Family: Lamiaceae (Labiatae), Marrubium vulgare L.

Source: Simon, J.E., A.F. Chadwick and L.E. Craker. 1984. Herbs: An Indexed Bibliography. 1971-1980. The Scientific Literature on Selected Herbs, and Aromatic and Medicinal Plants of the Temperate Zone. Archon Books, 770 pp., Hamden, CT.

Horehound, Marrubium vulgare L., is a spreading perennial herb native to central and western Asia, southern Europe, and northern Africa and naturalized in parts of North America. Also known as common horehound, white horehound, and hoarhound, the plant reaches a height of almost 0.7 meters and is characterized by white, pubescent leaves, woolly stems, and continually blooming white flowers. Commercial production is centered in France. The name "marrubium" refers to the bitter qualities of the herb, and "hoar" refers to the white pubescence covering the plant (14.1-3) .

The reported life zone of horehound is 7 to 24 degrees centigrade with an annual precipitation of 0.3 to 1.3 meters and a soil pH of 4.5 to 8.3 (4.1-31). The hardy plant grows in full sun on poor, dry calcareous soils having good drainage.

Although still collected from the wild, horehound is primarily grown in cultivated plantations for commercial uses. The crop is harvested and dried just prior to open bloom. Cultivated stands, which generally last from four to five years, can be cut two or three times each year (4.3-48).

The chief constituent of horehound is the bitter principle marrubium. Tannins, resins, waxes, and a volatile oil containing monoterpenes and a sesquiterpene have also been isolated from the plant (1.1-181, 11.1-50, 11.1-136).

The leaves and stems of horehound are often boiled and used in the preparation of candied products, cough drops, and syrups. Extracts of horehound are used in bitters and liqueurs. The plant is also grown for its ornamental value and is attractive to bees.

As a medicinal plant, horehound has traditionally been used against asthma, coughs, colds, bronchitis, sore throats, and skin irritations. The plant has also been used as a diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, laxative, stimulant, stomachic, tonic, and vermifuge. Horehound has been used in treatment of tumors (14.1-16). The volatile oil is a carminative and expectorant, while the bitter principle results in gastric activity (7.5-52, 11.136). Consumption of large quantities of horehound can induce diarrhea and nausea (11.1-136).

Black horehound is the common name for the perennial herb Ballota nigra L., another member of the Lamiaceae family distinguished by its offensive odor, and is used as an antispasmodic, stimulant, and vermifuge (11.1-50) .

Horehound is generally recognized as safe for human consumption as a natural flavoring and plant extract (21 CFR sections 182.10, 182.20 [1982]).

[Note: References listed above in parentheses can be found in full in the original reference].

Aromatic and Medicinal Plants Index

Last modified 6-Dec-1997