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Horehound

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What is Horehound?

Horehound is native to Europe and Asia and has been naturalized to other areas, including the US. It is a perennial, aromatic herb of the mint family. The plant has oval leaves covered with white, woolly hairs, and bears small, white flowers.

Scientific Name(s)

Marrubium vulgare

Common Name(s)

Horehound also is known as hoarhound and white horehound.

What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

The leaves and flower tops of the horehound have long been used in home remedies as a bitter tonic for the common cold. Horehound has been used traditionally as an expectorant and continues to find a place in cough lozenges and cold preparations. It now is used primarily as flavorings in liqueurs, candies and cough drops. In addition, extracts of the plant were used for the treatment of intestinal parasites and as a diaphoretic and diuretic. A different genus, the black horehound (Ballota nigra), is a fetid-odored perennial native to the Mediterranean area that sometimes is used as an adulterant of white horehound.

Miscellaneous uses

Horehound has been used as a vasodilator, diaphoretic, diuretic, and treatment for intestinal parasites. Initial animal studies indicate that horehound may have hypoglycemic effects and may influence bile secretion. The volatile oil of horehound has been reported to have expectorant and vasodilatory effects. Evidence is limited on these medicinal uses.

What is the recommended dosage?

Horehound is given for digestive complaints as a crude herb at a daily dose of 4.5 g and as a pressed juice of the herb at 30 to 60 mL.

Contraindications

Contraindications have not yet been identified.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. Avoid use. Horehound has emmenagogue (to stimulate menstrual flow) and abortive effects.

Interactions

None well documented.

Side Effects

Large doses may induce cardiac irregularities.

Toxicology

Marrubiin (the volatile oil) has an LD50 of 370 mg/kg when administered orally to rats.

1. Horehound. Review of Natural Products. factsandcomparisons4.0 . 2005. Available from Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. Accessed April 17, 2007.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Medical Disclaimer

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Related treatment guides

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For centuries, people all over the world have used horehound (Marrubium vulgare) to naturally treat respiratory conditions. In recent times, some of the top makers of herbal cough drops and cough syrup include horehound in their formulations, which is no surprise since it is said to be one of the oldest known cough remedies! This is just one of many impressive horehound benefits.

In vitro studies have also demonstrated that M. vulgare essential oil appears to have antibacterial, antifungal and anti-cancer properties. (1) Read on to learn all about how this bitter herb has been used for years and continues to be used for all kinds of common health problems.

Horehound Plant Origin and Chemical Compounds

So you know it’s a plant, but are you looking for a more specific horehound definition? Horehound — commonly known as white horehound — is a bitter perennial bushy plant belonging to the mint family. Other names for this herb include houndsbane, marrubium, eye of the star, seed of Horus, marvel, and bulls’ blood.

Horehound is a perennial plant. This means once it is planted it will return year after year. The horehound plant (M. vulgare) is native to Europe, northern Africa, and southwestern and central Asia. It has small white flowers. The flowers as well as all of the plant’s parts are used for medicinal purposes.

Black horehound (Ballota nigra) is the smellier relative of white horehound. Like white horehound, it belongs to the mint family and has some similar medicinal uses.

So what exactly makes horehound a medicinal herb? It has been found to contain a number of health-boosting plant components including vitamin C, essential oils, flavonoids, alkaloids, bitter lactone, saponin, sterols, tannins, monoterpenes and diterpenes. (2) The specific flavonoids that can be found in the plant include apigerin, apigerin 7-glycoside, luteolin, luteolin 7-glycoside, quercetin 3-glycoside, and quercetin 3-rhamnoglycoside. (3)

5 Health Benefits of Horehound

1. Cough Relief

Horehound is an ingredient often found in herbal lozenges and syrups used for the natural treatment of coughs. There’s a good reason why this herb is employed in these natural cough remedies. As I mentioned, it contains naturally occurring plant compounds called diterpenes. More specifically, its major active chemical compound is a diterpene called marrubiin. We can likely thank marrubiin for horehound’s expectorant ability. In other words, horehound can help cough sufferers to get rid of that nasty mucus that is clogging up their airways. (4)

Research has also shown that horehound has both antispasmodic and analgesic (pain-relieving) effects. These are two more good reasons why it is a great natural cough reliever. (5)

2. Digestive Aid

Researchers also believe that marrubiin is the reason that horehound has a bitter taste. Along with foods like endive and horseradish, horehound is believed to be one of the Bible’s bitter herbs. (6) It’s bitter flavor makes it an excellent choice for improving digestion since plants that taste bitter have been shown to help in managing dyspepsia also known as indigestion or upset stomach. (7)

Why are bitter foods helpful to healthy digestion? The taste of bitter herbs actually helps to increase the production of saliva and gastric juices. This is exactly what you want when you’re eating because these crucial bodily fluids help to break down the food you eat. Experts like Kirsten Shanks, a nutritionist, naturopath and herbalist, also say that, “Over time we have developed a ‘bitter reflex’ which upon recognizing the taste on the tongue begins to stimulate and tonify organs of digestion including the stomach, liver, gallbladder and pancreas.” (8)

Bitter foods like horehound are a great choice if you struggle with poor digestion. When your food is broken down in optimal fashion, you’re much less likely to suffer from digestive complaints like indigestion and gas.

3. Motion Sickness Remedy

For some people, symptoms of motion sickness can result from the movement of travel by car, boat or plane. Motion sickness will typically go away when the motion stops. But many people who commonly deal with motion sickness are curious about natural ways to improve their queasy feelings.

Unfortunately, there hasn’t been any scientific research to date, but black horehound has been used as a traditional remedy for motion sickness. The recommended dosage is one to two milliliters as a tincture. Or use one to two teaspoons of leaves steeped as a tea, taken three times per day. (9)

4. Bronchitis

As an expectorant herb, M. vulgare can be a really helpful remedy when it comes to the intense congestion of bronchitis. When you have bronchitis, the tubes that carry air to your lungs (bronchial tubes) are inflamed. This inflammation causes a cough, which can often be intense and persistent.

