Horehound (Marrubium vulgare) has been highly esteemed by many cultures as a cure for numerous ills. It is best known as a superb cough remedy. Horehound is named after Horus, the Egyptian god of the sky and light. The Greek physician Hippocrates and other ancients valued horehound to relieve a variety of ailments such as typhoid, worms, jaundice, and bronchitis. Horehound’s botanical genus, Marrubium, is probably derived from the Hebrew, marrob, which translates as “bitter juice,” and it is thought that Horehound was one of the original bitter herbs of the Jewish Passover meal. Folk legend through the ages held that horehound could break magic spells. However, in recent times, the focus is on horehound’s reliable use as an expectorant to ease sore throats and coughs. Horehound cough syrup and cough drops were used as early as the 1600’s in England and later brought to this country, and are still taken today as effective remedies.
Among its chemical constituents are marrubium (a “bitter” that is sometimes called maribun or marrubiin), essential oils, tannins, minerals, wax, saponins, B-complex vitamins and vitamin C. Horehound’s compound, marrubium, decreases the thickness of phlegm and promotes the secretion of fluids into the bronchial passageways, producing mucus. Horehound also promotes good digestion. Marrubium stimulates the stomach to secrete digestive juices, helping the stomach to digest food. The reaction also stimulates the flow of bile from the gallbladder, which eases flatulence.
Horehound grows just about anywhere and likes dry, overgrazed soil. The crinkly leaves like Sage grow opposite each other on a square stem. Many balls of flowers are attached along the stem at the juncture of the paired leaves. Leaves and flowers have medicinal benefits and should be picked at flowering time. Harvest about a third of the plants top growth, remove the leaves and flowers and chop them. Dry and put in tightly sealed jars as horehound loses its strength quickly.
Horehound attracts bees and is a wonderful addition to an herb garden. Horehound is helpful for moist, hot bronchitis, flu and lung colds. At the first sign of a cold or flu, chop a handful of horehound leaves and mix them with a tablespoon of honey. Eat them slowly to relieve a sore throat or cough. Horehound syrup is an old-time cough remedy. Make an infusion of one ounce fresh or dried leaves and flowers in a pint of boiling water. Steep it for 10 minutes. Then strain off the herb. Measure the quantity of the remaining liquid and add twice as much honey as the liquid. Mix well and bottle. To sooth a cough, take a teaspoon at a time, about four times a day. This syrup is safe for children and has a pleasant taste. Candied horehound is easy to make and is also found commercially as lozenges and candy. So give some of the old-time horehound remedies a try for a simple, easy relief for a sore throat and cough.