance, one test-tube study analyzed several medicinal herbs and found that mullein extract was particularly effective against the influenza virus (7Trusted SourceTrusted Source).
Other test-tube studies show that mullein extract may also fight pseudorabies, a virus in the herpes family (8Trusted Source, 9Trusted Source).
Nonetheless, human research is needed.
Possesses antibacterial properties
Mullein tea may offer antibacterial effects as well.
One test-tube study found that mullein extract inhibited several strains of bacteria, including Bacillus cereus, which commonly occurs in soil and food (10Trusted Source, 11Trusted SourceTrusted Source).
Another test-tube study noted that mullein extract reduced the growth of certain types of bacteria that cause infections, such as E. coli and Streptococcus pyogenes (12).
Although limited human research is available, one study in 180 children indicated that this herb may treat ear infections, which are often caused by bacteria (13Trusted Source).
This 3-day study, which used ear drops that contained mullein alongside several other herbal extracts 3 times daily, reduced ear pain by 93%, on average. However, it’s unclear to what extent this effect was due to mullein extract versus other herbs used in the ear drops (Trusted Source14Trusted Source).
Thus, additional human research is needed.
Mullein may have antiviral and antibacterial properties and help treat certain respiratory conditions. However, further studies are necessary.
Potential side effects of mullein tea
Most people can enjoy mullein tea safely with minimal risk of adverse effects.
Yet, the mullein plant may cause skin irritation for some people, so be sure to exercise caution if you’re handling the herb directly (15Trusted Source).
The tiny hairs of the plant can also irritate your throat, which is why it’s important to strain this tea thoroughly before drinking it.
Additionally, no research is available on mullein tea’s safety for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Thus, these populations should consult a healthcare professional before using it.
If you notice any negative side effects after drinking this tea, consider scaling back your intake or avoiding it.
Mullein tea is widely considered safe and has few side effects. Still, you should strain your tea properly and exercise caution if handling the herb directly to prevent skin irritation.
How to make it
You can find prepackaged mullein tea bags, extracts, capsules, tinctures, and dried leaves at many health stores, as well as online.
What’s more, many people grow mullein in their garden and dry the leaves on their own.
To make the tea with dried leaves, simply add a small handful of them to an 8-ounce (240-ml) cup of boiling water, then steep them for 15–30 minutes. To prevent throat irritation, use a strainer or cheesecloth to remove as many of the leaves as possible.
If you desire, you can add raw honey, cinnamon, or a lemon wedge.
Mullein tea is easy to make with dried leaves or a teabag, though you should be sure to strain the leaves.