Heard of Horehound?
WHITE HOREHOUND Marrubium vulgare
FOLKLORE/COMMON NAMES: White Horehound, Houndsbane, Bull’s Blood, Eye of the Star, Haran, Hoarhound, Huran, Llwyd y cwn, Marrubium, Maruil, Seed of Horus, Soldier’s Tea
- The use of Horehound goes back to our most ancient cultures, most notably found in the records of the Ancient Egyptians who called Horehound the "Seed of Horus", as well as "Bull's Blood", and the "Eye of the Star". Their use for it was both spiritual and practical, as they used it commonly as an antidote to certain poisons, including snakebite, and also believed it had anti-magical properties as well.
- Horehound is recorded as one of the ‘bitter herbs’ eaten at the feast of Passover, and some speculate that the Latin name comes from the Hebrew "marrob", meaning bitter juice. Others believe the original spelling of ‘hoarhound’ takes its name from the greyish color of the plant, reminiscent of the terms "hoary frost", etc. Still others link the first part of the name directly with the association to the Egyptian Horus, and the hound to the practice in Ancient Greece of using Horehound to cure the bite of a mad dog.
- In medieval Europe, we once again see use of Horehound in "warding off witches' spells".
- Horehound was often used a flavoring for beers and cordials up through this century.
- Folklore tells us that Horehound put in a bowl of new milk will kill all flies in an infested area.
From the Ancient Egyptians through centuries of folklore, and well into modern times, Horehound has maintained its reputation in one primary area - as an effective medicinal treatment. Horehound tea is still the first recommended treatment for such ailments as cough, cold and other respiratory disorders in many parts of the world today.
PARTS USED All of the aerial parts of the plant when fresh, the flowering branches are medicinal when dried.
***If you are gathering your own herbs for medicinal use, Do Not confuse White Horehound with Black or Stinking Horehound, which can be toxic in large amounts.
While you can still find Horehound candies in some stores, they no longer contain the label "Medicinal" as they once did. Still, they remain a staple in many Winter medicine cabinets, just as the herb itself remains a part of some prescription drugs, especially cough syrups.
In addition to coughs and colds, folk medicine traditionally recommended Horehound for a number of complaints, including whooping cough, asthma, tuberculosis, respiratory infections, lung inflammation, diarrhea, jaundice, painful menstruation, constipation, sores and wounds, fevers, malaria, as well as to calm a nervous heart. Interestingly, Horehound has been scientifically proven to have a normalizing effect on an irregular heartbeat.
Today, most Herbalists concentrate on Horehound’s strengths in fighting respiratory disorders and as a bitter digestive tonic. Science has confirmed that Horehound stimulates digestive juices and production of the liver, as well as having expectorant properties useful for loosening tight coughs and congestion. Thus Horehound remains highly recommended for:
Bronchitis, Cough and Respiratory disorders
Treatment of Liver and Gallbladder problems
There is one thing no one seems to agree on regarding Horehound, however...the taste! Some find it quite pleasant while others find it highly disagreeable. I’ve found natural honey helps a great deal if you do find the taste unpleasant at first!
Horehound can be given as a hot infusion or tea to induce sweat and combat cold symptoms. Given as a cold infusion it functions best a digestive bitter tonic. The fresh or the dried herb may be used, as a powder, a juice, an extract or a tea. Taken in large doses, it acts as a gentle purgative, having a laxative effect.
Steep ¼ teaspoonful (2 grams) in hot water, strain and drink. (Or 1 ounce of the herb to a pint.) Take as needed.
Horehound Cough Syrup
from Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs
Make an infusion by steeping 1 ounce of fresh or dried Horehound leaves in a pint of boiling water. Allow it to steep only 10 minutes. Strain off the leaves, then measure the quantity of liquid remaining. Add twice as much honey as liquid, mix well, and bottle. Take 1 teaspoon at a time, four times a day for cough.
Horehound Cough Drops
An easy recipe for your own Horehound candy/cough drops is made by adding sugar to an infusion of the leaves and boiling it until the mixture reaches a thick consistency. Pour it into a shallow pan and cool. Cut when cool. Some more detailed variations on this recipe can be found at Horehound Candy and Horehound Drops.
GARDENING WITH HOREHOUND
Horehound makes a wonderful companion plant in the garden, as it is a favorite of bees and other pollinating insects, while grasshoppers and other types don’t care for it at all. Consider planting it among tomatoes, it will increase production and encourage fruits longer in the season.
Like any member of the mint family, Horehound is a fast growing and even faster spreading perennial. It prospers in dry, well drained soil and full sun, and reaches up to two feet in height on greyish green stalks. The stalks themselves are actually a deep green, but the fine hairs that cover the plant give it an interesting greyish hue. Horehound mounds nicely and will tolerate heat and drought extremely well. Horehound flowers from June to September, although the flowers are not showy. The plant itself has a pleasant, musky odor that diminishes upon harvesting.
Note: White Horehound can be distinguished from Black Horehound in this manner, as Black Horehound has a noticeably offensive odor.
Harvesting Horehound While it will not produce flowers until the second year, it can still be harvested for use the first year of growth by taking only the top third of the plant’s growth in its initial year. For older plants, cut just as the flower buds form. It is best to remove the leaves and chop them to dry them, rather than hanging the bunches as with other herbs. Otherwise, Horehound can lose it’s flavor potency quickly. When the herb is dried, place the leaf bits in a tightly sealed container.
DIETY: Horus, indirectly Isis and Osiris
TAROT: Magician, Wheel of Fortune
Horehound is primarily used for protection, just as it’s early folklore of "spell breaking" implies.
Of note are Horehound’s associations with healing. Cunningham says in An Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs : "Horehound, when mixed with ash leaves and placed in a bowl of water, releases healing vibrations, and should be placed in a sickroom."
In A compendium of Herbal Magick, Beyerl recommends Horehound as an excellent herb to use in house blessing rituals. Small branches may be gathered when the flower bloom is at its peak, then hung in the home to dispel negative energies.
An infusion of the herb is said to clear the mind and promote quick thinking, as well as stimulating mental abilities. A small amount may be added to the ritual cup to relax the body as well as increase concentration and focus.
Some note that Horehound corresponds with Hod on the Tree of Life.