Horehound can be helpful since it has been found to not only act as an expectorant (helping to get mucus up), but also to promote vasodilatory effects. (10) Vasodilation is when the smooth muscle within the blood vessels relax and the blood vessels widen. This results in a better flow of oxygenated blood.

5. Appetite Stimulant

Sometimes people struggle with a lack of appetite for various reasons including stress, pregnancy, hypothyroidism, metabolic problems, liver disease and more. (11) Bitter herbs like M. vulgare have a long history of use as a digestive tonic as well as an appetite stimulant. Horehound’s ability to improve saliva and gastric juice output makes it very helpful for increasing the appetite.

History & Interesting Facts

Horehound’s medicinal use is believed to go all the way back to the 1st century B.C. This is when the Roman encyclopaedist Aulus Cornelius Celsus mentions horehound as a natural remedy for respiratory problems in his medical treatise titled De Medicina. (12)

The leaves of the M. vulgare plant are crinkled and have soft fine hairs. This herb can grow in a lot of different climates. But some say that the the best quality is grown in the intense desert heat.

Horehound is one of the bitter herbs sometimes included in Passover meals. It has been used in beverages as well. For example, horehound beer or ale is an herbal, alcohol-free, soft drink. Historically, it was also used to make candies. You can actually still find horehound candies being sold to this day!

How to Use Horehound

Horehound is available at most health stores or online in several possible forms including fresh, dried, powdered, capsule, extract, tincture or pressed juice. You can use fresh or dried versions to make homemade cough drops, syrups and teas. It is also sometimes used as a flavoring.

If you have fresh or dried leaves, then you can make horehound tea. Simply pour boiling water over a teaspoon or two of the leaves. Let it steep for at least five minutes before removing the leaves and make sure not to drink it too hot. To make the taste more pleasant, and also to help fight a cough, add some raw honey and a squeeze of lemon juice.

If time isn’t on your side, you can also follow horehound tincture directions and add a few drops to a small amount of water a few times per day.

Dosages of M. vulgare depend on each individual person and his or her health concerns. There is not currently any standard range of doses established. For digestive problems, horehound has been taken at a dose of 4.5 grams of the crude herb or two to four tablespoons of the pressed juice daily. (13) If you’re feeling unsure about what dosage to take for a particular health concern, it’s always a good idea to consult with a certified herbalist for guidance.

Possible Side Effects and Interactions

Horehound should be used with caution by anyone with a peptic ulcer or gastritis since horehound is known for increasing stomach acid. (14) Black horehound is not recommended for people with Parkinson’s disease or schizophrenia. (15)

White horehound is considered safe for most people when taken in food amounts and is possibly safe when taken for medicinal purposes. It is not recommended to ever take this herb in large quantities because this can cause vomiting. Plus using it topically has been known to cause contact dermatitis for some.

M. vulgare is not recommended for pregnant or nursing women. But food amounts of white horehound while nursing are likely OK. Check with your doctor before using horehound medicinally if you are currently taking medication or have any ongoing health conditions, especially a heart condition, diabetes or low blood pressure. Before any surgery, it’s recommended to stop taking M. vulgare at a minimum of two weeks prior to surgery day. (16)

Final Thoughts

Horehound is a bitter herb that belongs to the mint family. It may not be as well known as some other herbal remedies, but people have been aware of its benefits for centuries. Traditional medicine has used horehound as a remedy for common respiratory concerns like coughs and digestive complaints like indigestion. As with other plants, horehound’s positive effects on health are a result of its natural plant compounds. You may think you’ve never had horehound before. But if you’ve used a natural cough syrup or cough drop, you may have already benefited from this bitter herb’s positive effects!

Read Next: Marshmallow Root: The Ultimate Gut and Lung Protector

Learn how to make horehound cough drops at home with a handful of ingredients, then use this natural cough remedy to break up your cough when you’re sick. If you’ve ever learned to make hard candy, then you can make horehound candy! And if you can make horehound candy, you just made horehound cough drops!

If you have yet to acquire that skill, I can think of no finer time then while making horehound cough drops. Not only will you be learning to do something new, but you’ll experience the empowerment of taking control of your health through homemade medicine making. Along with Lemon, Honey, Thyme Cough Syrup, horehound candy is a great natural remedy for a cough! (Or if you have a sore throat, try a soothing Echinacea Throat Spray.)

I tried growing white horehound from seed, and while I can’t for the life of me remember transplanting it, I must have because I found a large beautiful plant growing in one of my beds. I’m glad I didn’t weed it in my absent-mindedness! I’ve since also found it growing wild in meadows near our home, so I’ll be able to pick and forage this herb every summer as a home remedy for coughing as part of my family’s homegrown & homemade medicine cabinet.

What Is Horehound Good for, and What Do Horehound Cough Drops and Horehound Candy Taste Like Exactly?

Horehound candy is the same as horehound cough drops. The taste is bitter, which is why adding sweetener is a necessity! The way you enjoy these candies is by sucking the extract out of them.

Did you know horehound is actually in the mint family? It has a mingling taste of licorice and the rooty flavor of root beer. The best way to describe horehound cough drops or candy (one and the same) are as bittersweet. If it is sweetened correctly, there is a sweet and bitter duo that makes this the perfect candy and medicinal throat help.

It is a soothing, sweet old school candy. The reason for this is the way they can be made in the home, with an ingredient that grows in your backyard! These have been made for centuries before us. Horehound grows in places like Europe, North Africa, and Asia. It has been used to treat tons of health issues. There are even ancient texts that outline the uses of this herbal remedy. It was used to help with everything from sore throats, as we advise in this article, to digestive issues.

