Marrubium vulgare


Highly regarded as a respiratory system tonic by the ancient Greeks, horehound was also esteemed by the Romans. Its genus name, marrubium, is derived from their ancient village of Maria urbs. It was one of the bitter herbs used by Jews during Passover. The Egyptians knew horehound as seed-of-Horus and eye-of-the-star.     

Horehound is antispasmodic, demulcent and expectorant. It is very effective in loosening and increasing healthy flow of phlegm. It is an excellent tonic for the entire respiratory system, and grandmothers have long called upon it to treat chronic coughs, asthma and bronchial congestion. A syrup made from fresh or dried horehound leaves is helpful in relieving children's coughs and cold symptoms. This same syrup has a tonic effect on the stomach, helping ease digestive woes.     

Hildegard von Bingen recommended a tonic combination of horehound, mullein, dill and fennel to treat colds, runny noses, coughing and hoarseness. She also advised horehound cream soup, eaten several times daily, to heal chronic infections of the tonsils, throat and sinuses.

First Nations are also familiar with horehound as a special ally for those with lung conditions. Navajo use horehound to combat bronchial infection and as a remedy for flu. Cherokee use it to treat all pulmonary complaints, coughs and hoarseness. Paiute employ horehound as a counterirritant, striking aching limbs with bunches of leaves and stems to bring warmth and blood circulation to the area.     

Marrubium vulgare is known to my Southern Italia neighbors as maruggē and mentastro. Much like common mallow, white horehound is also an extremely important species in the folk pharmacopoeia of Southern Italia. It, too, is considered a panacea and is associated with the following saying, “A maruggē, ognē malē struggē (the white horehound destroys every disease). White horehound decoctions are used as an expectorant, hepatoprotective agent and cure-all. A decoction of the aerial parts is used as a wash to treat several SSTIs (skin and soft tissue infections), including general dermatitis, athlete’s foot, boils and abscess, cysts and warts in both humans and animals.   

You can tincture fresh horehound, but horehound candy is the traditional way of ingesting this herb. We suck on horehound lozenges to help ease colds, coughs and bronchial congestion. Kids especially like them. Horehound's constituents include a bitter principle (marrubium), resin, traces of essential oil, tannin, wax, fat and sugar.     

Flower Essence Horehound flower essence brings out those parts of oneself that are creative and free and helps impart clarity of mind.    

Magical Lore If you work in the creative arts keep a bit of horehound in a magical pouch to ensure a free flow of ideas and inspiration.

Culture White horehound is a hardy perennial herb native to Europe, northern Africa and temperate Asia. It grows like a small shrub. It has round, somewhat thick, gray-green, deeply wrinkled leaves that are a lighter green underneath and grow opposite each other on white, woolly, squarish stems. Horehound offers tiny white flowers and a strong minty aroma. Easy to grow in any ordinary garden soil, horehound seems to do especially well in a dry spot. We start our plants in the greenhouse in early spring, setting them out in the garden about six weeks later. I gather the leaves during summer while they are green and vibrant, dry some for making infusions, and use the rest for candy and soup.

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