Medicinal plants

5 Benefits of horehound and side effects

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Discover the 5 shocking health benefits of horehound and side effects.

For centuries, people around the world have used horehound (Marrubium vulgare) to naturally treat respiratory conditions.

As of late, some of the major manufacturers of herbal cough drops and cough syrup include horehound in their formulations, which is no surprise as it is said to be one of the oldest known remedies for cough.

This is just one of the many impressive benefits of horehound.

5 shocking health benefits of horehound


In vitro studies have also shown that M. Vulgare essential oil appears to have antibacterial, antifungal, and anticancer properties.

Read on to learn all about how this bitter herb has been used for years and continues to be used for all kinds of common health problems.

Origin and chemical compounds of horehound

So you know it’s a plant, but are you looking for a more specific definition of horehound? Horehound – commonly known as white horehound – is a perennial bitter shrub plant belonging to the mint family.


Other names for this herb include houndsbane, marrubium, star’s eye, Horus seed, marigold, and bull’s blood.

Horehound is a perennial plant. This means that once planted it will return year after year.

The horehound plant (M. Vulgare) is native to Europe, North Africa, and Southwest and Central Asia. It has small white flowers. The flowers and all parts of the plant are used for medicinal purposes.

The black horehound (Ballota nigra) is the smellier relative of the white horehound. Like the white horehound, it belongs to the mint family and has some similar medicinal uses.

So what exactly makes horehound a medicinal herb? It has been found to contain several health-promoting plant components, including vitamin C, essential oils, flavonoids, alkaloids, bitter lactone, saponin, sterols, tannins, monoterpenes, and diterpenes.

Specific flavonoids that can be found in the plant include apigenin, 7-glucoside of apigenin, luteolin, 7-glucoside of luteolin, 3-glucoside of quercetin, and 3-aminoglycoside of quercetin.

5 Health Benefits of Horehound

1.- Benefits of horehound for cough

• Horehound is an ingredient often found in herbal lozenges and syrups used for the natural treatment of coughs. There is a good reason this herb is used in these natural cough remedies.

• As I mentioned, it contains natural plant compounds called diterpenes. More specifically, its main active chemical compound is a diterpene called marrubium.


• We can thank marrubium for the expectorant ability of marrubium. In other words, horehound can help cough sufferers to get rid of that nasty mucus that is clogging their airways.

• Research has also shown that horehound has antispasmodic and analgesic (pain reliever) effects. These are two other good reasons why it is a great natural cough reliever.

2.- Benefits of horehound for digestion

• Researchers also believe that Marubeni is the reason that horehound tastes bitter. Along with foods like endive and horseradish, horehound is believed to be one of the bitter herbs in the Bible.

• Its bitter taste makes it a great option for improving digestion, as bitter-tasting plants have been shown to help control dyspepsia, also known as indigestion or an upset stomach.

• Why are bitter foods helpful for healthy digestion? The taste of bitter herbs helps increase the production of saliva and gastric juices.

This is exactly what you want when you are eating because these crucial bodily fluids help break down the food you eat.

• Experts such as Kirsten Shanks, nutritionist, naturopath, and herbalist, also say that “Over time we have developed a bitter reflex ‘that by recognizing the taste on the tongue begins to stimulate and tone the organs of digestion including the stomach, liver, the gallbladder, and the pancreas. ‘

• Bitter foods like horehound are a great option if you struggle with poor digestion. When your food is broken down optimally, you are much less likely to suffer from digestive issues like indigestion and gas.


3.- Remedy for motion sickness

• For some people, dizziness symptoms may be the result of a motion from car, boat, or airplane travel.

Dizziness usually goes away when the movement stops.

But many people who commonly deal with motion sickness are curious about natural ways to improve their feelings of nausea.

• Unfortunately, there has not been any scientific research to date, but black horehound has long been used as a traditional remedy for motion sickness.

The recommended dose is one to two milliliters as a tincture. Or use a teaspoon or two of steeped leaves as tea, taken three times a day.