So What Makes This a Medicinal Herb Exactly?

Those who came before us know that horehound candy has medicinal purposes, which is one of the best duos possible for sick, sweet lovers. In this plant are found so many health supports.

Some of these are:

-Vitamin C, which is commonly known for promoting health when unwell

-Essential oils, which have a soothing effect in this herb

-Bitter Lactone, which is what makes it bitter

-Flavonoids, which have antioxidant effects

Here is a list of some of the main health issues the horehound herb helps:

Loss of appetite

The way this plant helps to stimulate appetite is by aiding as a type of tonic, because if the bitterness. It helps to produce saliva and stomach juices which help hunger to increase.

Motion sickness

Though there is no evidence that horehound helps motion sickness, it has been known to do just that. If you are feeling a bit queasy, ingesting some of these candies may help.

Bronchitis

This herb helps inflammation to go down and mucus to come up. It is a natural soother and allows things to run smoother while sick with bronchitis.

Indigestion, bloating and gas

This herb aids digestion with the bitterness it contains. Bitter ingredients help digestion because they increase saliva and stomach juices, as we saw before in how bitterness supports appetite. The reflux we have to bitterness is a stimulant that acts as a type of tonic for our internal organs. This helps with food breakdown and acts against these three listed stomach issues.

Soothing dry and scratchy throats

The thing that causes these two components is coughing. Thankfully, horehound is a great cough relief. It even has an ingredient you can find in lozenges (the natural kind). Because it helps get rid of mucus, it reduces coughing by breaking the irritant down. The two words you need to know are analgesic and antispasmodic, which basically chock up to pain relief.

Menstrual issues

This herb can be used to treat cramps and other menstrual pain. Things like mood swings and upsetness that can come with PMS are reduced greatly when implementing horehound into your diet, like in a tea or a capsule. The herb has also been known to treat uterine fibroids.

Diabetes

White horehound has been known to lower cholesterol and reduce blood sugar levels. It even helps glucose to flow and allows less of the sugar rush and crash. Horehound has been seen as a solution to the blood and sugar changes in those with diabetes.

Further health issues that horehound helps with:

-Asthma

-Calming inflammation

-Whooping cough

-Breathing issues

-Tuberculosis

-Digestion help

-Diarrhea and constipation

-Liver and gallbladder discomfort

Other Ways Horehound Can Be Used and Prepared:

In a Hot Bath:

Baths are a great way to help you heal, rest and relax when sick. There are certain therapeutic herbs that can enhance these things when put in a hot bath. The horehound herb is one of them. It specifically helps bronchitis and coughs, as we have seen above. An excellent herbal soak is the same as drinking a cup of tea, but for the outside of your body. As a matter of fact, taking a bath with Horehound is best done by brewing the tea as seen below, and pouring it into the bath. You can also add other herbs and essential oils in order to enhance the benefits of your bath. Maybe one day we will get Horehound bath bombs!

In a Tea:

This way to prepare horehound can help with ugly flu and cold symptoms. This is as simple as using organic horehound herb leaves and brewing the tea your usual way. Use honey and lemon juice as natural sweeteners! You can purchase these tea leaves, or tea bags, ready to use at pretty much any store that sells tea. Some of the best can be found at any vitamin store, but you can also find them anywhere food is sold.

As a Cough Syrup:

If Horehound candy is a thing, you can imagine why it would be great as a cough syrup. It is an instant calmer that breaks up the mucus in your system and helps your body get rid of it faster. It also avoids all the awful side effects over the counter cough syrups produce such as grogginess and fogginess.

Keep in mind that horehound is bitter, so it is best to add in honey, and some recipes even pair it with other sweetening agents. Horehound cough syrup can be purchased as well, and there are versions made with all types of various components, usually sweeteners such as Wild Cherry Bark.

As a Medicine on Skin:

Directly applied to the wounds, horehound has been used to heal cuts and bruises for centuries. It has also been used to heal ulcers, wounds, and other damages to the skin such as eczema and even shingles. This is a great skin ointment which can be easily created at home from Horehound extract. These ointments can also be found in bottles with droppers in stores.

Horehound Cough Drop Benefits (or Horehound Candy):

Horehound’s active ingredients are “sesquiterpene bitters, marrubin, volatile oil, tannins, flavonoids, and mucilage”1. These properties aren’t lost in the heating of the herb, a fact you can taste and feel! Horehound candy is known to be bitter, and that’s why you won’t want to mess around with the sweetener on this recipe for horehound cough drops. Horehound can’t work on breaking up mucus, soothing your sore throat, and quieting your cough if you can’t bear to have the taste on your tongue.

Purchase dried horehound HERE.

How to Make Horehound Cough Drops (or Horehound Candy):

The necessary steps of making these cough drops include steeping the herb in hot water and then combining the infusion with a sweeter (horehound is pretty bitter! Trust me, you’ll want the sweetener!) and a few other ingredients. Not included are artificial sweeteners, flavors, preservatives, or food dyes (you know, things that weaken your immune system and general health when you need your body working the best.) You bring the ingredients to a boil and then raise the temperature even higher. When it has reached the right temperature, pour the liquid into a prepared pan and roll them into balls.

It couldn’t be more simple, could it?

In fact, check out my kids helping me make our own horehound cough drops!

The most challenging part of making your horehound cough drops is getting the balls rolled before they are too hard to work. You can trust I had a lot of little hands on this project and by the end, we were still snapping a sheet and wrapping the broken pieces. I’m going to try a silicone mini-ice cube tray or candy mold next time. I think that’s a good idea to work around that issue!

