There are two types of Horehound, Black (Ballota nigra) and White (Marrubium vulgare). White horehound is also known as common horehound and grows to about two feet tall with hairy stalks and leaves with small white flowers. The Black variety is taller and more branched than the white with reddish-purple flowers. For medicinal uses, the White variety is preferred.
The White variety has been used for centuries to treat symptoms of the respiratory system and is one of the oldest known treatments for cough in the history of humankind. It’s medicinal use was first documented in the 1st century B.C. by a Roman named Aulus Cornelius Celsus – he mentioned horehound as a remedy for respiratory problems in his medical treatise titled De Medicina.
The herb can be used fresh, dried, in tinctures or pressed for juice. The dried herb is most used to make homemade cough drops, syrups and teas. To use the dried leaves for horehound tea, use a tea ball or simply pour boiling water over a teaspoon or two of the dried herb. Steep for at least five minutes before removing the tea ball or leaves. Many people like to add honey or lemon juice to help with the bitter taste.
Horehound has also been used as a digestive aid, an appetite stimulant, as a treatment to reduce the symptoms of bronchitis, and to treat motion sickness. It opens obstructions to the liver and spleen and is used outwardly to cleanse the chest and lungs.
There are some risks that potential users should be aware of before using horehound. Anyone with gastritis or a peptic ulcer or gastritis should take precautions due to the fact that horehound is known for increasing stomach acid. It is also not recommended to take in large quantities as it may cause vomiting. .
M. vulgare is not recommended for pregnant or nursing women. But food amounts of white horehound while nursing are likely OK. Check with your doctor before using horehound medicinally if you are currently taking medication or have any ongoing health conditions, especially a heart condition, diabetes or low blood pressure. Before any surgery, it’s recommended to stop taking M. vulgare at a minimum of two weeks prior to surgery day.