This genus consists of 40 species of annuals and perennials, ranging through Europe and Mediterranean regions. Their main attraction as ornamentals is the white-haired, velvety or woolly foliage. Marrubium vulgare (horehound) contains the diterpene maruubiin; a potent expectorant, alkaloids, and volatile oil; it was first used as a cough remedy in ancient Egyptian times. A popular way of taking horehound is in the form of candy, which is sucked to relieve chest coughs and bronchitis. Marrubium may be derived from Maria urbs, and ancient town in Italy, or from the Hebrew marrob, "bitter juice", since horehound was one of the five bitter herbs traditionally eaten at the feast of the Passover (the others being horseradish, coriander, lettuce, and nettles).

Horehound, a plant with small white flowers that grows throughout Europe and Asia, has been used since Roman times as a remedy for coughs and other upper respiratory ailments. Its major active constituent, marrubiin, is an expectorant that also gives horehound its bitter taste, stimulating the flow of saliva and gastric juices and improving digestion.

Aromatic, woody perennial with downy stems and ovate, downy, gray-green leaves, to 5cm (2in)long that have toothed margins. Small, off-white, hairy flowers appear in summer.

Common Name:
Other Names:
Hoarhound, Houndsbane, Marrubium, Marvel, White Horehound
Botanical Name:
Marrubium vulgare
Native Locations:
Eurasia and N Africa
Well-drained to dry, neutral to alkaline, poor soil in sun. Cut back plants after flowering for a second crop of new leaves. Subject to statuatory control as a weed in some countries, notably in parts of Australia.
By seed sown in spring; by softwood cuttings in spring.
Plants are cut when flowering and used fresh or dried in cough mixtures, candy, infusions, liquid extracts, powders and syrups.
20-60cm (8-24in)
20-60cm (8-24in)
Horehound is among the most common plants of the mint family (Labitae), with a medicinal history that stretches back to ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Most famously valued as a cough treatment, horehound was also hailed for other healing benefits—including curing rabies and snakebites—by the fifth-century BCE Greek physician Hippocrates. The early Egyptians, who originated horehound's common name, dedicated the plant to the Egyptian god of light, Horus, and gave the herb several popular names: "seed of Horus", "eye of the star", and "bull's blood". There is still a debate over the origins of horehound's botanical name, Marrubium. Some scholars believe it is a derivation of the Latin Maria urbs, the name of an ancient Italian city. (Horehound was an especially esteemed herb among the Romans.) Other scholars believe the name is derived from the Hebrew marrob, for "bitter juice". (Horehound may have been one of the "Bitter" herbs that ancient Hebrews were required to eat during Passover.) By the fifteenth and Sixteenth centuries CE, horehound was used to treat a variety of human and nonhuman ailments—from tuberculosis to typhoid, dog bites to snakebites, intestinal worms to cankerworms (those pesky moths that feast on fruit and shade trees). The seventeenth-century British herbalist Nicholas Culpeper, who noted that horehound was best for coughs, also had several other interesting uses for the herb. He suggested that stuffing horehound up one's nostrils was a sure cure for jaundice, and he recommended mixing horehound leaves with honey to "purge foul ulcers, stay running and creeping sores and the growing of flesh over the nails." These colorful uses not withstanding, today horehound is primarily regarded as one of the finest cough and congestion remedies around.
Parts Used:
Leaf, Stem, Flower, Branch,Whole plant
A bitter, aromatic herb that is antiseptic and expectorant, reduces inflammation, and relieves spasms. It increases perspiration rate, stimulates bile flow, and has a sedative effect on the heart.
