Herbalist Robin Rose Bennett

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Mulling about Mullein Under Siege in my Medicine Wheel and Elsewhere

By Robin Bennett
Posted in Blog, Recipes
On July 28, 2021

Healthy first-year mulleins

Mulling about Mullein Under Siege in my Medicine Wheel and Elsewhere - Protecting and caring for the plants that care for and protect our health

Everywhere I’ve gone this summer I’ve seen beautiful first and second year mullein plants, one of my favorite remedies for the respiratory system. That is, they are beautiful for a short while, then they are consumed by mullein weevils, an introduced bug from Europe, brought in to kill mulleins. The entire seed stalks go blacks and the leaves disintegrate, turning from a full and spongy soft texture and light green color to a dull brown, crumbling, disintegrating mess.

I was at a beautiful stand of mullein and thought how much I’d like to gather some, but didn’t, opting to swim instead as it was mid heat-wave, and I knew I’d be back in a couple of days. I did come back with my give-away offering of herbs and gathering baskets in hand, but I was too late, the mullein weevil had set to work, and the plants were seriously stressed. It’s not that there were no leaves or flowers I could have picked, but I don’t like to gather medicine from stressed out plants that are under attack! It feels wrong.

I wished I had brought the spray I’d made for the mulleins on my land last year. It was a strong infusion of tobacco, steeped overnight, mixed with an ounce of soap to help the infusion stick to the leaves…and it had helped save some plants! It works best on the first year plants when they are attacking the leaves, once they get into the stalk, it’s really hard to save them. I read that the weevils only attack the seeds, but the weevils didn’t seem to read the same research!

Two Bug Repellant Sprays to help protect the plants

1. Tobacco-based repellant

Tobacco infusion- Steep leaves overnight, use a lot of good dark tobacco leaves
Dish or Castille Soap- about 1 ounce to 1/2 gallon
Mix with water if needed to have enough to spray your plants.

Mix together and spray on the plants, atop and under the leaves, and on the flower stalk if it has one. 

This year I’m trying this, as they seem to be doing even more wide-spread damage and the tobacco spray didn’t work as well as last year.

2. Neem based repellant

Water-1/2 gallon
Neem oil - tablespoon
Castille or free and clear dish soap- 2 tablespoons

Mix together and spray on the plants, atop and under the leaves, and on the flower stalk if it has one.

Mulleins offer us physical medicine, for our lungs and bronchia, our kidneys and spines! Mullein is rich in spiritual teachings, too.
This plant opens wide and grounds deeply the first year, and rises tall the second year! Try that for yourself. Root to Rise.

Healthy first-year mulleins

They are also beautiful and many many insects benefit from their flowers. Fragmented thinking/reductionist mindset brings in one introduced element to kill off another, not understanding, perhaps not caring that Nature doesn’t work that way…the web of life takes care of us. Let’s help each other find our way to do our part to take care of what we love, whether we are standing up for the water, working in our town to stop pesticide spraying, teaching our children to respect plants underfoot, being kind to one another, listening with respect…we all have a part to play in the evolutionary healing of the time we find ourselves in.

Lastly, when I expressed my sorrow, my grief, silently, to the mulleins in the field, and sent out loving energy, I felt a profound silence settle over the whole area. They were listening, hearing me. Receiving my message. No matter that they don't have physical hearts, we were in heart to heart communication, or more aptly, perhaps, spiritual connection.

It is too ironic that in the time of COVID-19, herbalists and others are watching one of our great respiratory allies being killed as “Invasive” by the introduction of an invasive bug! Fortunately, mulleins produce many many many thousands of seeds per plant, and the seeds can lay in wait in the soil, germinating after even 1,000 years.

I take heart in Nature’s adaptability and resilience (we are part of Nature!) but am devoted to nurturing health not continuing to ask everything and everyone to live on the defensive as it were.

Green Blessings and much Love
Robin Rose Bennett ~*~

Robin Bennett

Robin Bennett

Robin Rose Bennett is a writer, teacher, green witch, herbalist, and a wisewoman… one who loves the earth and gives voice to the healing wild food and medicine plants which surround us. She has been a practicing herbalism for over 30 years, based in New Jersey & NYC. Robin focuses on the spiritual and ecological lessons of plants and treatment of illness.