Horehound, or sometimes Black Horehound, emits a disagreeable odor that certainly makes it distinguishable from all other plants. The horehound bears the scientific name of Marrabium vulgare (sometimes Ballota nigra) and belongs to the Labiatae order. The horehound is indigenous to the temperate regions of the Eastern Hemisphere.

A perennial, the plant is common in the wayside with stout branches, brown stems, and wrinkled leaves that resemble an egg in their shapes. Horehound is not an attractive plant, neither is its odor particularly pleasing. In fact, the smell of the whole plant borders on the offensive so that it is for the most part rejected by cattle but is the one of best home cures.

This is probably the basis of its name Ballota which is derived from the Greek word “ballo”, meaning “to reject.” Because of its strong smell, it is often referred to as Black Stinking Horehound.

The horehound mostly found growing near towns and villages. It has a perennial root of a woody and fibrous nature. Horehound leaves are arranged in pairs on the stem. Each pair is connected to the stem at right angles to the pair next to it. The leaves of the horehound plant have distinguished stalks with margins that are coarsely serrated. They are dull green in color with surfaces covered in soft gray hairs and conspicuous veins.

Horehound flowers are arranged in whorls that are more or less dense. They are connected to the axils of the leaves. When in bloom, they are occasionally colored white.

Health Benefits

Since the ancient times, the horehound was believed to have properties that make it an antidote for the bite of a mad dog. The Greek Dioscorides, along with some notable characters in ancient history, shared this belief. Beaumont and Fletcher referred to this plant in their poem, Faithful Shepherdess. They wrote: “This is the clote bearing a yellow flower; And this black horehound: both very good; For sheep or shepherd bitten by a wood-Dog’s venom’d tooth.”

If the Greeks believed in the horehound’s anti-mad-dog bite properties, over time however, the plant became more popular as a traditional remedy for cough. Roman physician, Galen recommended a horehound concoction as a therapy for coughs and other respiratory ailments. Following Galen’s footsteps, Nicholas Culpepper, the 17th-century English pharmacist, believed that horehound is indeed helpful for a cough. He further added that the herb can also aid in removing stubborn phlegm from the lung. This spurred several eclectic physicians in America to use the plant’s apparent medicinal value against coughs, asthma, and menstrual complaints in the 19th century.

The herb’s soothing power makes it a good alternative to cough medicine as a tea or lozenge. A kind of cough syrup may also be created by concocting the wooly leaves and white flowering tops of the horehound plant. The syrup works by stimulating phlegm or mucus production to increase output and clear the airways. Colds, bronchitis, and other minor respiratory problems often respond to horehound treatment well.

Buying Information

The active constituents of this herb include alkaloids, flavonoids, diterpenes (marrubiin), and trace of volatile oils. When shopping for horehound supplements, be sure to look for all these vital substances in the label. The recommended dosage for adults is approximately ¾ teaspoon (4.5 g) of horehound per day or 2-6 tablespoons (30-90 ml) of the pressed juice.