Medicinal Uses:
Internally for bronchitis, asthma, mucus, chest coughs and colds, whooping cough, liver and gall bladder disorders, typhoid fever, and palpitations. Combines well with Zingiber officinale (See, ginger) for whooping cough, with Hyssopus officinalis (See, Hyssop) and Tussilago farfara (See, Coltsfoot) for coughs, and with Cephaelis ipecacuanha, (See, Ipecac), Lobelia inflata (See, Indian Tobacco), and Tussilago farfara (See, Coltsfoot) for bronchial congestion. Prolonged use may cause high blood pressure. Externally for minor injuries and skin eruptions.
To treat bloating, flatulence, bronchitis, whooping cough, asthma, respiratory infections, diarrhea, painful menstruation, ulcers, and wounds. Also used as a digestive tonic. Germany's Commission E has approved the use of horehound to treat loss of appetite and dyspeptic complaints such as heartburn and bloating.
Horehound has antispasmodic, digestive, diuretic, expectorant, perspiration-promoting, stimulant, and tonic properties. Horehound is most often taken internally for bronchitis, colds, congestion, coughs, hoarseness, sinusitis, and sore throats. It may also be prescribed for indigestion or upset stomach. It is sometimes applied externally, in compresses, to treat eczema and psoriasis.
Horehound is most commonly available in cough drops, cough syrups, and expectorants. It is also sold as dried herb and tincture. To make a tea, pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 teaspoon of dried herb and steep for 5 minutes. Drink warm, up to 3 cups a day for colds, congestion, coughs, and sore throat. Drink cold, up to 3 cups a day, for indigestion or upset stomach.
Typical Dose:
A typical daily dose of horehound is approximately 4.5 gm of the herb or 30 to 60 ml of the pressed juice.
Only take horehound a prescribed doses. Large doses of the herb may have a purgative effect and can cause rapid or irregular heartbeat.
Possible Side Effects:
Horehound's side effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, decreased blood glucose levels, and arrhythmias.
Drug Interactions:
Taking horehound with these drugs may disrupt blood sugar control:
Acarbose, (Prandase, Precose)
Acetohexamide, (Acetohexamide)
Chlorpropamide, (Diabinese, Novo-Propamide)
Gliclazide, (Diamicron, Novo-Gliclazide)
Glimepiride, (Amaryl)
Glipizide, (Glucotrol)
Glipizide and Metformin, (Metaglip)
Gliquidone, (Beglynor, Glurenorm)
Glyburide, (DiaBeta, Micronase)
Glyburide and Metformin, (Glucovance)
Insulin, (Humulin, Novolin R)
Metformin, (Glucophage, Riomet)
Miglitol, (Glyset)
Nateglinide, (Starlix)
Pioglitazone, (Actos)
Repaglinide, (GlucoNorm, Prandin)
Rosiglitazone, (Avandia)
Rosiglitazone and Metformin, (Avandamet)
Tolazamide, (Tolinase)
Tolbutamide, (Apo-Tolbutamide, Tol-Tab)
Taking horehound with these drugs may increase the risk of serotonergic effects (such as insomnia, anxiety, agitation, and nausea):
Granisetron, (Kytril)
Ondasetron, (Zofran)
Rizatriptan Benzoate, (Maxalt)
Sumatriptan, (Imitrex)
Taking horehound with these drugs may interfere with absorption of the drug:
Ferric Gluconate, (Ferrlecit)
Ferrous Fumarate, (Femiron, Feostat)
Ferrous Gluconate, (Fergon, Novo-Ferrogluc)
Ferrous Sulfate, (Feratab, Fer-Iron)
Ferrous Sulfate and Ascorbic Acid, (FeroGrad 500, Vitelle Irospan)
Iron-Dextran Complex, (Dexferrum, INFeD)
Polysaccharide-Iron Complex, (Hytinic, Niferex)
Culinary Uses:
Leaves are used in making herbal beer, (Horehound ale) and also in flavoring liqueurs.
Encyclopedia of Herbs by Deni Brown Copyright © 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited. pp 271-272
The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide by Geo. T. Grossberg,MD and Barry Fox,PhD Copyright©2007 Barry Fox,PhD. Pp.272-273
The Modern Herbal Primer by Nancy Burke Copyright©2000 Yankee Publishing, Inc. pp. 70-71