Recipe for Horehound Cough Drops (or Horehound Candy):

Author Reformation Acres

Ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh horehound leaves & flowers, or 1/3 cup dried horehound (Buy it organic HERE.)
  • 1 cup honey (Don’t waste your raw honey here! It will get too hot to retain any benefits.)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • juice from one lemon
  • 1 teaspoon butter

Instructions

  1. Place the horehound in a mason jar and cover it with a pint of boiling water.
  2. Steep the horehound for 30-60 minutes.
  3. Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish with butter.
  4. Strain the herb from the water, squeezing the herb to remove all the liquid, and then discard them.
  5. Pour the liquid into a large stockpot and add the sugar, honey cream of tartar, and lemon juice.
  6. Bring the liquid to a boil and continue to boil it until it reaches 240 degrees on a candy thermometer.
  7. Add the butter.
  8. Continue to raise the temperature until it reaches 300 degrees and then pour it into the buttered pan.
  9. Cool the liquid for a few minutes until you can stand to touch it without getting burned. Don’t wait too long or you won’t be able to get them rolled before they’re too cool to mold.
  10. Pinch off a bit of the candy and roll it into a cough drop sized and shaped ball.
  11. Wrap it in a bit of waxed paper and store them in the refrigerator until you need them.

Have you tried this horehound candy recipe?

Tag @reformationacres on Instagram and hashtag it #reformationacres.

Not everything in life is perfectly sweet. Sometimes things are a little bit bitter. Or a lotta bit bitter. As is the case with the horehound herb. This attractive herb is a carefree perennial with great medicinal value, if one can overcome the bracingly bitter flavor. By creating horehound candy, one can make the “medicine go down” much easier.

Latin Name: Marrubium vulgare

Herbal Energetics: cool/dry

Therapeutic Actions: analgesic, antispasmodic, antitussive, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, cholagogue, diuretic, expectorant, hepatic, hypoglycemic, stimulant, vulnerary

Horehound Herb Medicinal Uses

Horehound is a classic herb often associated with a variety of therapeutic actions. It has a particular affinity for both the digestive and respiratory system. This herb helps to stimulant the secretion of digestive juices, increase appetite, lower blood glucose, aid in the digestion of fats, and has even demonstrated an ability to protect the stomach lining and help heal eroded tissues or ulcers. Cold infusions of the herb have also been used to help expel intestinal parasites. As a stimulating expectorant, horehound acts to relax the bronchial muscles and promote mucus membrane secretion. As such, horehound is particularly useful in the instances of tight, persistent congestion without drainage and thick but unproductive cough. Think of horehound when you feel like you head is twice the size it should be and your sinuses won’t drain.

A little research into horehound herb tradition and folklore, sheds light on past uses. Interestingly, the herb was often used as an antidote to poisoning – I suppose owing to its liver protective qualities, while storied herbalists, such as Culpepper, establish horehound as digestive and aid and respiratory stimulant.

FDA Disclosure

I am a trained herbalist with a degree in Complementary and Alternative Medicine, I am not, however, a doctor. Posts in this blog are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Before using any herbs, check for appropriate dosage, drug interactions, and contraindications. Information contained herein is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prescribe. Please consult your primary care physician regarding your specific health concerns.

How to Identify & Harvest Horehound Herb

Horehound is a free wheeling perennial from the mint family. It can often be found growing along fence lines and in areas of well drained but moderately rich soils. It is fairly drought tolerant and spread readily. It can be identified by its square stem, green, prominently veined and opposite leaves. The stems and leaves are pubescent, which means that they are covered in small white hair that nod to the respiratory uses of the horehound herb when considering the doctrine of signatures (mullein is another great example of this herbal notion.. During late spring to early summer white flower pom-poms are born on the tall stems.

I harvest horehound while it is in flower and hang large bunches to dry in an area with great air flow.

How to Make Bittersweet Horehound Candy

But back to the problem with the horehound… It is just so, eye-crossing-ly, bitter. While I do appreciate a good bitter remedy, horehound as a tea or infusion is almost too much for me to tolerate, even sweetened. I suppose that tincture or infused honey may deliver many of the medicinal benefits of the herb, but I have been particularly interested in trying the fabled horehound candy. “They” say you either love it or you hate it. I am of neither unflappable camp. While I wouldn’t exactly say that I “love” this candy, I found the results of my candy making adventure as a remarkably pleasant surprise. There is no disguising the bitter character of horehound – and not that one should, after all, those bitter principles are at the heart of its therapeutic value. Instead the sugar balances the bitter quotient, not unlike how sugar balances the bitterness in chocolate. The flavor is not surprisingly bittersweet, with a very slight medicinal, camphor-y undertone that I can best liken to rosemary or eucalyptus. Just the ideal flavor set when the “crud” is creeping in. These horehound candies are perfect for stowing away in a tin or jar to take as a lozenge for times of indigestion, congestion or sore throat.

I encourage you to give these horehound candies a try! Stick to the instructions, as there is little margin for error in candy making. Make sure you have adequate time and a distraction free environment, as molten sugar is a dangerous thing to turn away from, for even a second! Make sure you have a high quality candy/fry thermometer for best results. I prefer to use silicone molds to form my candies (like these cute coffee bean shaped molds). This recipe could easily fill four mini molds, and perhaps more. To clean my candy making paraphernalia, I use boiled water to dilute away any leftover residue in pot or utensils. Also, probably like you, I am not a fan of corn syrup, but the addition is small and in the recesses of my brain a memory is telling me that it is necessary to prevent a “crystalline” texture. If you are interested in experimenting with a corn syrup free recipe you might consider this recipe, substituting the prepared horehound tea for the elderberry infusion. It is also important to note that most commercially available corn syrups no longer contain high fructose corn syrup, and that organic, non-GMO corn syrups are available. you can read more about corn syrup here. I choose to use organic cane sugar over honey here as it is heated to such extraordinary temperatures, thus mitigating raw honey benefits…

Interested in learning more about common wild medicinal plants? Check out my new book The Backyard Herbal Apothecary!

