How to Make Mullein Oil Ear Drops

A stack of yellow mullein flowers

Woolly mullein is a fuzzy-leafed plant that has been used for centuries in traditional medicine. One of mullein's many health benefits is as a natural, effective remedy for painful earaches. Learn how to make mullein oil ear drops to help soothe earaches.

Mullein Oil Ear Drops

Common mullein, also known as woolly mullein, is widely used to support the lungs and to treat lung issues, but the little yellow flowers are also incredibly beneficial in treating common earaches.

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Mullein flowers have antiseptic, infection-fighting and pain-relieving properties. Oil infused with mullein flowers can be used to relieve the pain of earaches.

Several small companies sell natural remedies that include mullein oil to treat earaches and ear infections, but it's easy to make your own mullein flower oil.

In fact, years ago our young adult son had an earache, and on his way home from work he stopped at the pharmacy to buy something that would help relieve the pain. He picked up a bottle of ear oil made from natural ingredients, one of which was mullein flower. 

Nowadays I keep mullein oil on hand for this use. It's considered to be safe for use on children as well as adults, so it's a handy thing to have in your home apothecary or medicine cabinet.

A young mullein plant in early spring.
A young mullein plant in early spring.

What is woolly mullein?

Mullein is a biennial plant, taking two years to reach maturity. The first year plant has large, soft, fuzzy leaves that grow in a rosette. In the summer of the second year the plant sends up a tall spike, about 5 feet tall, with small yellow flowers. 

This flower spike is easy to spot in fields and along roadsides. Mullein likes to grow in disturbed places, in poor soil and in full sun.

Mullein plants send up a tall flower spike in their second year. The flower spikes are easy to spot in the wild.

Foraging "rules"

Once you've located some two-year-old mullein plants, you'll discover that these flower spikes only offer a few flowers every day. 

If you've found a large patch you can harvest some flowers from each of the plants, but otherwise you might have to come back a few times to pick enough of the flowers. 

Please be ethical in your foraging and harvesting. Don't take all of the plant material! Leave enough for the bees and to make seeds for next year's plants.

A good rule of thumb is to harvest no more than 30% of any plant material you are foraging, whether it is mullein or another species of plant.

Also, don't use plant material that you've gathered from a roadside, under power lines or in other places where herbicides might have been sprayed. We don't want toxins in our natural treatments, right?

If you want to plant your own mullein patch, you can gather the tiny seeds while you're foraging for flowers - see this post for tips on gathering mullein seeds and how to plant them - or you can buy mullein seeds from Mountain Rose Herbs.

A mullein flower stalk in the summer.

Infusing mullein flowers in oil

After harvesting, let your flowers wilt for a couple of hours before preparing the oil infusion. This helps to reduce moisture in the flowers, which also reduces the possibility of mold down the road.

To wilt them, loosely roll the flowers in a kitchen towel and leave it on the counter or table for several hours.

You can use either the quick heated method or the slower traditional, solar-infused method. 

The fast way to infuse mullein flowers in oil

For this method I use a small crockpot in which to infuse the oil. This model has a "warm" setting that's perfect.

After letting the flowers wilt for several hours, put the flowers in the crockpot and pour in a high-quality oil such as olive oil.

The ratio of flowers to oil that I use is 1:2. One cup of flowers would need two cups of oil, or 1/2 cup of flowers would be infused in one cup of oil. You can read more about measuring in parts here.

For an extra-powerful infusion, you can add some finely-chopped garlic at this point. Garlic also has antiseptic and anti-infection properties.

I use this small crockpot with a "warm" setting to infuse herbs in oil.

Set the little crockpot on the warm setting and leave the lid off. The heated oil draws the medicinal properties out of the flowers.

Let the flowers and oil warm up and infuse in the crockpot for at least four hours, then strain out the flowers (and chopped garlic, if you used it) from the oil. Keep reading for straining tips.

The traditional method to infuse mullein flowers in oil

While the traditional method of infusing oil takes longer, it's generally considered the most effective method because the herbs and the oil aren't exposed to the higher level of heat. Hot temperatures can destroy or lower the benefits of the herbs.

In this method, simply put the plant material in a clean, dry jar and cover it with the oil. Use the same rough ratio of oil to herb: 2 parts oil to 1 part herbal materials. The oil should be at least one inch higher than the plant material in the jar so that the plants are completely covered.

Cover the jar and set it in a sunny window. Shake the jar gently each day (or as often as you remember).

Be sure to label the jar with the date, the herbs and type of oil you used, especially if you have more than one infusion going. At the least, write down the date so you'll know when the infusion is "finished."

After 4-6 weeks, strain the infused oil.

How to strain mullein flower oil

If you used the heated method, the oil is hot so be careful. 

Pour the oil and flowers through a piece of clean muslin cloth into another clean, dry jar to strain out the plant material. Muslin will catch all the small particles so your oil will be clear and clean.

"Spent" mullein flowers after being infused in oil and strained.
Spent mullein flowers after straining out the oil.

You can purchase muslin at a fabric store. If you are using cheesecloth instead, be sure it's the fine cloth that is sold to be used in cheesemaking, not the gauzy stuff that is used in faux painting techniques, which has holes that are too large for straining out the plant material.

Squeeze the plant-filled muslin to get out all of the oil you can. Discard the plant material.

Store your mullein oil in a brown bottle in a cool, dry and dark place for maximum longevity.

Storing mullein flower oil

Use a brown glass bottle to store the mullein flower oil and store it in a cool, dark cupboard. 

Oh, don't forget to label it. Infusions look alike once they are strained, and they can be hard to tell apart.

Mullein oil should be effective for about three years if stored properly.

How to use mullein flower oil

When needed, it's easy to use this oil to relieve the pain of an earache. 

Apply a few drops into the ear canal with a dropper and then add a bit of cotton to the ear to help keep the liquid inside for as long as possible. 

It goes without saying that you won't want to use the hot oil that you just strained. Room temperature oil will be much more comfortable!

If you can't find mullein in the wild, you can purchase it

Woolly mullein grows nearly everywhere, but if you can't find it in the wild you can order dried mullein flowers from Mountain Rose Herbs or purchase the ready-made oil from Starwest Botanicals

Please note: I am not a doctor. You are responsible for your own and your family's health. If there is discharge from the ear, please see a medical doctor. 

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