Other Names: Houndsbane, Marrubium, White Horehound
Once regarded as an anti-magical herb, the Romans esteemed Horehound for its medicinal properties. The Egyptian Priests called this plant the 'Seed of Horus,' or the 'Bull's Blood,' and the 'Eye of the Star.' It was a principal ingredient in the negro Caesar's antidote for vegetable poisons.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned horehound from cough drops in 1989 due to insufficient evidence supporting its efficacy. However, horehound is currently widely used in Europe, and it can be found in European-made herbal cough remedies sold in the United States.
Horehound as an Herb for Medicinal Uses
The medicinal parts of horehound are the dried flowering branches, the fresh aerial parts of the flowering plant and the whole plant. The leaves smell tangy when rubbed and contain musk juice, which taste bitter and hot.
The horehound herb has long been noted for its efficacy in lung troubles and coughs. It may, indeed, be considered one of the most popular pectoral remedies, being given with benefit for chronic cough, asthma, and some cases of consumption.
Folk practitioners used horehound as an expectorant for respiratory problems (Weiner and Weiner 1994). It is an expectorant because it contains marrubium. Horehound was a popular folk remedy as a tonic and laxative, and folk practitioners have used it to treat bronchitis, respiratory infections, diarrhea, whooping cough, asthma, tuberculosis, jaundice, painful menstruation, skin damage, and other ailments (Fleming 2000). It has also been used for sore throats, asthma, and cough (Weiner and Weiner 1994).
Consistent with what modern research has found, slaves used horehound as a favorite remedy for coughs and sore throats.
In Germany, white horehound is approved for the treatment of heartburn and lack of appetite, based on historical use.
Horehound is used in children's candies and cough remedies, as it is a gentle but effective expectorant. It acts as a tonic for the respiratory system and stomach. In large doses it acts as a laxative. It is often made into lozenges for treating coughs and sore throats.
Horehound is sometimes combined with Hyssop, Rue, Licorice root and Marshmallow root, 1/2 ounce of each boiled in 2 pints of water, to 1-1/2 pint, strained and given in 1/2 teacupful doses, every 2 to 3 hours.
Horehound Cough Syrup: Steep 1 ounce of leaves in 2 cups of water just off the boil for 10 minutes; strain off the leaves and measure the liquid; add twice as much honey as liquid; mix well and bottle. For coughs take 1 teaspoon about 4 times a day (no more than 4 teaspoons daily).
Horehound Lozenges: Boil the herb in water for 10 minutes and simmer for another 30 minutes; strain. Add 1 cup honey or 1-1/2 cup sugar for each cup of liquid. Bring to a boil and stir until mixture begins to thicken. Pour into buttered pan; cut into squares while cooling. Let air dry and then store. Squares can be dusted with cornstarch or powdered sugar to prevent sticking.
Culinary Uses of Horehound
White horehound is generally considered to be safe when used as a flavoring agent in foods.
Candied Horehound is best made from the fresh plant by boiling it down until the juice is extracted, then adding sugar before boiling this again, until it has become thick enough in consistence to pour into a paper case and be cut into squares when cool.
Horehound Drops Recipe
Horehound drops make a tasty, healthful herbal candy, or a nice drop to soothe an irritated or dry throat.
Combine leaves and water in saucepan; bring to boil and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes; cool, then remove leaves. Squeeze out liquid and add sugar and honey to liquid in pan and stir while bringing to a boil. Then, turn down heat to a gentle simmer; boil to hard crack stage (330 degrees); test in cool water and when hard enough to crack when bitten, it is done. If it sticks to the teeth it's not ready.
When done, remove from heat and lightly butter a baking pan and pour in the hot mixture. Score the surface after it's cooled enough to be firm; break apart as soon as can be handled. Sift granulated or powdered sugar over the candy.
Horehound Cough Drops
An old fashioned alternative to sweet candy-counter confections.
1 quart horehound leaves and stems, washed and chopped
2 cups water
3 cups sugar
1/4 cup butter
In a medium size saucepan, boil the horehound leaves in the water for 30 minutes. Strain and discard the leaves. Add the sugar. Place a candy thermometer in the mixture and boil to the hard crack stage (300 – 310 degrees). Stir in the butter, remove from the heat, and transfer to a buttered shallow pan. When cool, crack into pieces. Wrap the pieces individually in wax paper, twisting the paper at the ends, and store in a tightly covered jar.
Folklore & Magickal Uses
Horehound is named for the Egyptian god Horus and can be burned as incense in rituals designed to honor him. Use it in protection sachets, especially against sorcery. Drink horehound tea to help clear your mind.
Caution is warranted in people with heart disease (because animal studies showed possible abnormal heart rhythms) or gastrointestinal disorders.
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