Horehound Candy Recipe

5 from 1 vote

Horehound Candy

Candy medicine with a bittersweet character. Old fashioned horehound candy is wonderful respiratory and digestive ally! Author: Devon

  • 1 ¼ cups water
  • 1 cup dried horehound packed firmly
  • 2 ¼ cups organic cane sugar
  • ¼ cup light corn syrup
  • Bring water to a boil, add dried horehound a remove from heat. Steep for 20 minutes.
  • In the meantime, prepare silicone molds by greasing slightly with coconut oil. Alternatively, line a shallow sided baking sheet with greased parchment paper or a silicone mat
  • Into a medium saucepan, with reasonably high sides, strain the horehound infusion through a fine mesh sieve (discarding or composting spent herbs). Add sugar and light corn syrup.
  • Over medium high heat and stirring constantly, boil the mixture until hard crack stage is achieved (300 degrees on a candy thermometer or when a ribbon of “syrup” immediately hardens in ice water and breaks with a snap). Note: The mixture will become very frothy at some point during boiling, keep stirring and be careful not to burn.
  • When hard crack stage is achieved, pour mixture into prepared molds or dish. If using molds, scrape the top with a spatula to remove excess, then allow to cool completely before removal. If using a lined baking sheet, pour, cool slightly, score, cut, and shape with hands quickly, as soon as the candy can be handled.
  • If desired, roll finished candies in powdered sugar and or slippery elm root powder to prevent “stickage”. Store is a cool, dry place in an airtight container.

Not interested making candy? These old fashioned horehound candies look pretty good.

Horehound, White. (n.d.). Retrieved June 14, 2016, from http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/h/horwhi33.html

Herbal Energetics. (n.d.). Retrieved June 14, 2016, from http://www.herbalremediesadvice.org/herbal-energetics.html

Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

Petersen, D. (2015). HERB101.

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Health Benefits of White Horehound Candy

Photo from www.omcseeds.com

Have you ever heard of “white horehound?” Unless you’re an amateur botanist, chances are that the average person’s knowledge of plants doesn’t extend that far. Marrubium Vulgare (also referred to as “common horehound”) is a perennial herb in the mint family that is native to Europe, Northern Africa and parts of Asia.

Here at Quality Candy, we use white horehound to make some of our delicious hard candy drops, though it’s also commonly found in beverages such as tea, cocktails and soda.

As if being delicious wasn’t enough, some researchers claim that there are a few impressive health benefits to consuming white horehound. For example, extract of the herb, when taken regularly, may significantly reduce overall cholesterol levels by helping eliminate “bad” cholesterol and preventing the build up of plaque in your heart.

Along with lower cholesterol levels, regular consumption of white horehound is associated with the reduction of blood sugar levels. Researchers claim that when horehound is introduced into the body, it is able to handle large amounts of glucose more efficiently, making it a potential solution for diabetics.

Perhaps the oldest of its health benefit claims, white horehound is alleged to be excellent at alleviating issues related to indigestion, particularly constipation. The anti-inflammatory properties of the herb help eliminate inflammation in the colon, preventing excess bloating and constipation. Be warned, If you suffer from ulcers or other serious stomach issues, consumption of white horehound may exacerbate the symptoms.

Finally, white horehound can help improve your immune system. The plant contains certain antibiotic and antimicrobial properties that make it a natural way to boost your immune system by protecting it from pathogens and other foreign agents.

If you are afflicted by none of these common health issues, let me be the first to congratulate you on your clean bill of health. That being said, you don’t need to be sick to enjoy the unique and delicious taste of white horehound. Make sure to visit Qcandy.com and order some of our horehound hard candy drops today!

When candy shops spelled shop ‘shoppe’ and children saved their nickels to buy candy cigarettes, you could buy unwrapped horehound cough drops covered in powdered sugar. These cough drops were soothing to sore throats and enjoyed as candy. Today, you can find horehound as an ingredient in Ricola cough drops.

Horehound (Marrubium vulgare) is a member of the mint family and native to the Mediterranean. It is a hardy perennial that thrives in dry soil. The plant has a square stem characteristic of the mint family. Its grey/white leaves are densely crinkled and covered with small hairs. The plant’s hardiness has led it to spread throughout the world becoming invasive in some places.

Horehound is easy to grow and considered invasive in many places.

The medicinal use of horehound dates to the first century where ancient Romans used it as an antiseptic. Cultures across the globe have recognized it medicinal properties. Uses have included: treating respiratory ailments and influenza, promoting digestion, as a kidney flush and for treating ulcers and scabs in farm animals.

Use horehound cough drops to treat sore and hoarse throats. These cough drops are bitter, something we are not used to in modern candies. But, once the taste is acquired, like coffee or a bitter beer, it is very pleasing.

Horehound Cough Drops Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh foraged horehound leaves (If buying dried horehound leaves use 1/2 cup).
  • 1 ½ cups boiling water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey

Procedure

  1. Pack horehound into a wide mouth canning jar. Pour boiling water into the jar and let it steep for 20 minutes.
  2. Strain liquid through cheesecloth into a nonreactive large pot. Squeeze all of the liquid out of the horehound. Add the sugar and honey and bring to a boil while occasionally stirring with a wooden spoon.
  3. Continue to boil the mixture until it reaches a hard-crack stage (330°F ). Measure temperature with a candy thermometer or by dropping some of the mixture into a cup of cold water. Take a bite of the hardened drop. If it is gooey keep cooking. When it is hard enough to crack when you bite it remove the pan from the heat.
  4. Butter a heatproof cookie sheet or baking pan and pour the hot mixture in. After the mixture has cooled enough to touch (but don’t wait too long or it will harden) begin pulling pieces off of it and rolling them in your hands into balls then slightly flatten them.
  5. Let them cool then store in a moisture proof container.

