Black Horehounds

Black Horehound

Native to Europe, the Mediterranean region, and W Asia, this genus contains about 35 species of perennials and subshrubs. Most species are rather weedy in appearance, but a few have velvety foliage that makes them worth growing as foliage plants. Ballota nigra (black horehound) is very attractive to bees, and though of little ornamental merit in itself, it has one or two cultivars that make good border plants. Though widely grown in herb gardens, it is seldom used today by medicinal herbalists, who prefer the more effective and palatable Marrubium vulgare (see horehound). The oil extracted from B. nigra is used to adulterate that of Marrubium vulgare. Ballota was apparently named from the Greek ballote, "to reject", since livestock avoid the plants.

Upright to lanky perennial with a pungent smell and round to ovate, hairy, toothed leaves, 2.5-5cm (1-2in) long. Dense whorls of purple, rarely white, 2-lipped, tubular flowers, are produced throughout the summer.

Common Name:
Black Horehound
Botanical Name:
Ballota nigra
Native Location:
Europe, Asia; naturalized in N America
Well-drained soil in sun or partial shade.
By seed sown in spring; by division when dormant. Ballota nigra 'Archer's Variety' does not come true from seed. Ballota nigra self-seeds readily.
Whole plants are cut as flowering begins and dried for infusions, liquid extracts, and tinctures. Fresh herb may be used to make a syrup. Renew stocks of dried herb annually.
Archer's Variety
Has white marked foliage
40cm-1m (16-36in)
24-60cm (10-24in)
Parts Used:
Whole plant
An unpleasant-tasting, expectorant herb that stimulates the uterus, and calms spasms, especially in the digestive and bronchial systems. It is effective in controlling nausea and vomiting.
Medicinal Uses:
Internally for nervous dyspepsia, motion sickness, morning sickness in pregnancy, menstrual disorders, and bronchial complaints.
Encyclopedia of herbs by Deni Brown Copyright © 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited. pg 140