4.- Benefits of horehound for bronchitis

• As an expectorant herb, M. Vulgare can be a really helpful remedy when it comes to severe congestion from bronchitis.

When you have bronchitis, the tubes that carry air to the lungs (bronchial tubes) become inflamed.

This inflammation causes a cough, which can often be severe and persistent.


• Horehound can be helpful as it has been found to not only act as an expectorant (helping to raise mucus) but to promote vasodilator effects as well.

• Vasodilation is when the smooth muscle within the blood vessels relaxes and the blood vessels widen. This results in a better flow of oxygenated blood.


5.- Appetite stimulant

• Sometimes people struggle with a lack of appetite for various reasons including stress, pregnancy, hypothyroidism, metabolic problems, liver disease, and more.

• Bitter herbs like M. Vulgare have a long history of use as a digestive tonic and appetite stimulant.

• Horehound’s ability to enhance saliva and gastric juice production make it very useful for increasing appetite.

History and Interesting Facts

• It is believed that the medicinal use of horehound dates back to the 1st century BC. It is then that the Roman encyclopedist Aulus Cornelius Celsus mentions horehound as a natural remedy for respiratory problems in his medical treatise entitled De Medicine.

• The leaves of the M. Vulgare plant are wrinkled and have fine soft hairs. This herb can grow in many different climates. But some say the best quality is grown in the intense heat of the desert.


• Horehound is one of the bitter herbs that are sometimes included in Passover foods. It has also been used in beverages. For example, horehound beer or ale is a non-alcoholic, herbal soda.

• Historically, it was also used to make candy. You can still find horehound sweets sold to this day.

How to use horehound

• Horehound is available at most health stores or online in several possible forms including fresh, dried, powdered, capsule, extract, tincture, or pressed juice.

You can use fresh or dried versions to make homemade cough drops, syrups, and teas. It is also sometimes used as a flavoring.

• If you have fresh or dried leaves, you can make horehound tea. Just pour boiling water over a teaspoon or two of the leaves.

Let it sit for at least five minutes before removing the leaves and making sure you don’t drink too hot.


To make the taste more pleasant, and also to help fight a cough, add a little raw honey and a splash of lemon juice.

• If time is not on your side, you can also follow the horehound tincture directions and add a few drops to a small amount of water a few times a day.

• The doses of M. Vulgare depend on each person and their health problems. There is currently no established standard dose range.

For digestive problems, horehound has been taken at a dose of 4.5 grams of the raw herb or two to four tablespoons of pressed juice daily.

If you feel unsure about what dose to take for a particular health problem, it is always a good idea to consult a certified herbalist for guidance.

Side effects of horehound


• Horehound should be used with caution by anyone with a peptic ulcer or gastritis as horehound is known to increase stomach acid.

Black horehound is not recommended for people with Parkinson’s disease or schizophrenia.

• White horehound is considered safe for most people when taken in food amounts and is possibly safe when taken medicinally.

Taking this herb in large amounts is not recommended because it can cause vomiting. Also, its topical use is known to cause contact dermatitis in some people.

• Vulgare is not recommended for pregnant or nursing women. But white horehound food amounts while breastfeeding is probably fine.

Check with your doctor before using horehound medicinally if you are currently taking medication or have any ongoing medical conditions, especially a heart condition, diabetes, or low blood pressure.

Before any surgery, it is recommended to stop taking M. Vulgare at least two weeks before the day of surgery.

Final thoughts

• Horehound is a bitter herb that belongs to the mint family. It may not be as well known as other herbal remedies, but people have been aware of its benefits for centuries.


• Traditional medicine has used horehound as a remedy for common respiratory problems such as coughs and digestive problems such as indigestion.

• As with other plants, horehound’s positive health effects are the result of its natural plant compounds.

• You may think you’ve never had horehound before.

• But if you’ve used a natural cough syrup or cough drop, you may have already benefited from the positive effects of this bitter herb.


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