Note: Pregnant women should avoid using horehound. This post is for educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Marrubium vulgare (White Horehound) Herb Plant

Marrubium vulgare (White Horehound)Herb in 1 Litre Pot

Horehound is not very often grown these days but it is useful if you have an area that is particularly impoverished. It will flourish in poor dry, soil for example along the edge of driveways and other neglected areas. The only threat to horehound is to sit in very wet conditions over winter. Horehound is a hardy perennial of the mint family — with its telltale square stem — and, like most mints, can become invasive if not controlled.

This hardy perennial can grow to 60cm, producing wrinkled green leaves adorned with small hairs, this is a bushy plant and it will produce rings of small white flowers from June to September in the second year of growth. It is native to the UK and as such is bee and butterfly friendly.

The leaves may be cut for use or drying in the first year.

Herb Usage

Ancient herbalists prescribed White Horehound for fevers and malaria and as an antidote for snakebites and poisoning, and they believed that when drunk as a tea, the herb will promote mental acumen and clarity. Horehound is best known as a herb for chest problems and has enjoyed this role for thousands of years, as it has proven to be effective in loosening phlegm and mucus in the bronchial tubes and in the lungs. It will also relieve coughs and sore throats.

Buy White Horehound Online

Our potted White Horehound herb plants are generally available to buy online between March and September.

Black Horehound
Botanical Name: Ballota nigra

Black Horehound is an herbaceous perennial growing from 30 to 90 cm high and 80cm wide. It has stout, branching stems and a fibrous root system. It may be recognised by the clusters of hairy flowers, identified by the tubular calyx and two lipped corolla. The colour may range from reddish purple to an occasional white flower. Around 15-30 flowers are held in dense whorls with the stalk extending above the main plant. The leaves have a serrated edge and are oval lanceolate to heart shaped, ranging from 3-8cm long. They are a dull green colour, covered in soft grey hairs and quite wrinkled on the upper surface with conspicuous veins. The leaves are arranged in pairs on the stem, with each pair being positioned at right angles to the pair above and below it.

The Ballota genus is native or naturalised in many areas, including temperate regions of the Eastern Hemisphere, much of Europe including Britain and from Scandinavia down to northern Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean. It may also be known as Black Stinking Horehound due to the offensive odour. Ballota nigra was first described by Linnaeus in 1753 with a likely reference to the Greek word ‘ballo’ which means ‘to reject’. The plant grew in fields but local cows rejected the plant, supposedly due to its odour (and probably distastefulness). The word ‘nigra’ means dark and may refer to the darkened colour of the leaves when dried.

There is some speculation about where the common name for this plant name originated. The word ‘hore’ is likely derived from the Old English ‘har’ which developed into ‘hoary’ meaning downy or hairy. The addition of ‘hound’ may have come from the word ‘hune’, meaning plant. Some writers have noted that modern herbalists refer to the plant as the ‘seed of Horus’ the ancient god. However, this is a reference to White Horehound and a local practice of linking the name to the ‘hairyness’ of the plant seems more likely.

Growing Conditions

Ballota nigra grows easily in cultivation and like sun or dappled shade. It prefers well drained, loose alkaline soil in the natural environment, but will tolerate acid soils to pH 5 in gardens. Temperatures down to -5 to 10C are tolerated and it will grow in elevations up to 1300m. Flowers appear in summer, with bees as active pollinators.

This plant is nitrophilius and grows well in disturbed ground such as waste areas and by roadsides. Black Horehound may self sow under the right conditions, but if planting the first time sow the seed in spring and wait 3-6 weeks for germination. Established plants may also be divided in spring.

Medicinal Uses

Ballota nigra has a variety of uses in herbal and old traditional medicine, but today it is more often an ornamental garden plant. It does have a strong odour and taste so modern herbalists do seem to restrict use of this plant. The above ground parts of the plant are often used dry. However, a liquid extract or syrup may be made from fresh plants. They should be harvested by picking the stems when the flowers are blooming.

Black Horehound contains the diterpenoids; marrubiin, ballonigrin, ballotinone and ballotenol and some phenylpropanoids known to be antioxidants. Black Horehound should not be confused with White Horehound (Marrubium vulgare), although they are sometimes used together for medicinal purposes.

Historically Black Horehound has been used for many purposes including; nausea, vomiting, spasms, cough, whooping cough, relieving symptoms of nervous disorders, assisting with mild sleep problems and increasing bile flow. It also is used to regulate and increase menstrual flow, digestive complaints, as a mild sedative, as a treatment for intestinal worms, treatment for gout, and as an astringent.

Note that this plant is not recommended for pregnant and breastfeeding women. The chemicals in the plant may interfere with pregnancy maintaining hormones and lead to miscarriage. Ironically some sites recommend treating motion induced nausea, such as morning sickness with Black Horehound.

It is also important that people taking medication for Parkinson’s Disease avoid Black Horehound. The chemicals in the plant may affect medications because they affect brain chemistry and could cause overdosing and lead to increased side effects or enhanced intended effects. A similar warning is suggested for people being treated for schizophrenia and psychotic disorders.

Herb to Know: Horehound

Horehound. The name likely calls to mind a big glass jar of vaguely molasses-flavored penny candy at the general store, or perhaps a package of old-fashioned dark-brown cough drops. It may not, however, summon up a picture of the source of these products, a rugged perennial herb native to Europe, North Africa, and Asia, naturalized in the bleakest spots in North America and at home in almost any herb garden from Zone 3 to Zone 10.

