Botanical: Marrubium vulgare
Family: Lamiaceae/Labiatae (mint)
Other common names: Marrubio, White Horehound, Hoarhound, Marrubium
Horehound has been a popular cough and cold remedy since ancient Egyptian times. As a potent expectorant, it will promote mucus and ease the pain of a dry, non-productive, hacking cough. Try it for bronchitis, sinusitis and whooping cough, and it can also be used as a tonic to improve digestion.
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Horehound is a hardy perennial and medicinal mint that may grow to a height of two feet, with all the aboveground parts of this herbaceous plant used in herbal medicine. Like many other plants of the Labiatae family, Horehound flourishes in waste places and by roadsides, needing little care. The leaves are wrinkled, opposite, petiolate and covered with white, felted hairs, which give them a wooly appearance. They have a curious, musky smell, which is diminished by drying and lost on keeping.
Some claim that Horehound is native to Morocco, but others claim it is indigenous to Great Britain, where it flourishes and is cultivated in gardens for making tea and candy for use in coughs and colds. It is also brewed there and made into Horehound ale, an appetizing and healthful beverage. What is certain is that the plant was carried throughout the Old World and later to Europe and North America by traders and settlers. Ancient Egyptian priests honored Horehound as a treatment for coughs and colds, calling it "eye of the star," and the Greek physician, Hippocrates, esteemed its curative powers and even thought it would break magical spells. Horehound's botanical genus, Marrubium, is said to be derived from the Hebrew, marrob, which translates as "bitter juice," and it is thought that Horehound was one of the original bitter herbs of the Jewish Passover meal. Historically, Horehound has had many uses, but its primary reputation rests with its expectorant abilities that relieve lung congestion, although the sixteenth-century herbalist, John Gerard recommended it (in addition to its uses for coughs and colds) in his 1597 Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes as a remedy for "those that have drunk poyson or have been bitten of serpents," and it was also administered for "mad dogge's biting." The esteemed seventeenth-century botanist, herbalist and physician, Nicholas Culpeper, wrote in The English Physitian (1652) that Horehound "helpeth to expectorate tough phlegm from the chest.... There is a syrup made of this plant which I would recommend as an excellent help to evacuate tough phlegm and cold rheum from the lungs of aged persons, especially those who are asthmatic and short winded." Preparations of horehound are still largely used as expectorants and tonics. It may, indeed, be considered one of the most popular pectoral remedies, being given with benefit for chronic cough, asthma and some cases of consumption. Among its chemical constituents are marrubium (a "bitter" that is sometimes called maribun or marrubiin), essential oils, tannins, minerals, wax, saponins, B-complex vitamins and vitamin C.
Horehound is a powerful expectorant that helps to loosen phlegm and relieve lung congestion. When treating painful, chesty, non-productive coughs, colds, bronchitis and sinusitis, Horehound's compound, marrubium, decreases the thickness of phlegm and promotes the secretion of fluids into the bronchial passageways, producing mucus. Acting as a pain reliever, the herb also combines the action of relaxing the smooth muscle of the bronchi while promoting mucus production and expectoration, thereby easing the pain of the cough.
As a pain reliever, the marrubium compound in Horehound stimulates the central nervous system and was found in laboratory tests to be more potent than some well-known pain relief medications.
Horehound promotes good digestion. The stimulation of the central nervous system by marrubium also stimulates the stomach to secrete and increase digestive juices, helping the stomach to digest food and to alleviate indigestion. The reaction also stimulates the flow of bile from the gallbladder, which eases flatulence by changing the chemical composition of the contents of the large intestine.
Considered a diaphoretic, Horehound also helps to promote sweating, helping to break a fever and cooling the body. The herb will also work to rid the body of excess water weight and the feeling of bloating.
Horehound is considered a mild laxative and is also said to expel worms.
Some studies claim that Horehound helps to stop the high and low blood-sugar reactions after eating high-carbohydrate meals and snacks.
Horehound is said to have a relaxing effect on heart tissue and is used by some herbalists as a circulatory tonic to help lower blood pressure. The marrubium may steady the heartbeat in low doses, but a physician must be consulted before using it in this situation, and larger doses may cause abnormal heartbeat.
Horehound Herbal Supplement is not advisable for pregnant women (uterine stimulant), nursing mothers, younger children or adults over sixty-five years of age. Those with heart disease or arrhythmias or stomach ulcers should not use Horehound without consulting with a physician. Do not overuse; larger doses may cause diarrhea. Women with menstrual problems should consult a physician before using Horehound, as it may increase menstrual flow. Because Horehound acts as a bitter and may increase production of stomach acid, individuals with gastritis or peptic ulcer disease should use it cautiously.