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

Botany

Horehound, is a member of the mint family  which won’t be winning any beauty  contests anytime soon.  It is a perennial plant that grows between one and two feet high.  The leaves are green with a white furry surface and have a wrinkled texture.  The flowers are small and white and are located in clusters around the stems at any point from the bottom to the top of the plant.  These clusters are shaped like a ball and are around an inch in diameter.  When cultivating this plant, it can tend to be invasive so it is smart to weed it out every spring to keep it under control.  It does best in full sun with a light, sandy, dry soil with a pH between 4.5 and 8.  It has a medium hardiness rating and will begin growing and bloom between June and September.

Chemistry

The active ingredient of Horehound, marrubiin, can be extracted from the leaves or the flowers of the plant.  This compound works as an expectorant by stimulating the secretions from the bronchioles.  Marrubin acid, a derivative of marrubiin, can also be used to promote bile secretion.  The herb can have adverse effects as well as healing affects.  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

Fun Fact:

The name is derived from the Egyptian God Horus who was the god of sky and light.

History:

Horehound has been used for thousands of years as a medicinal remedy.  Historically, it was used centuries before Christ by the Egyptians as a cure for malaria and fever.  Ancient Greeks would also use it as an anecdote for poisonous snake and dog bites. On a more superstitious note, it was known to be carried by sorcerers as a replant of spells and if placed in a bowl of water, it supposedly releases healing vibrations and should be placed in the bedroom of an ill person

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:

 Burnett, Bruce. "Horehound Herb." A2Z of Health, Beauty, and Fitness. 19 Apr. 2009 <http://health.learninginfo.org/herbs/horehound.htm>.

Gruenwald, Joerg, Thomas Brendler, and Christof Jaenicke, eds. "Horehound." PDR for Herbal Medicines. 4th ed. Montvale, NJ: Thomson Healthcare, 2007. 452-53.

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.

Whitson, T.D. (ed.) et al. USDA, NRCS. 2009. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 20 April 2009). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.

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

 Researched By: Anthony Fritz