The name may suggest a breed of gray dog, but that’s misleading. “Hore-” does mean hoary (gray or white in Old English), but “-hound” is not canine; it’s simply an old name for the herb. The generic name Marrubium is the name by which the Romans knew the herb, and vulgare means common. Other opinions are that Marrubium refers to “an ancient town of Italy” or to a Hebrew word for bitter. Some references list horehound among the bitter herbs Jews eat at Passover, but according to Jo Ann Gardner (“Bitter Herbs: A New Look at the Plants of the Bible,” The Herb Companion, April/May 1990), it is not among the original bitter herbs of the Bible.

Several other herbs of the mint family also are called horehound, resembling Marrubium in that their flowers are clustered in the leaf axils. Water horehounds belong to the genus Lycopus, and black (stinking) horehound and Greek horehound to the genus Ballota.

Using Horehound

In the language of flowers, horehound offers wishes for good health, and medical practitioners of many cultures have proclaimed its efficacy in treating a wide variety of ailments, of plants as well as people. Herbalists of old prescribed it for fevers and malaria and as an antidote for bites of snakes or rabid dogs, for ingested poison, and even for magic! It was recommended for killing flies and for treating cankerworm in trees. Horehound has traditionally been used to treat disorders of the stomach, gallbladder, and respiratory system as well as hepatitis. Teas and cough syrups were popular preparations, but the herb was also taken as snuff (to treat yellowness of the eyes), and fresh leaves were poulticed with honey “to cleanse foul and filthy ulcers.” Marrubium, a chemical compound extracted from horehound, is an expectorant. Large doses of horehound are purgative and may cause irregular heartbeat, and the juice may cause dermatitis.

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In England, horehound was made into “an appetizing and healthful” ale and beverage teas are palatable if heavily sweetened to disguise the bitterness. Horehound candy is easy to make (see recipe on page 19).

Growing Horehound

Horehound has erect, woolly, square stalks 2 to 3 feet tall, and wrinkled, scalloped, gray-green opposite leaves that are smooth or downy above and fuzzier below. From June to September, rings of small white flowers crowd in the leaf axils in prickly white calyces, and the minutely hooked seeds are carried to new sites on the fur of passing animals. The fresh leaves smell musky (some say fruit- or thyme-scented), but the odor disappears on drying. Horehound is an important bee herb.

Common horehound looks rather plain; it’s neither tidy like hyssop nor airy like fennel. Henry Beston (Herbs and the Earth, 1935) notes that in olden times, “that wan nettle-like presence with its pointed, hostile bracts” would be relegated, along with other weedy herbs, to a “patch” somewhere outside the herb garden proper. Some gardeners prefer to plant the whiter, woollier, more ornamental silver horehound (M. incanum) or Spanish horehound (M. supinum), which is more compact and has pinkish flowers, but both of these are hardy only to Zone 7.

Creative gardeners have found ways of showing off common horehound to its best advantage, however, teaming it with herbs of contrasting foliage such as tarragon and oregano, rue, southernwood, and butterfly weed. It contrasts nicely with glossy peony leaves and colorful California poppies in flower beds, too. Horehound tolerates poor, dry soil and is thus a fine choice for a xeriscape, especially in difficult sites such as next to driveways and sidewalks.

Indoors, horehound (pruned to keep it in-bound) can join small-leaved scented geraniums and upright and creeping thymes in dish gardens. The tops dry well and are attractive in either dried or fresh arrangements with artemisias, sages, bronze fennel, lemon verbena, myrtle, yarrow leaves, and variegated ivy, to suggest just a few possibilities.

Buy a plant or start horehound from seed. Well-drained soil is the secret to growing this herb, as too much moisture in the winter can kill it. Sow seeds outdoors in spring or fall, 1/2 inch deep. Stratification (sowing the seeds in a moist potting medium and refrigerating for a month or two) improves germination of seeds sown indoors. Thin the young plants to 10 to 20 inches apart; mature plants measure up to 2 feet across. Gardeners disagree whether propagation from root divisions and cuttings is difficult; divisions are taken in spring and cuttings in late summer. Layering is another propagation option. However, there is little need for any of these strategies, as horehound self-sows in the garden with no special treatment, and you will soon have all the plants you can use.

• Making Horehound Drops

Horehound: Marrubium Vulgare, Houndsbane, Marrubium, White Horehound, Marvel

Uses/Pharmacology:

This herb is commonly used to treat coughing, sore throats, and bronchitis as well as being used as an expectorant and a digestive aid. Other less common uses are for treating dyspepsia, loss of appetite, bloating, and flatulence. Horehound is used in cough drops and candies as a means to sooth a sore throat or cough as well. Another way to prepare this herb is in a bitter tonic that is used as a diuretic and an expectorant. Syrup can also be prepared as a cough remedy.

Dosing/Recipes:

Today, Horehound is most commonly administers in an oral infusion by taking 1 to 2 grams of the dried leaves of the plant and poring boiling water over them for ten minutes and then straining them off and drinking small amounts multiple times daily to treat? It is also uses as a liquid extract in a 1to 1 ratio to 20% alcohol and taking 2 to 4 mL three times a day.

To make your own Horehound Cough Syrup, you’ll need:

½ cup of fresh horehound leaves (or ¼ cup of dried)

2 cups of water

3 cups of liquid honey

Place the horehound in a stainless steel pot with the water and bring to the boil.

Remove from the heat and allow to steep for about 10 minutes. Strain and then add

the honey. Mix well and bottle. The amount of honey can be adjusted for taste and

consistency.

For making Horehound Cough Drops:

1 cup of fresh or dried horehound

1 cup of water

2 cups of brown sugar

2 tbsp. honey

Enough icing sugar to cover finished drops

Put the horehound leaves and water in a stainless steel saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 20 minutes and then cool. Strain and squeeze out the herbs. Put the liquid back into the pan and add the brown sugar and the honey. While continually stirring with wooden spoon, bring the liquid back to simmer. Keep stirring and when the liquid falls from the spoon in a thread, test it by dropping it into a cup of cold water. If you have a candy thermometer, the temperature should reach at least 300 degrees F. When the mixture hardens enough to crack with your teeth, it’s ready. If you overdo it and the mixture crystallizes, just add more water and a little more honey. When ready, pour the mixture into a lightly buttered baking dish. When cool enough, score the top to facilitate breaking the hardened mixture into squares or diagonals. Once broken up, shake icing sugar over the horehound cough drops to keep them from sticking together. Store in a moisture-proof glass jar.

Contraindications/Interactions/Adverse Reactions:

The extract can have a hypoglycemic affect. If taken in too great of quantities, it can cause arrhythmias, diarrhea, and dyspepsia. In certain cases, if the essential oil touches the skin it can cause contact dermatitis. Although these affects can be serious, the likely hood of any of these happening is very rare and this herb is considered very safe

References Cited:

Tyler, Varro E. New honest herbal a sensible guide to the use of herbs and related remedies. Philadelphia, Pa: G.F. Stickley Co., 1987.

Webb, Sean, ed. “Horehound.” Nursing Herbal Medicine Handbook. 3rd ed. Philadelpia: Lippincott, Williams, & Wilkins, 2006. 214-16.

Wren, R.W., ed. “Horehound.” Potter’s New Cyclopedia of medicinal herbs and preparations. New York: Harper & Row. 154-55.

Researched By: Anthony Fritz

Horehound Plant: How To Grow Horehound

The horehound herb plant is a member of the mint family and looks quite a bit like the popular herb. Crinkled, slightly hairy leaves are characteristic of the horehound plant. The plant is the source of the flavoring for old fashioned horehound candy. The plant is easy to grow in even poor soils and is a hardy perennial over chilly winters down to USDA Zone 4.

Horehound (Marrubium vulgare) is a woody stemmed herb that can grow 2 to 2 ½ feet tall. It is a wild herb commonly found in disturbed soils, roadsides and dry scrublands. The slightly serrated leaves are arranged alternately on the stem and small clustered white, purple or pink flowers form at the axils in summer. The horehound herb plant is packed with nutritional benefits including high amounts of Vitamins A, B, C, and E.

Horehound plants have an interesting history of medicinal uses. The leaves can be dried and used to make tea and the leaves can be stored for up to a year in a jar. The oil can be expressed and used in perfumes and potpourri. The strong flavor is used in cough drops, candy and liqueurs. Stems can be steeped for tea or as a tincture.

How to Plant Horehound

The horehound herb plant can be planted from seed, cuttings and division. Plant the seed three weeks before your last expected frost date. The seeds are surface sown and covered with a dusting of soil to prevent the wind from taking them.

When planning how to plant horehound remember the germination difficulties of the seed. Even moisture is important to encourage sprouting which is erratic. Seedlings are thinned to 10 inches apart and you can harvest the leaves after the plant flowers.

Tips for Growing Horehound

Horehound is grown in full sun and well drained soil. The plant’s other requirements are minimal as it can spring up naturally in nutrient deficient areas and sandy soils. Horehound produces a burr-like seed pod which contains tiny seeds. The seeds are slow to germinate and do not need to be sown deeply. Prior to seeding the horehound plant cultivate the soil and rake it to remove roots, rocks and debris.

Once established horehound needs little supplemental irrigation and can actually diminish the plant’s health. The herb is adapted to low fertility areas but an all-purpose fertilizer can be applied in spring to encourage foliage growth. Horehound has no significant pest or disease problems.

Horehound Plant Cautions

Horehound is an invasive plant much like the mints. It’s a good idea to plant it in an area with plenty of room or to confine it to a pot. Cut off the flowers to minimize the spread of the plant as horehound seeds itself. The home gardener needs only two or three plants for personal use.

Horehound Seeds – Marrubium Vulgare Horehound Flower Seed

Flower Specifications

Season: Perennial

USDA Zones: 4 – 8

Height: 18 – 24 inches

Bloom Season: Summer

Bloom Color: White

Environment: Full Sun

Soil Type: Moist, well-drained, pH 6.1 – 7.8

Deer Resistant: Yes

Planting Directions

Temperature: 65F

Average Germ Time: 2 – 3 weeks

Light Required: No

Depth: 1/4 inch

Sowing Rate: 2 – 3 seeds per plant

Moisture: Keep moist until germination

Plant Spacing: 10 inches

Care & Maintenance: Horehound

Horehound (Marrubium Vulgare) – You can grow Horehound seeds and use the perennial herb plant in your own soothing teas, or if you are adventurous, in your own homemade candy.

Did you eat Horehound candy when you were a child? You may not have known it, but your parents were actually giving you “medicine”! Candy made from the herb Horehound was often given as a cough drop to sooth deep chest coughs.

Marrubium Vulgare Horehound can be established from herb seeds and harvested the first year. This woody perennial has hairy stems covered with 2-inch, toothed, downy, gray-green leaves. The leaves have a wooly crinkled appearance. Small, off-white hairy flowers are born in summer (often start out as lilac or pale lilac) on the 8 – 24 inch tall and wide plant. The flowers attract beneficial wasps and flies to the garden. It’s a great companion plant for tomatoes and peppers as an added bonus.

Grow the Horehound herb plants in any well-drained soil in full sun. Keep cutting back for new flushes of growth and extended harvests. The leaves and flowers lose their flavor quickly, so snip them into smaller pieces to dry on screens. When dry, crumble and store in jars. Cut the flowers and harvest it heavily each season as this plant is a liberal self-sower, dropping its own Horehound seeds and spreading.

How To Grow Horehound Seeds: Sow the flower seeds indoors on sterile starting mix. Keep the Horehound seeds moist until germination. Once frost season has passed and 2 leaves have formed on the seedlings, they are ready to transplant into the garden in a sunny location. Do not over water the Horehound plant. It likes to dry out in-between waterings.

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